The Danger of Training Children to Think
Last night I was caught in the middle of a dispute between the boys and the girls regarding who was allowed in whose fort and for how long and to what extent. Claiming forest space and building forts has a history with our family, thus the dispute wasn't something new. However, what was new was how my 8 year old son dealt with the occasion.
This past year in our homeschool curriculum we walked through over 30 different logical fallacies. These included the classics like:
- Red Herring
- Tu Quoque
- Loaded Question
- Slippery Slope
- Ad Hominem
We also studied propaganda (Bandwagon, Appeal to Pity, etc.) and statistical fallacies (Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc, Weak Analogies, etc.). Much time was spent reviewing the different fallacies and the fun came when we watched the elections debates. Together we would watch the candidates debate and my children would call out the fallacies as they came up. Our politicians need this course! The most obvious was when we spent an afternoon in Parliament watching the Liberal Party defend attacks from the official opposition. My daughter finally asked, "Why can't they just answer the question?" Parliament feasts on Red Herring.
The result of all this training has made a significant difference in our daily dialogues at home. When we would ask our children to do something and they decided to debate us, we can call out the fallacies and they consent or change their tactics. They also call each other out in their play and fights. And sometimes we hear, "That's a fallacy, but I just don't know what it is."
The key is that they are thinking and listening and engaging with logic.
In my naiveté I thought my children would grow in logic and become these great thinkers. However, there is a danger that lurks nearby. Last night, I witnessed it.
My 8 year old was pacing back and forth across the kitchen like a little lawyer countering my arguments. To be honest I was past caring about who went into whose fort so I was throwing out all sorts of solutions. My son however did care and was pushing for the solution he wanted. Finally, I just threw him on the couch and wrestled him into submission. It was then he admitted, with a big smile on this face, that he was using certain fallacies - like the Red Herring - to distract me from the actual problem so that he could get what he wanted.
I now realize that learning logic is a great skill that all children need to learn. I now also realize that there is the real possibility that I just taught my children thirty ways in which they can manipulate a debate to get their own way.
Next Homeschooling Course: Aristotle on Virtue.