Friday, March 9, 2012
Review: Art of Argument
My husband and I both laughed when I pulled out new school materials for Addison (our eighth grader). She really doesn't need help learning how to argue. In fact, many people have commented that they hope we're saving enough money to send her to law school. I'm not sure she needs help finding faults in other people's arguments either. It's not unusual to hear her critiquing a certain ad on a radio or billboard because it doesn't make sense or doesn't specifically tell why you should purchase that product. Nevertheless, I think logic and thinking skills are important for everyone to study.
The Art of Argument by Classical Academic Press focuses on informal fallacies -- weak, poor, and fallacious arguments that occur in common language. The book identifies what is wrong with weak arguments but does not specifically teach how to build a strong argument. (Classical Academic Press offers The Argument Builder to teach students how to build sound and persuasive arguments.)
Addison has some previous experience with informal fallacies and was eager to study them at greater depth. The Art of Argument covers 28 fallacies, and we opted for her to study two per week so that this would be a semester long course.
The student workbook is written in a conversational style, with each fallacy having a two to three page explanation and several more pages of examples. Addison says that it would be beneficial to discuss the fallacy with either an adult or other students. It was sometimes a bit difficult for her to figure out how the fallacy related to the example advertisements on her own. Thankfully, the companion DVD showed students discussing the materials and made it a bit easier for her to understand.
I read through the Teacher's Edition and was a bit disappointed. The majority of the book is simply a copy of the student book with the answer sections completed. Since many of the questions posed in the materials are short answer ones where the student creates their own example of the fallacy, I really needed to learn the material myself so that I could check Addison's answers. The Teacher's Edition did contain tests (and answer keys) for each chapter, the six units, and a final exam. These prepared materials would be helpful for determining grades for this class.
Addison thinks The Art of Argument materials would make a great class for a co-op situation because the students could help each other analyze the arguments and identify the fallacies. The DVDs helped somewhat, but she does not feel like she can fully understand the materials by studying the book independently.
The student edition of The Art of Argument costs $21.95, the teacher's edition is $24.95, and the set of five DVDs is $54.95. A bundle of all three products is available for $88.95.
If you'd like to hear what other members of the review crew thought about The Art of Argument materials, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.