I educated my children at home for 15 years (and admit that they were taught from a certain bias). Although I was forbidden to teach them Latin (yes, this was the one and only time my husband had any input on home education other than to “let me” after initially discouraging the idea) we did begin to learn logic at its most basic by learning to detect fallacies in arguments. At the least, I introduced my teenage children to the concept of logical argument. Unfortunately, I was taken down by Lyme disease not long after the beginning of this intellectual pursuit, but my kids had been exposed to the subject of logic and know what a “fallacy” is at its most basic level. The down side to teaching kids logic is when they use it on their parents. Actually, I am very proud of my children when they push emotion aside and begin to use logical debate in any conflict we have in our home. Very proud.
What is dismaying to me is that logic as a subject or a concept is not taught in public schools or community colleges, at least not up here in Connecticut. I still remember reading in my own high school textbooks information that was presented as fact (psychology, sociology, history, government, biology) when it was only one side of an argument or ideology or philosophy and often based on a theory. When I was an adult and began to read classic literature, study history, and delve deeper into subjects that were presented to me (and all students) from only one perspective, I became angry. Public schools in the United States seem to think they need to not only present few facts, but tell students what to think about those facts (northern public schools teaching kids derision towards the south — my kids bring stories home all the time. Head’s up: the war between the states is over). Presenting information and offering different points of view along with giving students the tools they need to evaluate that information and those points of view provides an environment for true learning. Giving young people (and young adults) a few facts and then spinning those facts to manipulate young minds into embracing a particular ideology is wrong. I understand the perceived need, though. History and science along with their ideologies have been taught as white, European-centered subjects for so long that they need to be challenged by diversity. The Hispanic influence in American culture has never been taught in schools until the past couple decades. The contributions of African American women has been disregarded by scholars (even African American male scholars) until the 1960s. Think about it: can history truly be history if entire peoples have been disregarded in its telling? I think not.
I am especially excited about one of my courses this semester: Advanced Composition. The course title does it no justice. The textbook says it all: Everything’s An Argument with Readings. In the preface, I was delighted to read that we will be evaluating a vast array of readings from many different points of view and that students might be surprised to discover that the Tea Party has a lot in common with Occupy Wall Street. That grabbed me and held me, giving me hope that finally I might be taking a course that teaches logic in some way. Of course, it could be that the textbook will have a liberal or conservative bias as most textbooks do.
And then there is the intriguing Mythology course I am taking which looks like it will provide a lot of overlap in evaluating ideologies and how they are presented in literature (writings). While we will be evaluating points of view in a liberal college newspaper on the one hand and a conservative group’s desire to end Affirmative Action on the other in Advanced Composition, in Mythology we will be evaluating cultural beliefs and biases in ancient literature interspersed with modern mythological beliefs. I will read my first graphic novel ever.
The bottom line is that in every argument it might appear that there are two sides; this is incorrect. There are many sides to every argument. There is the liberal side, the Catholic side, the evangelical side, the atheist side, the humanist side, the LGBT side, the conservative side, the moderate side, the independent side, the political side, the religious side, the social side, the scientific side, the male side, the female side, the youth side, the elder side . . . I look forward to seeing the many different sides to issues that I have never been exposed previously. As I open my mind I must also open my heart to seeing the world from others’ perspectives. A truly multicultural, diverse world requires this of me and you and our children.
Oh, and why aren’t children in the United States taught Spanish from the very beginning of their school careers? Bilingualism has so many benefits that there are no reasons (but are there???) not to encourage it in a country where hardly anyone is truly “from here.” How about multilingualism? Why stop at two languages? I wish I had seriously studied a second language; two years of French just didn’t do much for me except ruin any hope of a decent Spanish accent. Hmmm, I wonder what kind of arguments could be presented in a discussion on this topic.
Let’s keep our minds open as we make the world a better place for our children and their children.