Critical Thinking Note 12: Logic Instruction at BC


Logic used to be a fairly popular course on this campus. We would routinely offer four or five sections every quarter. But since the recent changes to the reasoning requirement in the DTA, very few students are taking logic. Five years ago 174 BC students were enrolled in logic in Fall Quarter. This fall only 22 students are studying logic. That is a stunning 87% drop in the number of students studying logic at Bellevue College. As many of you know, philosophers across the state made a huge and ultimately successful effort to keep logic in the scope of the state’s reasoning requirement. Logic picked up a MATH 098 pre-requisite and we expected this to have an adverse effect on enrollment. But we really didn’t expect things to go this badly. This is a real travesty in an educational system where students rarely have an opportunity to cultivate deductive reasoning skills outside of math classes.

As things stand, students get over a decade of instruction in formal reasoning with numbers and they all too often fall short while they get practically no instruction in formal reasoning more generally. If we were to begin with fundamentals, every student would get dedicated instruction in logic beginning in middle school well before attempting to advance through algebra. If we did this, there would be a good deal more appreciation for the significance of deductive reasoning beyond the realm of math. But even given the sorry situation we are in, I still think we can do better at BC, with or without a state-imposed math pre-requisite. Part of our strategy in the philosophy department is to offer faculty across campus an opportunity to get acquainted or re-acquainted with the pleasures of a good proof.

Those who have studied logic can attest to its transformative power. For many people including myself and lots of former students, symbolic logic has been the course that made everything else makes sense. Students who have succeeded in logic no long seek knowledge and understanding from individual sentences and phrases, but instead appreciate the complex connections between ideas we can only relate over the course of paragraphs and pages. This is the sort of practical critical thinking ability employers want from college graduates. I hope there is some way we can figure out how to teach more of it at BC. For now, in the absence of full sections, we are eager to share with colleagues what we do in logic classes.

Russ Payne

September 29, 2014

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