Friday, March 16, 2012

The Art of Argument Review

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My daughter Mimi is a born debater.  In fact, her dad and I frequently joke about how law school is in her future (it's only a joke because our desire is for our girls to be keepers of their homes).  But no matter what her future occupation, or the occupations of my other children, all of them would benefit from learning more about what makes a valid argument.

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Now, I know what you are thinking...what kids need help with arguing?  But this type of argument is about logic and reason, not the type that most kids engage in :-).  Below is what their website has to say:

Junior high aged students will argue (and sometimes quarrel), but they won't argue well without good training. Young teens are also targeted by advertisers with a vengeance. From billboards to commercials to a walk down the mall, fallacious arguments are everywhere you look. The Art of Argument was designed to teach the argumentative adolescent how to reason with clarity, relevance and purpose at a time when he has a penchant for the "why" and "how". It is designed to equip and sharpen young minds as they live, play, and grow in this highly commercial culture. This course teaches students to recognize and identify twenty-eight informal fallacies, and the eye-catching text includes over sixty slick and clever, “phony advertisements” for items from blue jeans to pick-up trucks, which apply the fallacies to a myriad of real life situations.

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The Art of Argument, an Introduction to Informal Fallacies,  comes in a student version and a Teacher's Edition.  The student version has 3 units-one for each type of fallacy-relevance, presumption, and clarity.  The units are further divided into chapters (6 in all) that teach more about how each of those fallacies is used.  Overall, 28 different fallacies are covered.  The chapters have many questions for the students to answer along the way, so the book could be consumable unless the student just writes their answers on paper.  And every chapter ends with a review that the students fill out (like a test, but they don't call it that).   The master of logic, Socrates, joins a college student Tiffany and her boyfriend Nate to talk about the fallacies in an easy to read dialogue that explains each concept in everyday language.  The Teacher's Edition contains the same information as the student version with the addition of answers to the questions in the text and a bunch of test and quiz options in the back of the book.  The optional CDs, shown below, feature 4 students and 2 adult teachers discussing topics from each lesson.  They are NOT built into the syllabus of the books, so they are not at all necessary, but they offer good information.

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The pros:  The book is full of (made up) examples of how each of these fallacies is used in the advertising our kids are exposed to every day.  The insight they offer about ads and politics and the legal system is invaluable.  While targeted at junior high students, I think high schoolers would almost be better suited to being able to learn and retain all the information the book has to impart. 

The cons:  While I LOVE how the book teaches how to identify invalid arguments, I think it has too much information.  Keeping track of 28 fallacies and what makes each one unique is challenging.  It seems like it would make a great class at a co-op, but it was hard to enjoy fully with just a few students all at different ages.  In fact, I think it was a little too smart for all my students, at least at their current ages (14 (but delayed), 12, and 10).  My daughter did not think some of the examples were appropriate, like the fake beer ads or the example story that stated "Mr. Johnson is a drunk". 

The bottom line:  I like the concept of this curriculum, but it just didn't work for us at the present time.  I think it would make a wonderful self taught high school level logic class, but for junior high it would work better in a group setting with guided instruction. 

To order The Art of Argument go HERE.  The student book is $21.95, the Teacher's Edition is $24.95, and the DVDs are $54.95.  A bundle of all of the above is available for $88.95. 

To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.

Legal disclaimer:  I received the above books and DVD 1 of a 5 part set in exchange for my honest review.  Those products are the only compensation I received for this review.
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1 comment:

Wendy said...

I enjoyed your review of The Art of Argument. :) My son is 15, and he is really enjoying the book. He's great at arguing, and hopefully this will encourage him to argue well! LOL!