Friday, March 16, 2012

Review: The Art of Argument


Watch out, parents. Someone is out to get your kids. Over $17 billion dollars a year is spent on advertising directed at children. That is a scary number, isn’t it? It is estimated by the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) that the average child sees 40,000 commercials each year. Marketers are taking full advantage of each and every commercial to influence young minds.

What appealed to me most when I heard about  The Art of Argument, the first of three-book series by Classical Academic Press, was the teaching of informal logic through the use of 60 phony advertisements. It gives familiarity and allows instant application of what has been learned in the text, possibly up to 40,000 times a year!

My review package consisted of the Art of Argument student text , the Teacher’s Edition, and a sample of the DVD Set. The Art of Argument is geared toward middle school students.  It covers 28 informal fallacies in a workbook format with a text reading and a series of questions to answer for each lesson. I suggest that you check out the 51-Page Student Sample and the 46-Page Teacher Sample, which will give you a very good idea of the structure and format of the curriculum.

The curriculum starts with a thorough explanation of informal logic versus formal logic and the difference between arguing and quarreling. Three key areas of critical thinking - relevance, presumption, and clarity – are also discussed as a foundation prior to covering the actual fallacies.
Fallacies in the following areas are covered (with three to six fallacies within each category):
  • Ad Fontem Arguments
  • Appeals to Emotion
  • Red Herrings
  • Fallacies of Presupposition
  • Fallacies of Induction
  • Fallacies of Clarity
While the text is a workbook format, I wouldn’t necessarily call it dry.  Similar to other products by Classical Academic Press, there is a fair amount of humor injected into the reading and exercises to round it out. In addition to the phony advertisements, students will find skits, dialogues, real-world applications, and more.

I appreciated that the Teacher’s Edition has the entire student text and answers within its pages so the teacher doesn’t have to look back and forth from the student’s material.  It also includes a variety of tests and quizzes.

The DVD lessons are supplementary to the text and not necessary, but helpful.  Each lesson is a discussion of the material with two teachers (Joelle Hodge and Chris Perrin) covering the material with four middle school aged students. The DVD lessons would be most effective if watched after your student covers the text material for that lesson.

I’ve found other Classical Academic Press products to be well-done and Art of Argument certainly follows suit.  It is very each to use and organized. Since my son is in 7th grade, I don’t often read his lessons to him.  However, I opted to read each lesson together and discuss each question rather than have my son write out answers and explanations.  This allowed him to focus on the material rather than writing tasks. It is certainly a program that could be done with independent reading and question answering followed by further discussion, if needed.

Before we even got out of the introduction, my son was seeing weaknesses in some arguments he was trying to make earlier in the day.  With a 12-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl in the house, there is plenty of opportunity to analyze whether something is what I call stinkin’ thinkin’ or if it is a valid argument. Of course, the critical thinking skills taught in the Art of Argument will serve your students well beyond sibling squabbles.While I’m sure my son is just waiting for the next opportunity to say, “That is an ad hominem fallacy!” to his sister, I appreciate the skills he’ll be learning to apply to other academic subjects and encounters in life.

The Art of Argument is available for $21.95 at Classical Academic Press.  The Teacher's Edition is available for $24.95 and the DVD set $54.95.  I highly recommend that you don’t go without the Teacher's Edition.   The DVD set is a nice addition, but not necessary for the program.  You can also purchase all three items in a bundle at a savings for $88.95.

 Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool. You may read more reviews on this product by visiting here.

1 comment:

Diane Allen said...

Heidi - wonderful review. I too am really am impressed with this product. In an election year the entire voting public should read this book.