Playing With Logical Fallacies

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yourlogicalfallacyis.com

Heated political rhetoric is everywhere. It sets us apart from one another and erodes what’s left of civil discourse. It grinds the worthy concept of logic into dust. Not any more. Not when we fight back with a game I’m calling Logic Shrink.

I’m not selling a thing. You don’t need an app, a console, even a board. It’s entirely your game. Play a solitary version. Play it during a get-together with your extended family. Play it with kids, especially teens. Bring it to the classroom, assisted living center, or secret Super PAC meeting. It will entertain.

Afterwards, when the lively score-keeping has ended there will be something new in the room. It may be unfamiliar at first. It’s a state of being that requires no name calling, no slippery slope.  It’s logical thinking.

Now just envision the game being played over and over, from living rooms to sports bars, spreading this thing called logic across all so-called divisions. Even if every snarky pundit huffed off the airwaves the game wouldn’t have to end. We’d just spread nice thick layers of logic in plenty of other places.

 

How To Play Logic Shrink

The general idea is to watch or listen to two sides of an issue as presented by pundits, politicians, or other talking heads. Using a guide to logical fallacies, players call out any errors they perceive. The first person to call out a fallacy that at least a third of other players agree is correctly identified, gains points. Players who correctly estimate in advance how many fallacies will be committed by each side gain points too.

1. First, print out or otherwise make available a list of logical fallacies. (Here’s one and here’s another but you can find many online or use the graphic heading this post.) As with any game, the players won’t be immediately familiar with all of these fallacies nor the names they’re commonly called. Shorten the list to the most common fallacies for new players or younger kids. Give a little time in advance of each game for players to go over the list. It seems dull now, but it won’t when players use the list to score points. Liven up the logical fallacy list any way you like, perhaps giving an introduction to each as a stand-up comedy routine or asking each player to offer an example of a logical fallacy they’ve heard recently.

2. Locate competing sources. That might be right (Glenn BeckRush LimbaughFox & Friends) versus left (Rachel Maddow, Thom Hartmann, Democracy Now). It might be a political debate. It might be two podcasters squaring off on an inflammatory issue. It’s best if the sources are taped or otherwise turn-off-able, because you’ll be stopping them a few times. Start with no more than ten minutes of each. Maybe five.

2.  Scoring. This is your game so you may keep score any way you choose. Here are my suggestions. At the beginning of each game, guess the number of fallacies each different segment will provide and put that number at the top of your list or other scoring method. Then keep track of fallacies outed. The easiest way? Provide two different colored pencils to each player (helpful for designating which source committed which fallacy), then let players check off each fallacy on the list they hear. They must be the first to call out the fallacy aloud to earn points. You can get more high tech if you’d like, there are all sorts of student response systems (SRS), audience response systems (ARS), and personal response systems (PRS) available for smart phones and tablets. Or hell, make a wall-sized board that lights up when players touch a remote. This game is ripe for geekifying.

3. Disputing scores. This is where it gets, shall we say, energized. Stick to the statements heard and the way those statements fit on the list of logical fallacies.  The goal of the game is only to discover illogical rhetoric. Be the first to call out a logical fallacy, you get five points if at least a third of other players agree by a quick show of hands. Other players can dispute the exact fallacy you claim or that any fallacy exists. (The recording will need to be turned off or backed up a few times.) Everyone should add the agreed-upon fallacies to their overall score sheet, seeing who gets closest to their pre-game estimates. At the end, the closest overall estimator gets 25 points. Also add up scores earned during the game. Grand total wins, although we all know, logic is the true champion.

To recap

  • Pass out list of logical fallacies.
  • Go over them together.
  • Explain scoring.
  • Start the show, stopping when necessary to sort out all the yelling and raised hands.
  • Finish by adding up scores.
  • Cheer for the elevation of reason and logic.

Tell me how you play, and improve on, Logic Shrink. If you come up with a great app or device to use with Logic Shrink, feel free to give me a cut. So far, tirelessly advancing good causes hasn’t paid me a nickel.

Raising Media Aware & Current Events Savvy Kids: 21 Resources

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Critical thinking without media overload. It’s possible. (image: Kids in America)

We want to raise kids to be informed and active citizens without subjecting them to an information overload or current events-related despair. Here some activities and resources to make that easier.

1. Let current events become a regular topic. Just as you’d bring up any other subject that interests you, talk about topical issues in front of your kids. This is easy to do informally while driving or sitting around the dinner table.

2. Welcome their interests and opinions without trying to push your point of view. As they get older, help them see that using facts to bolster their talking points helps to convince others.

3. Model civil discourse. When people who disagree can engage in conversations with respect and integrity, they’re on the way to creating solutions. This is true in backyard squabbles, regional disputes, and diplomatic negotiations. A key is finding common ground. That happens after every person involved has access to the same information and feels that their input is understood. This is a critical skill to practice. Make it a part of your daily life for smaller issues so you can more easily use it when harder issues arise. Notice it in use by individuals and groups around the world.

4. Emphasize accurate and varied information sources so kids are equipped to think for themselves rather than led by popular opinion.

