Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

The school experience. School related queries, discussions, and stories that aren't specific to a subject.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Moderators General, Prelates

User avatar
RockoTDF
Posts: 582
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 6:08 am UTC
Location: Tucson, AZ, US
Contact:

Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby RockoTDF » Sat Jul 10, 2010 7:07 am UTC

I have just completed teaching my first university level course. The other night I was out at dinner with some fellow graduate students, and we started discussing students and the quality of their work. I have also spent a good deal of time lately discussing Constitutional Law with someone I recently met, and got an idea.

Stop using English Lit classes to teach critical thinking and rhetoric. Why? The current system rewards students for coming up with literary interpretations to politics, social problems, and human behavior. Literary interpretations care not for empirical data, logical consistency, etc.

I would like to instead see rhetoric taught in high school social studies classes in the context of law and social issues. Basically, change the curriculum around so that there are still literature classes, but that argument and critical thinking are taught in a context that is more realistic and more rigorous.

Thoughts?
Just because it is not physics doesn't mean it is not science.
http://www.iomalfunction.blogspot.com <---- A collection of humorous one liners and science jokes.

User avatar
mmmcannibalism
Posts: 2150
Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:16 am UTC

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby mmmcannibalism » Sat Jul 10, 2010 7:26 am UTC

Stop using English Lit classes to teach critical thinking and rhetoric. Why? The current system rewards students for coming up with literary interpretations to politics, social problems, and human behavior. Literary interpretations care not for empirical data, logical consistency, etc.


Can you explain this paragraph in a little more detail?

As to the general question, I think it is better to move towards English classes that include literature along with logical rhetoric. For instance, there can be a section on parallelism in Shakespeare and a section on the use of supporting evidence in the American Declaration of Independence in the same class.

That being said, I think you can go about it many different ways. You can make social studies more of a law and government type class(as you suggest) put a focus on logic into English, fit a philosophy/logic class in etc.
Izawwlgood wrote:I for one would happily live on an island as a fuzzy seal-human.

Oregonaut wrote:Damn fetuses and their terroist plots.

User avatar
RockoTDF
Posts: 582
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 6:08 am UTC
Location: Tucson, AZ, US
Contact:

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby RockoTDF » Sat Jul 10, 2010 8:12 pm UTC

mmmcannibalism wrote:
Stop using English Lit classes to teach critical thinking and rhetoric. Why? The current system rewards students for coming up with literary interpretations to politics, social problems, and human behavior. Literary interpretations care not for empirical data, logical consistency, etc.


Can you explain this paragraph in a little more detail?



I'll give you an example. A literature course may reward students for coming up with a psychoanalytic interpretation of a character's behavior, or a sociologically incorrect explanation of why a group of characters behave the way they do. Consequently, those students can go home and watch a politician give a speech and be reminded of some Oedipal complex said character from class has. When I took English in high school we had to analyze Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." Needless to say the interpretations were often quite literary.

Or, they could have learned to make an argument about said politician's political beliefs, discuss MLK's writings the way one would in a philosophy course, etc.

The reason I bring this up is that I am a grad student in a psychology/neural systems program and find it frustrating that so many students seem to be unable to write about anything without literary interpretations, or with any real critical thinking. I have students saying things like "In my opinion, Kanwisher's Fusiform Face Area theory is correct because...." or "I believe that the gateway model of pain in the spine is not the best because...." etc.

I have nothing against art or literature, but I think it is unwise to educate a society to interpret their entire world from an artistic or literary viewpoint.
Just because it is not physics doesn't mean it is not science.
http://www.iomalfunction.blogspot.com <---- A collection of humorous one liners and science jokes.

achan1058
Posts: 1783
Joined: Sun Nov 30, 2008 9:50 pm UTC

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby achan1058 » Sat Jul 10, 2010 10:41 pm UTC

RockoTDF wrote:I would like to instead see rhetoric taught in high school social studies classes in the context of law and social issues. Basically, change the curriculum around so that there are still literature classes, but that argument and critical thinking are taught in a context that is more realistic and more rigorous.

Thoughts?
agree with you, except they might as well teach them in math class and drop some of the more useless topics of mathematics currently being taught in high school. Not everyone needs trig or calculus, to be honest, but everyone can do with a healthy dose of logic and critical thinking, in particular on common logical fallacies. Though, truth be told, I would like to see it being covered in all major courses, and how it is used in different contexts. For examples, we need to teach them how to analyze evidence in social studies, how to use the scientific method in science, and etc. Not only should we teach them on that, but stress and make them understand how important these things are.

llamacheez
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2010 10:57 pm UTC

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby llamacheez » Sun Jul 11, 2010 5:31 pm UTC

I think everyone should take calculus. It changes the way you think.

achan1058
Posts: 1783
Joined: Sun Nov 30, 2008 9:50 pm UTC

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby achan1058 » Sun Jul 11, 2010 6:22 pm UTC

llamacheez wrote:I think everyone should take calculus. It changes the way you think.
How so? Most of the calc courses I have taken/seen are simply more number crunching.

