by Amanda Perry
From the time Logos School in Moscow, Idaho entered the speech and debate ring in 1995 they have maintained a long-running track record of success. Fourteen-time Regional winner, twelve-time Idaho State Championship winner, Logos holds a ten-year history of stellar performances at the National High School Mock Trial Championship, going toe-to-toe with schools from across the country in a courtroom setting. Logos continues to beat its own record, ranking higher every year. In 2012, they placed fifth in the nation.
How does a small Christian school from a small town hold its own at a national level? The ace up their sleeve is a little thing called logic, the art of reasoning well; of defining terms, making accurate statements, constructing valid arguments, identifying fallacies; and it’s no parlor trick. Head coach Chris Schlect explains, “In Mock Trial, logic is enfleshed. It works the same way baseball players learn how to turn a double play— performing them over and over, learning that no two infield balls come at you the same way. We grow proficient at logic by performing it over and over again, and in the process we learn to creatively deploy logic in new and creative ways.”
Logic—established by that toga-clad philosopher of yester yore, Aristotle—is a fixture in classical education. Within the Trivium, logic is sandwiched between grammar and rhetoric and is introduced to students around the age when children begin to show a natural aptitude for argumentation. One homeschooling mom, Rebecca Hill, aptly recounts, “As Dorothy Sayers says, at this age they’re going to argue a lot anyway. You might as well give them the rules so they can play fair.”
Starting in junior high, Logos students are taught introductory and intermediate logic, using the curriculum by James Nance. It is here that they learn how to rightly apply knowledge they have received in the previous grammar stage. It is only with these tools that they can begin building masterful expression and skillful persuasion, the kind that friends and countrymen can lend their ears to. Chris Schlect describes, “The introduction to logic the students receive prior to entering the Mock Trial program is a bank deposit we draw from again and again.” By the time Logos students engage in the High School Mock Trial they have long-since practiced with the tools necessary to successfully compete.
From Mock Trial to a true courtroom, the study of logic proves pivotal for those entering the legal arena. 2002 Logos graduate, now Lewiston, ID attorney, Sam Creason talks about how the study of logic equips students for a vocation in law, “…logic helps prepare students for the legal field in that it not only teaches students how to identify the structure and strength of an argument, but it teaches them the framework for developing a powerful narrative; which is how we most commonly communicate and persuade each other.” Creating a narrative is a tactic that reaches people on a fundamental level, and it is key to becoming a powerful attorney. “We are a people who love story,” Sam continues, “when we are presented with a story involving heroes, villains, trials and triumphs, we naturally search for where we fit into the story. Truly effective trial attorneys present the jury with instruction on the elements of the law in the broader context of a compelling story.” Like building a house, constructing a robust narrative can only be done on a foundation of sturdy logic. Without it, a story will fail to persuade.
The study of logic is not simply for the Mock Trial savvy and future law student. Sam Creason states, “Our lives are spent trying to persuade others of the propriety of our position. While this reality is most evident in certain fields, like law, it is no less true for marketing, sales, writing, theology, and childrearing.” Christian educators wanting to equip students for a life of faithful witness cannot neglect the study of logic. Owner of Kingdom Builder Books in Roseville, California, and homeschooling parent, Jeff James explains, “it gives credence to our conversations when we are talking to atheists or people of other religions. We are supposed to give an account for our beliefs and having the ability to articulate that is important.”
Both Logos School and Jeff James use this curriculum by James Nance. “It’s tried and true,” says Jeff James. You can find Introductory Logic:The Fundamentals of Thinking Well and Intermediate Logic: Mastering Propositional Arguments newly revamped to include many more activities and up-to-date instruction, available now at logospressonline.com/logic/.
Logos Press is developing new ways of making the Logic curriculum available to the next generation. At the end of this month, Logos Press will unveil an online, self-paced Logic course. Next fall, Logos Online School will offer a daily Logic class with live instruction from a qualified teacher.