Logic, within The Cambridge School curriculum, serves evaluative, generative, and formative ends— each of which merits a bit of unpacking here. Why? Just about every curriculum goal in every academic setting is going to include some ambiguous and obligatory language about “cultivating critical thinking skills” among the students. These well-meaning communities can rarely offer more than encouragement to ask good questions of the world around you. Critical thinking, while vague, is a noble end and asking good questions is an indispensible skill, but merely asking questions can become as aimless as ayoung child’s endless “but why?” We want our students to ask purposeful questions of the world around them and their Logic classes provide a framework from which students can ask meaningful questions and through which they can evaluate the answers they receive.
Another point may be made by analogy.
A couple months ago I had my (very honest) mechanic fix some things on my car and when I picked it up he told me he replaced my alternator as well. It turns out that he was scared to drive my car more than 50 yards because of the noise it was making. I knew my car was loud, but I didn’t know that anything was wrong with it, and I certainly wasn’t scared to drive it even if I apparently should have been. I didn’t have the evaluative tools that my mechanic had to notice that something wasn’t quite right with the way my car was running. In an analogous way, we encounter faulty logic in our everyday lives and it often goes unchecked (or misdiagnosed). The Cambridge School is committed to equipping our students with these evaluative tools to engage meaningfully with the world.
However, logic is not merely a deconstructive tool; it is just as useful generatively— which is to say to create. It is no coinci-dence that I teach Composition and Logic. Logic is a foundational skill for clear, cohesive, and cogent writing (and, of course, speaking). As we explore faulty reasoning the students learn what not to do and curbs are erected along their streets of discourse. If left there, however, the students would still be free to drive erratically within those boundaries. But as they discover what comprises a sound argument, for example, or even a beautiful argument, they begin to cultivate those creative logical skills which guide them in their various generative tasks.
Finally there is the formative end to the students’ logical training at The Cambridge School. Beyond equipping students to meaningfully engage with the world and providing them with helpful generative tools, logic can help tame the sometimes chaotic thoughts and thought processes of our students. Through the development of certain logical principles, students begin to construct cornerstones from which other thoughts can develop and settle in a more orderly manner. Just as Latin makes a person more aware of the structure of language, logic makes a more aware of the structure of their thoughts – regardless of the content of those thoughts. And, insofar as we instill an ethical component to the right use of logic and its limitations, we can coordinate the ordering of thoughts with the ordering of affections through the The Cambridge School curriculum (both written and living).
Logic even serves some purpose in spiritual formation. Students reminded of the limitations of logic to reveal all things. We cannot, for example, hope to transcend our creaturely stations through rationality any more that we might hope to successfully climb a stairway to heaven to abide with the God of all order. We also cannot understand the complexity of human interactions in purely logical terms. Intuition, nonverbal communication, emotions, and humor all add to typical interpersonal communications. (I like to think that when my students don’t laugh at my jokes it’s because they are too logical and not because I am not hilarious.) These limitations remind us of the complexity of the human person—made in God’s image but distinct from him in significant ways. Logic can bolster faith in important ways as well. Not only does logic help believers know what they believe with clarity, but it helps them persuasively defend that faith and recognize the consequences of their own beliefs and the beliefs of their unbelieving neighbors. Inasmuch as logic is a result of a created universe, it also provides a common language through which believer and unbeliever alike can discuss God’s creation and those aforementioned consequences of ideas.
And because logic reflects a created order, it is useful across the curriculum whether the students are reading in Literature, solving in Math, exploring in Science, or reciting in Latin. Logic is one more way that TCS equips its students to engage in the agora, the marketplace of ideas inside and outside the school community. When they are in school, logic allows them to more purposefully engage in the “Great Conversation” with Einstein, Da Vinci, Plato, Shakespeare, and the apostle Paul. Outside of school, logic encourages students to confidently interact with their culture, church, family, and neighbors. As The Cambridge School grows and enters the Rhetoric stage, logic will have laid an integral foundation upon which greater skills with similar ends will be built, but that’s a different article for a later time.
Written by: DJ Goodwiler, Lead 7th Grade & Logic Teacher
Read more in the Fall 2012 Courier