Texts and Materials:
access to the internet
At the end of the course, students
- a more precise understanding the
terms and concepts used in critical thinking: argument, premise,
conclusion, deduction, induction, proposition, and fallacy.
- the ability to use these concepts
to better organize, evaluate and deconstruct arguments.
- a working knowledge of how to
apply formal rules to evaluate logical arguments.
- a significantly expanded set of
techniques to use when asked to demonstrate analytical and problem solving
skills in future classes.
- an increased defense against
logical errors that tend to mislead us in written arguments, advertising,
statistical analysis, the interpretation of scientific studies.
- an increased ability to reason
clearly and argue convincingly in everyday life.
Discussion Board Forums/Class
Argument Essay/Critical Responses
Group Problem Solving
Evaluation of a Written Argument
best way to contact me, at any time of day, is to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I
check this e-mail address several times a day and, if I am in front of my
computer, I am alerted when an e-mail arrives. Therefore, responses to
your e-mails can sometimes be instantaneous. At any reasonable time of
day, you can usually get a response from me within two hours, if it
is clear that a response is called for.
usually check my campus e-mail a few times each week. It is not the best way to
contact me or submit late assignments.
my office hours, I can be reached at 524 - 5153. At other times of day, you can
leave a message at this number, but I usually only remember to check my
messages once a week, so it is ALWAYSbetter to
e-mail me a quick message at email@example.com
holds a special place in a critical thinking course. It is difficult to
evaluate an argument that isnít written down. We donít do much reading,
probably no more than two short articles a week, but what we do needs to
be scrutinized closely and several times. We will continue to improve our
reading technique throughout the quarter so that you continue to get more
meaning with less effort out of every text that you read. This is a skill
you will find essential in future college classes.
quarter we will be looking at Copyright infringement and Internet piracy.
I have chosen articles to get us started for the first 2 weeks of the quarter,
but I have left the reading schedule open for the rest of the quarter so that
we can pursue this topic in a way that most interests us as a class.
may earn extra credit (maximum 30 points) by submitting articles for the class
reader that pertain to our chosen topic. If the article is at least 15
substantial paragraphs, makes a thoughtful argument backing a clear position,
and represents a view we have not yet read in class, then you will earn 5 extra
credit points. If your article gets posted to the syllabus, you will get an
additional 5 points. Short news items and political cartoons can also earn you
Notice: Many of the materials posted to this course site are protected by
copyright law. These materials are only for the use of students enrolled in
this course and only for the purposes of this course. They may not be further
retained or disseminated.
will have quizzes over the material we cover in class each week, some
scheduled and some unannounced. Often, these quizzes will require you to
apply logical concepts to specific problems in order to demonstrate your
comprehension and facility with the idea. You will always have at least
three days to attempt a scheduled quiz up to three times, and you will
receive feedback after each attempt telling you which questions
you got right and wrong. It is to your advantage to attempt the quiz early
and use the Course Forum to talk about questions that are stumping you.
Treat the quiz as a learning tool and use the quizzes to get feedback.
Unscheduled quizzes will often be given on days we have assigned readings
just to make sure you are keeping up. Quizzes (both scheduled and unschedled) cannot be made up after they are given,
but you can make up missed points with extra participation in class and on
Board Forums/ Participation:The
essence of critical thinking is the development of reasonable and fair
habits of mind. This is a never-ending process (you will doubtless catch
me being irrational and bias from time to time), but it begins by exposing
our thought process to public scrutiny and allowing bad reasoning to be
corrected. There will be discussion prompts posted every week designed to
draw out short arguments that other students can then scrutinize and
evaluate. This is a place to practice making arguments before writing
argument papers. This process will spill back and forth between the
classroom and the forum, which is why this is a combined grade. I will
often make reference to forum posts in class. It might be possible (but less
effective) to limit your participation exclusively to discussion forums
and never speak up in class, but it will probably not work as well the
Essays: You will write 3 argument
essays throughout the quarter on our chosen topic, each one more
sophisticated than the last. We will be going over effective argument
structure and rhetorical strategies in class, but I will be less concerned
with style than with effective use of evidence and analysis, but we will
discover that good grammar is essential to effective communication. You
will present at least one of these papers aloud during the quarter, and we
will discuss them as a class, trying to identify both effective arguments
and fallacies so that you can receive some direct feedback on your
Responses: After each essay is due, you
will respond to two of your fellow students' essays in the form of a
letter as if you were writing a letter to the editor in response to an
argument in a newspaper or magazine. The letter should focus on the
content of the argument, not the grammar or style in which it was written
unless that interferes with the effectiveness of the argument.
Problem Solving Project:In
small groups, students will demonstrate their ability to follow a
methodical approach to solving a specific problem of limited scope. They
will document their process and present their solution to the class.
student will choose an example of public media (advertisement, magazine
article, news report, political speech, opinion column, website, etc.) and
evaluate it for logical errors, hidden assumptions and cultural bias.
These will be presented in a visual presentation to the class of 5 to 7
minutes, including questions.
of a Written Argument:This
will be your final project for this class. You will choose a scholarly
article in a subject of your choice as if you were going to use it in a
research project. You will write up a report identifying its main
arguments in syllogism form and evaluate it based on logic, fairness,
reasonableness and bias.
Most of your interaction with the class will happen on the
Discussion Board so that other students can see what you are doing, get
inspired by it, think about it, and respond to it.
Some assignments may be attached to a drop box. I will make it clear through
links in weekly folders where and when to submit certain assignments. However,
if you are having technical difficulties uploading assignments to Angel, you
may submit any written assignments by e-mailing them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It will also
be possible to submit your assignments in hard copy (though most will still
need to be typed out), but then they will need to be submitted by class time
while assignments submitted by internet will usually not be due until the end
of the day.
and Participation: As
indicated above, participation is a significant element of this class. You will
earn up to 10 points per week (or sometimes more) for participating in class
discussion, contributing to weekly forums, actively participating in workshops
and group activities. Failure to participate can significantly lower your
grade. You may be marked absent if you are not in class by the time I take
roll, if you come without the materials to work that day, or if you are
mentally absent from class. You will lose two participation points for every
day you are marked absent for any reason.
Your final grade will be calculated as a straight ratio of
points earned to points possible and translated into a letter grade based on a
fairly generous scale. In order to calculate your letter grade at any given
point in the quarter (or on any particular assignment), simply divide your
current points by the points possible, multiply the result by 100 and consult