5. Hang a laminated world map on the wall. Notice where news happens and where friends travel. Mark places you’d like to go. Whiteboard markers wipe off this surface, so it’s easy to write directly on oceans and continents. This is also a subversive way to advance geographical knowledge.

6. Make timelines of your lives. Once kids have added details to their timelines such as when they lost the first tooth, got a dog, and moved into a new neighborhood help them go back to add events and discoveries that happened the same time. Continue the timeline on toward the future, speculating where you will live, what you will do, and what will be happening in the world around you. Getting kids to predict the future gives a lot of insight into their worldview.  You can also make a timeline for a grandparent, filling in newsworthy events, particularly those impacting the person’s life.

7. Get to know logical fallacies like guilt by association, appeal to fear, or red herring. By avoiding fallacies you can craft well-reasoned opinions while pointing out fallacies to deconstruct faulty arguments. Write some of the most common fallacies on place mats you use everyday or hang a list on the refrigerator to defuse squabbles. Get everyone involved by playing Logic Shrink, an entirely free game you can enjoy as you choose (basically everyone shouts out logical fallacies as they notice them committed by politicians, pundits, and others). Enjoy Ali Almossawi’s wonderful book An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments, free online and also available hardcover or audio format.

8. Pay attention to positive news. Don’t let the family news diet center heavily on the negative. Subscribe to high quality children’s magazines such as MuseSkipping StonesOdysseyNew Moon Girls, and Kazoo. Get updates from KarmaTube and Good News Network. Talk about what kids have seen or heard that makes them feel optimistic.

9. Find age-appropriate news sources. Try Scholastic NewsDoGo News, and the similarly named GoGo NewsKid’s Post (offered by The Washington Post), National Geographic KidsNews-o-Matic, and Time for Kids. Teens are likely to enjoy the news-based wit of The Daily Show  and Last Week Tonight.

10. Understand media input. There’s a heavy emphasis on celebrity worship, superficial attractiveness, material possessions, and violent use of power. As much as possible, counteract this through wise use family policies and a regular technology sabbath. There are excellent sources of information on media literacy including Campaign for a Commercial Free ChildhoodMedia SmartsCenter for Media Literacy, and National Association for Media Literacy Education.

11.Talk about the impact of marketing on daily decision-making. Point out product placements in movies, video games, and television shows. Notice how ads are targeted to specific markets. Talk about the way attractiveness is portrayed and the effect on self-image. Find out how marketing information is gathered on potential customers. Read Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know by Shari Graydon (for kids) and Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel by Jean Kilbourne.

12. Analyze the news. Check out the same story from different information outlets, maybe a major television station, a major newspaper, an alternative newspaper or site, social media, or blog commentary.  Notice what angles are reflected differently and what’s missing from a single news source. Is the media the message? Is there a commercial slant? Find out what’s behind the reporting with Source Watch which tracks the people and organizations shaping our public agenda and PR Watch which exposes public relations spin and propaganda.

13. Open up to reporting and commentary from other countriesPEARL World Youth News is an online international news service managed by students from around the world. OneWorld is a global information network designed to link people who see and share the news. Survival International and Cultural Survival are organizations sharing news about and advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples around the world. And check out links to dozens of links to far-flung news sources.

14. Play video games. Socially responsible games combine challenges with real life lessons about current situations. (Some are pretty heavy on the message.) Check out listings at Games for Change.

15. Report your own news. Capture the sights and sounds of your family, neighborhood, or travels in a family newspaper, blog, or video diary.

16. Consider the source. Watch the same topics covered in different news shows, such as conservative Fox and Friends versus liberal Rachel Maddow. Weigh assertions made by leaders in politics or business against historical example. Look up what a politician or pundit said on the topic years ago compared to now.

17. Look at coverage. Why are some stories headliners, others barely covered, and still others never reported? You might consider immediacy, negative impact (“bad” sells better than good), celebrity connection, and surprise factor.  What about stories Project Censored claims aren’t covered by mainstream outlets?

18.Think globally. Notice where toys, clothing and other household purchases are made, perhaps locating the country of origin on a map. Focus your interest on an area in the world, paying attention to the news, weather, and celebrations taking place there.  Put into place suggestions found in Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be At Home in the World by Homa Sabet Tavangar and consider changes suggested in The New Global Student by Maya Frost. Check out the information shared by the United Nations Cyber School Bus.

19. Connect with people around the world.  Talk about issues with people on forums and social media. Pose and answer questions on Dropping Knowledge, an incredible resource where there are dozens of current discussions such as, “Why don’t schools teach us to form our own opinions?” and “Would a universal language help us get along?”

20. Compete. Student Cam is C-SPAN’s annual documentary competition for young people. We The People hosts competitions for middle school and high school students. Do Something honors young volunteers. Academic WorldQuest is a team game testing competitors’ knowledge of international affairs, geography, history, and culture.

21. Host an international visitor. (Here’s what happened when we did just that.) You might welcome an exchange student through well-established programs such as American Field ServiceYouth for UnderstandingRotary Youth Exchange, or World Exchange. A short-term stay by a visiting professional might be more convenient, through Fulbright Scholar Program or National Council for International Visitors.

This is an excerpt from Free Range Learning

current events kids, teach critical thinking, teach media awareness,

Look beyond. (image: Valley Magnification)