Monday, March 12, 2012

Crew Review: The Art of Argument by Classical Academic Press

Classical Academic Press has put together an engaging resource for teaching informal logic to middle school-age students (roughly grades 7-9) and those high school student who have never been exposed to informal logic -- or the logic of fallacies.  In The Art of Argument (Ben loved the title of this: "Yes!  I'll learn how to  argue with you."), you as a teacher will be well prepared to not only teach the subject but engage your student to make informal logic practical.

The pieces of the program:

Art of Argument student book: $21.95
Art of Argument teacher book: $24.95
Art of Argument DVD set: $54.95
Art of Argument basic bundle (one of each above): $88.95

For this review, I was sent the student book, teacher book and the first DVD of the series (there are 5 DVDs in the set).

You might  be asking yourself what informal logic is -- a very good question.  Informal logic is learning about everyday arguments and reasoning present in everyday language.  In informal logic, you study fallacies of reasoning -- the bad reasoning that we are surrounded by everyday:  political ads, persuasive commentators, advertisements, billboards, and commercials to name a few.

Art of Argument studies 28 fallacies divided into 3 categories:
  • Fallacies of Relevance (such as ad hominem personal attacks and red herrings)
  • Fallacies of Presumption (such as begging the question)
  • Fallacies of Clarity (such as making sweeping generalizations)

The Student Work Text contains quite a bit of reading material.  Ben and I have been reading the chapters together so that we can talk out what we're reading.  There are answers to fill -- and we've done a fair amount of completing this part orally as well as in writing.  Some sections also offer the opportunity to complete some longer writing/ research projects to expand and deepen learning.  We've chosen not to complete these writing assignments.  One of the teaching methods used in the book is a dialogue between Socrates and a 21st Century student named Tiffany.  I've been having fun reading this aloud with Ben (he wanted me read as Socrates, so we changed Tiffany to "Tim").  I have to say that this resource is helping us to have interesting conversations that spill over into non-school time.

A favorite part for Ben is to look through the many illustrations of faux advertisements for fake products:

 Each one illustrates several fallacies that we encounter daily (even hourly!) in our media-rich world. We've really enjoyed talking about these!

The Teacher's Guide is a complete copy of the student book with answers written in.  At the back of the book are chapter tests (there are 6 chapters) and unit tests (all answers are provided) and a glossary (which is in the student book, too, and is very helpful).  There is a helpful chart to show you when to administer the tests, which might help you to plan how to use this course in a school year or semester.  There are no suggestions on how to implement the course or schedule the materials.  I do wish there had been some thing like a suggested schedule to help me with pacing and planning.

We were also sent the first DVD in the Art of Argument's five DVD set.  The CDs provide a discussion with real students (four of them) and two of the authors (Joelle Hodge and Chris Perrin)
There is an introductory segment (which I think is better to have watched after you read the 24-ish pages of introduction in the text), then there is a segment for each of the 28 fallacies.  Here is a sample from The Art of Argument DVD teaching set:


I chose to use the DVD after we had read through chapter materials.  I think the adults do a great job of re-explaining the fallacies and eliciting dialog amongst the 4 students.  I found the DVDs to be very complementary to the text -- while it didn't teach new information, it expanding on examples and real word situations where we encounter fallacies.  For me, I want this information to be useful to my children and not just "head knowledge."  Towards that end, I believe these DVDs are very helpful.

If you'd like to read what others think about this product, please click on the link below.


FCC Statement: I received the basic bundle from Classical Academic Press in exchange for my honest opinion about this product.

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