In Star Trek, there’s the purely logical guy, Mr. Spock, and the purely emotional guy, who is just about any other character. Real life isn’t like that–we need to be able to function both ways, with our minds and with our emotions.
Unfortunately, learning logical thinking doesn’t just come naturally for most people. But it’s an important skill. Logic traps are everywhere.
Here’s what you can do about it: teach logic to your child. Why?
1. Your child will be able to understand cause and effect, and make better life choices. For instance, a child who understands logical consequences will be more able to counter the voices of “friends” who urge him to misuse his money and his time.
2. Your child will be a good problem-solver. Good problem-solving involves coming up with a list of options to consider. This will help later on in a range of situations, from how to deal with a plugged-up sink to what to do about a car that breaks down.
3. Your child will be better prepared to challenge advertising. He will be able to identify fallacies such as circular reasoning. For example, an advertiser might tell us, “Happy folks buy Toastie Puffs.” What he means is, “Buy Toastie Puffs, and you’ll be happy!” This is circular logic! Can your child recognize it?
4. Your child will be able to carefully consider persuasion from politicians and the media. What if a TV reporter interviews five people who say the US should allow illegal immigrants to stay? Then the reporter concludes that everyone in the state wants illegal immigrants to stay. What is the problem here? This is an error in generalizing from too small a sample group. The reporter needs opinions from a much wider sample group. Can your child see the error?
5. Your child will be able to evaluate what someone says by looking at who said it. For instance, if your dentist tells you how to take care of your teeth, you should follow his advice-he’s an expert. But if he tells you how to fix your car, you might not consider him an expert on that!
6. Your child will be able to understand how computers think. Computers think in nitty-gritty ways: if statement A is true, then do action B. Otherwise, do action C. Our brains tend to skip around in comparison. But learning to program a computer to follow a logical sequence helps the child learn to think logically, too. In the Information Age, this is a very useful skill to develop, now or later. The more your child knows about computers, the more he will be master of that device that is mastering our lives.