How We Sabotage Our Own Education, and How To Stop (Part 1)

7:52 AM James 2 Comments

Read this article at its new location:


  1. Good stuff. For the record, I would disagree that logic simply isn't taught in public schools any more, it's just taught in less direct ways. Sure there may not be a class called "Logic" in many schools, but in most English classes still have students study logical fallacies. And speaking of English, what is the point of researching and writing essays except to learn to form (and recognize) logical, coherent arguments. Even the study of grammar, if approached correctly, can be used to teach logic. And what is math if not logic distilled and applied to a problem? History and science probably have a place somewhere in there, too :). The problem, I would contend, is not in what we teach, but in how. The "core" subjects are such not because they're the best at preparing students for an industrialized workforce, but because they're the best at teaching students to observe, understand, and react to the world around them. The goal of all education is to teach problem-solving skills, the problem is we don't teach students that. Heck, in my experience we don't even teach teachers that. I went through 4 and a half years of college as an education major without that ever clicking, I needed to be told it outright while I was studying for my GRE.

  2. Hi Thaddaeus, I thought the same thing. One would think that if all the other subjects you listed (English, Math, etc.) are being taught correctly, then students *are* learning Logic, at least indirectly. But as I researched this topic, I came across studies that seemed to suggest otherwise.

    Several studies suggested that teaching "critical thinking" indirectly - either through grammar, writing, mathematics, or whatever - is not as effective as teaching it directly, through an entire class, or at least a unit, devoted solely to Logic. Logical principles that students were taught in one subject often didn't translate into other subjects. On the other hand, students who learned Logic directly were better critical thinkers across the board than those who didn't. Here's a good survey of some of these studies:

    I teach a Logic elective and I've found this to be true in my own experience, as well. I'm now convinced that simply peppering logical principles here and there in other subjects is not enough to teach students how to think critically at the level that we want and need them to.