User avatar
RockoTDF
Posts: 582
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 6:08 am UTC
Location: Tucson, AZ, US
Contact:

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby RockoTDF » Wed Jul 14, 2010 2:16 pm UTC

achan1058 wrote:
llamacheez wrote:I think everyone should take calculus. It changes the way you think.
How so? Most of the calc courses I have taken/seen are simply more number crunching.


You can learn to think about things in a nonlinear sense, how things change, etc.

To be honest I think that math education is doing itself a disservice by compartmentalizing math the way it has. There is stuff in middle school math that is tougher than basic calculus (and linear algebra too), so I don't see why young high school students can't be taught how to do basic derivatives and matrix algebra.
Just because it is not physics doesn't mean it is not science.
http://www.iomalfunction.blogspot.com <---- A collection of humorous one liners and science jokes.

supermario
Posts: 18
Joined: Wed Jun 23, 2010 3:46 am UTC

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby supermario » Thu Jul 15, 2010 3:50 am UTC

I agree with you that English lit. is not the place for teaching rhetoric and argumentation, but social studies classes, from my experience, don't work much better. A lot of the logic taught there is tied to particular interpretations of narratives just as in the English classes, except the characters there are ones of political rather than literary theater. The narratives there impose particular views of politics on the kids and very little logical discussion is had.

You also end up with kids becoming bored because any class involving the law in a public high school eventually ends up becoming a study of the history of the Constitution, a history that gets told again and again without any focus on how it's applicable to society today.

Some sort of debate class would be ideal because it teaches the students to think for themselves, but that's hard to actually implement. Making a new required class requires developing a standardized curriculum, and my experience has shown that debate (and forensics in general) resists that type of standardization for a myriad of reasons involving the kids seeing it as socially unacceptable to confront political issues publicly, teachers, etc.

Edit: I agree with you about math education as well. I would have loved to tackle some discrete math or linear algebra in high school. Calculus would have been very boring if it weren't for my awesome teacher because the material, although fundamental to a lot of other things in the STEM fields, got quite tedious. More options in math would make for a more diverse pool of science and engineering students.

User avatar
Bakemaster
pretty nice future dick
Posts: 8933
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:33 pm UTC
Location: One of those hot places

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby Bakemaster » Thu Jul 15, 2010 10:21 pm UTC

RockoTDF wrote:I'll give you an example. A literature course may reward students for coming up with a psychoanalytic interpretation of a character's behavior, or a sociologically incorrect explanation of why a group of characters behave the way they do. Consequently, those students can go home and watch a politician give a speech and be reminded of some Oedipal complex said character from class has. When I took English in high school we had to analyze Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." Needless to say the interpretations were often quite literary.

Or, they could have learned to make an argument about said politician's political beliefs, discuss MLK's writings the way one would in a philosophy course, etc.

If you're teaching someone to argue, you need to discuss argument generally. When you look at a particular argument, you need to focus in on generalities about that argument - style, technique, organization. I don't disagree that these involve a fair bit of logic, and so some philosophy, but they definitely don't involve meta-analysis of the politician's personal beliefs or a philosophical analysis of his position.

It sounds like you're taking exception more to subjective interpretation than literary or sociological interpretation themselves. "In my opinion" is subjective, not necessarily sociological, and probably not literary since rigorous literary analysis depends hugely on evidence from history and examples, rather than mere opinion.
RockoTDF wrote:To be honest I think that math education is doing itself a disservice by compartmentalizing math the way it has. There is stuff in middle school math that is tougher than basic calculus (and linear algebra too), so I don't see why young high school students can't be taught how to do basic derivatives and matrix algebra.

Probably because once you learn the basic stuff, you'll have questions about less basic stuff, and run into exceptions to the rules, and all sorts of things involving any sort of practical application that you can't be effectively taught before you've gone through advanced study of the fields out of which advanced mathematics were born. The rules of differentiation weren't pulled straight out of anybody's ass, they were determined based on advanced study of mathematics that had been formalized previously, and as much as we like to talk about how pure and universal a field math is, the way we work with it is absolutely defined by the order in which we formalized our methods. Just think about how much of math education is based on the fact that we have ten fingers and use a decimal system.
Image
c0 = 2.13085531 × 1014 smoots per fortnight
"Apparently you can't summon an alternate timeline clone of your inner demon, guys! Remember that." —Noc

achan1058
Posts: 1783
Joined: Sun Nov 30, 2008 9:50 pm UTC

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby achan1058 » Fri Jul 16, 2010 2:47 am UTC

Bakemaster wrote:It sounds like you're taking exception more to subjective interpretation than literary or sociological interpretation themselves. "In my opinion" is subjective, not necessarily sociological, and probably not literary since rigorous literary analysis depends hugely on evidence from history and examples, rather than mere opinion.
Actually, I have seen quite a few BS type argument of people applying things like what the OP said. Though, I suspect it comes more from post-modernism as opposed to classical literature study.

