"Never let a quarrel get in the way of a good argument." -G.K. Chesterton
I have always lacked a certain confidence when it comes to defending my viewpoint against unfair and/or unreasonable assertions by others. I long to possess a facility with words, the ability to remain unruffled in the face of hot challenges, unflattering insinuations, and downright false accusations. Instead, I freeze up and keep quiet. I shouldn't.
In Susan Wise Bauer's "The Well-Trained Mind," I came across the idea of making critical thinking an integral part of education. I teach the boys informally through conversation as we read history and novels, but Bauer suggests brain teasers and logic problems as a part of daily learning for elementary-aged students. I like this idea.
For middle and high school years, Bauer suggests logic lessons beginning with informal fallacies and moving to formal logic lessons. "Logic 101" made me shiver as a college student. You couldn't have paid me to take it. I was an arty girl; arty girls have no business hanging out in logic classes, right? Not unless she wants to develop confidence in making and arguing her point, which she does.
So here I am at age 43 cracking a logic book. It's one that Bauer recommends, a student text and a great introduction to the art of argument. Finally, I'm able to put a name to the faces of the fallacies I've often sensed but never been able to articulate and properly rebut.
Relevance, presumption, clarity. Ad fontem, ad hominem abusive, ad hominem circumstantial, tu quoque. I've only just begun, but by golly I'm on my way to being a Calm, Cool, Effective Discusser of Things.
In addition to understanding fallacies and how to respond, I believe listening and attempting to understand an opponent's true viewpoint (underlying any fallacies) is vitally important for productive discourse. Freeing one's own viewpoint from fallacy is the starting point. Not easy, but necessary.
If I knew the Latin phrase for "forward ho!," well, I'd say it right now. (Also, comma rules make me crazy. Always have.)