Logic is rarely studied in schools today, and its effects are evident. Even people with college degrees today cannot think critically or formulate good arguments. It is thus safe to say that individuals, and society as a whole, would benefit from the study of logic—the art of reasoning well.
Logic can be divided into two parts, informal and formal. Informal logic involves the study of critical thinking. It focuses on making strong arguments in debate and avoiding logical fallacies. Formal logic involves the study of syllogisms. A syllogism has two premises and a conclusion, and if it is valid, the conclusion will follow from the premises. Here is the most famous example of a syllogism: “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.”
Some people think logic sounds like a terrible subject to study, but many people actually enjoy studying logic once they get into it. Even if it is challenging at times, the study of logic is well worth the effort. Logic helps students think rationally and argue well, and it will therefore help students in other subjects. Logic should be studied around middle school age, as children at that age begin to develop the ability to formulate arguments. I think 8th grade is the ideal age for a logic class (though it could be studied in 7th or even 9th grade).
The Best Logic Book
The absolute best logic book for middle school is Introductory Logic by James Nance and Douglas Wilson. This book focuses on formal logic, but it also has a few chapters at the end on informal logic and logical fallacies. The book can be challenging, but students will genuinely learn logic. The great thing is that Introductory Logic is easy to teach from. The lessons are short (which can be read out loud together in class), and there are exercises for students after most lessons (which can be done in class or for homework). There is also a teacher’s edition that can be used to prep each lesson in advance, and there is a quiz and test packet—making the teacher’s life even easier! If the teacher is concerned about understanding the material (such as a home school parent), there is even a set of DVD lessons.
Introductory Logic can be taught in a semester or spread over the course of a year. I would recommend spreading it out over a year, and if there is remaining time, I would set up in-class debates. Students, especially 8th graders, love to debate. And these debates allow them to put their logical skills to work.
I prefer Nance and Wilson over The Discovery of Deduction, though the latter may be more suitable for younger children (such as 6th graders). If one does use the latter for younger kids, there is also the accompanying informal logic book, The Art of Argument. For those using the Nance and Wilson book, there is also a follow-up Intermediate Logic book by James Nance if one wants to further their study in logic.