User avatar
LaserGuy
Posts: 4582
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 5:33 pm UTC

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:39 pm UTC

RockoTDF wrote:I have just completed teaching my first university level course. The other night I was out at dinner with some fellow graduate students, and we started discussing students and the quality of their work. I have also spent a good deal of time lately discussing Constitutional Law with someone I recently met, and got an idea.

Stop using English Lit classes to teach critical thinking and rhetoric. Why? The current system rewards students for coming up with literary interpretations to politics, social problems, and human behavior. Literary interpretations care not for empirical data, logical consistency, etc.

I would like to instead see rhetoric taught in high school social studies classes in the context of law and social issues. Basically, change the curriculum around so that there are still literature classes, but that argument and critical thinking are taught in a context that is more realistic and more rigorous.

Thoughts?


My understanding was that what you're describing what more or less the state of affairs up until the last few decades. There were courses on things like Composition and Rhetoric, but with the requirement that all university professors had to do research (among other things), these types of classes got folded into the next closest thing--English departments.

Aiwendil42
Posts: 133
Joined: Mon May 17, 2010 8:52 pm UTC

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby Aiwendil42 » Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:04 pm UTC

My understanding was that what you're describing what more or less the state of affairs up until the last few decades. There were courses on things like Composition and Rhetoric, but with the requirement that all university professors had to do research (among other things), these types of classes got folded into the next closest thing--English departments.


This is the way it's still done at Columbia, where I went. There was a "Logic and Rhetoric" class that was required for all students, which was basically writing and analyzying short arguments. Now, the course itself was not that great - it definitely could have been structured and taught better. But I think the fundamental idea behind a course like that is quite sound. College is really a little too late to do it, though - I agree with the OP that critical writing skills should be taught in high school. Actually, there's no reason that writing and literature have to be taught together at any grade level.

sikyon
Posts: 344
Joined: Sun Dec 07, 2008 5:45 pm UTC

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby sikyon » Tue Jul 27, 2010 1:26 pm UTC

RockoTDF wrote:To be honest I think that math education is doing itself a disservice by compartmentalizing math the way it has. There is stuff in middle school math that is tougher than basic calculus (and linear algebra too), so I don't see why young high school students can't be taught how to do basic derivatives and matrix algebra.


I do not think most middle school students would actually understand what's going on. I suspect that they would, infat, simply number crunch instead of understanding actually how the derivative is found from an interative point of view or how these big boxes of numbers relate to real systems of equations, for example.

User avatar
nash1429
Posts: 190
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2009 3:06 am UTC
Location: Flatland
Contact:

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby nash1429 » Tue Aug 03, 2010 4:50 am UTC

I have long thought that English classes whould focus on providing a deep cultural background for students rather than teaching them critical analysis. Literature, while providing a valuable media for such veiled expression as allegory, is MADE UP. It does not directly reflect the real world. Math and science classes are much more apt for training students to think deeply because empirical methodology is completely resultant of and dependent on observable reality, while also making it more diificult for students to create the illusion of critical thinking by learning to bullshit.

dequalsrxt
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:00 pm UTC

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby dequalsrxt » Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:04 pm UTC

wait, what! literature is made up? :shock:

User avatar
Jahoclave
sourmilk's moderator
Posts: 4790
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 8:34 pm UTC
Contact:

Re: Teaching language and argument: Logic over Literature

Postby Jahoclave » Tue Aug 10, 2010 5:48 pm UTC

supermario wrote:I agree with you that English lit. is not the place for teaching rhetoric and argumentation, but social studies classes, from my experience, don't work much better. A lot of the logic taught there is tied to particular interpretations of narratives just as in the English classes, except the characters there are ones of political rather than literary theater. The narratives there impose particular views of politics on the kids and very little logical discussion is had.


Yeah, I would say that a straight up reth-comp class would be a much better idea for teaching the formulation of an argument. Plus, the way we even teach lit analysis in high schools is completely fucked up and about forty years out of date. Most actual criticism isn't the fluffy bullshit that they come across promoting at the lower levels.

Quite frankly, in the long run, they'd probably be better served by teaching a critical theory like feminism. At least it would give students some directional focus of what exactly they're even supposed to be doing.


Return to “School”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 12 guests