Classical Education: The Logic Stage (reprise) - SLO Classical Academy
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Welcome to Down Home, San Luis Obispo Classical Academy’s blog! We are a classical school offering several options to make our education work for families with infants through high schoolers. Our signature hybrid program, which is part-time classroom and part-time home instruction, provides an engaging education for preschool through middle school (with full time options available). We also have a university model high school. This blog is meant to support and encourage on the home front because, in so many ways, the heart of what happens at SLO Classical Academy happens down home.

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Classical Education: The Logic Stage (reprise)

Did you catch our SLOCA Rhythms video in the Bear Necessities? This week we are continuing on in our series on “Classical Education (with a twist)”, with a reprise from a series we have featured on Down Home in 2016. Rewritten to reflect our school in 2022, we hope you find it useful.

Our Classical Education series is back! Last time we shared about the Rhetoric Stage, and today we bring you the Logic Stage, SLOCA-style. We will start with some basic information taken from the Field Guides on how we approach this stage, which includes grades 5 through 8 – our Lower and Upper Middle School students. Updated by our Logic teachers to reflect our classrooms in 2022, we will share more about logic in Upper Middle School. This course is one of the many distinctive elements of our curriculum that sets SLOCA apart and uniquely prepares students for high school and beyond:

Building on the foundation set in the primary and intermediate levels of our school (the Grammar Stage), in the Logic Stage students are introduced to logical thinking through the use of English grammar, pre-logic and logic exercises, and through making connections in history, literature, math and science. Students are challenged to ask “Why?” and to seek the meaning behind the content they learn in all subjects.

In Lower Middle School (grades 5 and 6) students are introduced to logical thinking skills that will translate into independent thought in Upper Middle School and High School. The goal of this stage of learning is to make use of the emerging independence of these students and translate their desire for independence into ownership of their own education. Students at this stage begin to learn the why and how of subjects. They will continue to sharpen basic math skills, but also strengthen their understanding of how these concepts work together and the relationships between numbers and how they work in space and time. While grammar continues to be important, students are ready to understand the system of English grammar and how the parts of speech work together to form well-crafted sentences. These sentences can then be developed into meaningful and purposeful paragraphs. Reading and writing go hand in hand throughout the curriculum at SLO Classical Academy, but in this stage students will learn that this relationship is integral to becoming part of the great conversation in which we learn from authors and historical figures of the past while communicating ideas in the present and into the future.

In Upper Middle School (grades 7 and 8) more emphasis is given to cultivating the students’ developing logical thinking skills. Students are taught formal logic at this level to strengthen their independent thought while grounding it in well-reasoned principles. The goal of this stage of learning is to make use of their growing independence. Ownership of their own ideas will be emphasized even more at this stage as students grow in their independent, rational capacity. Students at this stage maintain a desire to understand the why and how of the subjects they learn. In math, students will strengthen their abilities to think abstractly and logically through algebraic functions. Students will continue to study English grammar and will be expected to use writing skills effectively, persuasively and with greater eloquence.  They will read more complex novels and primary texts and will be prepared to dialogue intelligently regarding major themes and ideas presented by the authors.

Since our formal Logic course for UMS students is a major element of the Logic Stage at SLOCA, let’s hear more from our Logic teachers about how we help develop logical thinking skills in this stage:

Aristotle – Line engraving by P. Fidanza after Raphael Sanzio {CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons}

Logic, the second element of The Trivium, is more easily understood if we spend time enjoying the essentials of this remarkable discipline. The good news? Aristotle bequeathed those essentials to the world, and they are as readily accessible to us today as they were to thinkers in antiquity. Soooo, grab a cuppa of something soothing and let’s do a drive-through of some real critical thinking gems ala’ SLOCA’s Logic and Rhetoric curriculum.

Let’s start with a workable definition of Logic: Logic is the study of correct thinking, especially as applied to arguments.

“So what? What does that really mean?” you may ask reasonably.

Here’s what: The English word argument comes from the Latin noun argumentum, and means solution or proof. Likewise, the Latin verb arguo translates into English as I solve or I prove. Logic seeks solutions and proofs; it is NOT the study of heated opinions or loaded questions or bickering or snarking or closely held beliefs or cultural traditions/norms. Nor is it the study of being right.

Politics (1908-1916)
Politics by Robert Robinson. Wikimedia Commons. Prints and Photographs division. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library. Dickinson State University.

Much of what we hear and call arguments are more than likely bickering—the verbal volleying between two (or more) folks who not only want/need to be right but also want to be right no matter what. If we think logically, we may come to understand that sometimes being right is not, well, right. After all, what DO we bicker and argue about anyway? What have humans bickered and argued about since before we found our way into groups, clans, tribes? Three essential things.

Each of us tends to defend our beliefs and actions relevant to the following: My stuff (possessions). My boundaries (geography, borders). My beliefs (opinions, religion, politics, deeply held traditions, etc.). If we simply observe what goes on in our own homes, amongst our family members, and between neighbors, we can boil down our ‘arguments’ to one—or a combination—of these three concerns: possessions, boundaries, or beliefs.

What better time to learn about and employ these essential bits of Logic than in the middle school years? Students are at the developmental stages where they tend to question and push against their boundaries, our rules, their beliefs about our beliefs, and their place in the world outside the home.

Once the student has begun to clearly express—to be logical about—her or his arguments (solutions, proofs) then he or she begins to use persuasion—Rhetoric—to solidify his or her position and move the listener to agree with her or his argument.

[Caveat: Strictly speaking,The Rhetoric Stage is fully explored during the High School years. The difference between the Rhetoric studies that SLOCA middle schoolers receive as opposed to what SLOCAHS students receive is essentiality:  the middle school Rhetoric curriculum is rooted in basic, introductory essentials of the discipline.]

We have only to look to Aristotle—the Father of Rhetoric—for some essential concepts by which we can be more effective rhetorically as well as judge the rhetoric of others. Should we be swayed? Ought we to respond? To buy or not to buy?

{image by Brett Jordan / CC BY 2.0}

Aristotle gave us the Greek terms Logos, Pathos, and Ethos.

  • Logos is the argument. Is it reasonable? Does it make sense? (English: study, order, reason)
  • Pathos inspires relationship. Can/do I relate? Does it relate to me? Emotion that inspires, convinces? (English: pathetic, sympathy, empathy)
  • Ethos is the evidence of character value(s), virtue in the speaker or writer. Is he or she credible? Does the persuader carry authority? (English: ethics, ethical)

These three concepts/conditions make it possible for us to discern how we respond to someone’s rhetoric. According to Aristotle, for example, we ought to consider carefully how we respond to someone who may demonstrate logos and pathos but whose rhetoric lacks ethos. Our students learn these persuasion techniques and how to spot when they are being used.

We can thank Aristotle for his amazing logical and rhetorical Legacy that we can all draw on this very day, and every day if we so choose. I’m game. Are you?

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