Walk-in-Wednesday: 8th Grade Logic with Ms. Katherine Kramer

Last week, launched our new “Walk-in-Wednesday” series here on the ILS Blog with a delightful look into 1st grade with Miss Kirstin Reistad. Join us each week as we share a sneak peek from one of our teachers, highlighting what a visitor might observe when stopping in one of our classrooms for a visit. Through this, we hope to create an image of just some of what a visitor may experience if they were to stop in 1st grade, or 7th grade Literature, or music, or any one of our classrooms at ILS. 

This week, we move upstairs to our Upper School, where Ms. Katherine Kramer, our ILS Assistant Headmaster and 8th grade logic teacher, continues our series with a peek at the energy and delight you observe if you were to step into one of her 8th grade logic classes!

We also warmly welcome you to come by in person any week for a Walk-in-Wednesday tour to learn more about a classical Christian education at Immanuel by viewing our students and teachers in action. Stepping through our red doors, you will be welcomed by the joyful sounds of learning, from poems and jingles in the lower grades, to great discussions and debates in our older grades. Singing and music ring out from the music room, and the wonderful sights and sounds of students and teachers engaged in learning can be witnessed throughout our campus.

Please enjoy, and join us on the blog each week as we share additional “Walk-in-Wednesday” features!

"Ms. Kramer, I think you can solve an argument I was having with my dad about the Kavanaugh trials."  

Welcome to 8th grade logic class, a year-long in-depth study of the 28 informal fallacies. To copy a favorite phrase of one of my colleagues, teaching this class is my jam. I started class by asking students to pass forward examples of the ad hominem fallacy they were supposed to be watching for last week, and had asked if there were questions.  

As it turns out, this student had been discussing the news with his father and had been reporting on everything as he heard it that seemed erroneous. He was pretty sure that "it shouldn't count" in the trial if something true was said but had bad reasoning, and his dad was arguing that Truth must be pursued and valued even if the reasoning was poor (at least, that's what I gathered from the student’s account of the conversation).  

We've only learned four fallacies so far this year, but have put a lot of time and thought into some key terms that help students differentiate arguments from other forms of persuasion: propaganda, manipulation, and out-right commands. Last week the thought that produced the most generalized outrage was that they the students had unknowingly been receiving propaganda for years: propaganda, from the perspective of logic class, simply being persuasion without argumentation. Is prayer a form of propaganda that we should be persuaded to believe in God?" one student asked me after class. What a great question. "What do you think?" I said, and we were off on a great discussion. 

 These are golden moments for me personally, when I get to spend half a morning with a group of students who are idealistic, curious, inspired and inspiring. The students crafted their own goals for logic class this year from "win more arguments" to "talk more persuasively" to "stop committing logical errors." My chief goal is that they will learn to take these fallacies and embed them into their long term memory as filters for how they evaluate both the world and themselves, both for what they take in and for what their minds produce. 

 So, when the student continued the question, I was delighted at what came out eventually.

 “So anyway, I'm pretty sure that Logic and Truth are the same thing. You can’t say something true if it’s not logical, and if it’s not logical it can’t be true." 

"Uh, I'd like to respectfully disagree!" spoke up another student mischievously. "Logic and Truth are NOT the same thing." Groans ensued, as another cheeky debate was afoot. However, I had been waiting for weeks for them to start to grapple with this on their own. 

 By a show of hands, a majority of students committed to the idea that Logic and Truth are the same. Of course, Logic and Truth are not the same thing. Logic is correct thinking (is it a science or an art?) and Truth is that which is Real. You can think logically about things that are not true, and you can think illogically about things that are true. For example, I asked students to consider the following:


I am a pretty pony.

All pretty ponies have long sparkling hair.

Therefore, I have long sparkling hair. 


This syllogism is actually logically correct. The conclusion follows from the premises, and it commits no logical errors. However, it is obviously false. Students know that arguments like this, which are logically correct but false, are called invalid.  The class was tracking so far.  

Then, I put a trickier one on the board: 

That which I feel in my heart is true. 

I feel in my heart that Jesus died for my sins. 

It's true that Jesus died for my sins. 


This caused some rumbles, as this argument in varying forms is something many children have heard before. False premises leading to a true conclusion.... is that possible? Here too we have an invalid argument.  

Then I asked, "Can you craft an argument with a TRUE conclusion and TRUE premises but that is illogical?" This took some mental toil, but eventually someone was able to posit:


Premise 1: My heart tells me this is true. 

Premise 2: Pastors believe it.

Conclusion: Jesus Christ rose from the dead.


Oh dear. A true conclusion, perhaps even true premises, but the reasoning is bad. The class generally burst out with comments like:

"Wait - that doesn't make sense!" 

"Hey, that's exactly what I said before!" 

"What's wrong with that again?" 

“But WHY isn’t that fair?”

 By the end of the class, everyone left with the understanding that Logic is separate from Truth, but that we always aim to be logical about Truth. God has given us the ability to order our thinking, just as He does, and this is a gift for us to steward. In the same way, we have been given glorious and adventurous truths that can be very hard to argue for with perfect logic. We’re going to keep talking about it all year.