Trivium Pursuit

Review of The Fallacy Detective

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“Mom, that was a red herring!”

My daughter blurted this out as we were watching a news show one evening. The most interesting thing about her statement was not the fact that she had learned it from our reading of The Fallacy Detective, but that it came from my ten-year-old who had only been listening in as I read the book with my older children. And, she was right! The news anchor truly was engaging in a faulty argument.

The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning, written by homeschooled brothers Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn, is an engaging little book written to help young people (and adults!) learn how to recognize bad reasoning. Logical fallacies and propaganda techniques are covered, and chapters address various topics, including recognizing “red herrings,” ad hominem attacks, generalizations, and much more. The book is definitely Christian in tone, with occasional biblical references. Each short chapter covers one type of fallacy, followed by exercises that are ideal for discussion. While the book can be used independently, this is a fun book to read aloud with your children.

The Fallacy Detective is written in a humorous, readable format, with the frequent use of funny illustrations and comics like Calvin and Hobbes sprinkled throughout. Though presented in an appealing manner, the lessons are thought-provoking and definitely encourage students to think and question. For parents who were never trained in logic, it will push them as well! As a parent, I am thankful for the inclusion of an answer key for the end-of-chapter questions.

At the end of the book, there is a Fallacy Detective game students can play by crafting their own examples of fallacies. Additionally, the Bluedorns’ website has a page called The Fallacy Detective News, with examples drawn from real-life events and news stories, illustrating lessons learned from the book. With plentiful examples of bad reasoning all around in our culture, there is lots of fodder for practicing the principles learned here. This is one of my favorite middle- and high-school resources, and one I consider a ‘must-have’!

Only intelligent homeschoolers with high standards will want to purchase this book, so be sure to get yours today! (Wait, that was an example of a fallacy—“snob appeal”! I did learn something from The Fallacy Detective.

Jen McDonald

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