Why Do We Teach Logic at Clapham?

How classes on logic catalyze students for deep yet humble understanding.

By Brian Kelly

Class Six and Middle School Latin Teacher

As the Class Six teacher, I have the opportunity to introduce students into the massive realm of logic, whether it is for formal logical deductions or informal logical fallacies. Students have had a taste of logic in previous years but I find they are rather unable to articulate definitions or provide accurate examples. Their first year in logic gives students the skills to begin to think critically, as well as creating useful examples to demonstrate what they mean. They soon learn how to define important terms, identify opposing viewpoints, and eventually begin to memorize fallacies.

It is quickly clear how black and white the mind of a young child can be, as well as how committed they are to preconceived notions. This dedication and zeal for what they have learned can be admirable and a quality characteristic, but if not grounded in humility, this way of thinking keeps a student’s learning shallow. The Class Six poet, Alexander Pope, warns “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” I give my students an anecdote of Socrates to demonstrate these values. Socrates was told by an oracle that he was the wisest man alive, yet he thought he did not know anything. So he set out to find wise people and see what they knew. It turned out that they did not actually know very much of value, but only thought that they did. Socrates concluded that the only possible reason for the oracle to tell him that he is the wisest is because he at least recognizes that he is not wise. Whether or not you believe the authenticity of Socrates’ humility, his survey of those considered wise demonstrates how Charlotte Mason talks about the necessity of humility. If the students remain humble they will remain teachable. This remains just as true when we are adults, especially since we often like to think that we know a lot. If we remain humble in what we have learned, we too remain teachable. This humility is not grounded in self-doubt or a lacking of confidence, but recognizing that there are other view points and that your opinion just might be wrong, or at least incomplete.

When students (and adults) take on this humility and enter into earnest discussions seeking truth and knowledge, a wonderful event takes place. They start to see connections between everything. They see how grammar relates to Latin, how artist study reflects beauty found in literature, or how math and science lead us to know our creator in a new way. The students will find that their humility breaks down obstacles that have blocked these connections. These obstacles might be preconceived ideas of how things work, or who someone is, or why someone acted in a certain way. The studying of logic provides both the tools to break down these obstacles but also the means to dig deeper into whatever they are studying.

The end of logic is not to have memorized all the fallacies, or to be able to deconstruct an argument, or point out flaws in the way others think. The telos of learning is to find deep humility, so that we are able seek after our creator learn what it means to be created in his image. This humility allows us to look upon both familiar and foreign ideas with a fresh perspective. The tools of logic give the students the ability to recognize their flaws, to see how their environment shapes them, to understand their bias, and discover how God’s truth is interwoven between all of their subjects. This truth will lead us toward our creator and molds us in his righteousness.