3. Universal Reasoning
As their reasoning becomes more abstract, children can begin to construct arguments of increasing complexity. They also start learning to identify errors in other people’s arguments.
The capacity for universal reasoning—using the logical rules of deduction—begins to grow around the ages of 10 to 12. This means children can start using logic in situations that are not concrete—in areas that seem ruled only by language. The development of this faculty allows children to turn a critical gaze on someone else’s remarks. At this age, reasoning can become a powerful tool, especially to combat faulty or misleading reasoning.
During this intermediary stage, between the ages of 10 and 12, it is fundamental that parents train themselves if they are to aid the development of logical competence and critical reasoning in their children. To this end, families can play logic games, escape games, enigmas, or investigative games such as Clue together, combining the task of reasoning with fun.
If the child rounds off what they have learned at school within a family environment which promotes reasoning, this places their critical faculties in good stead when it comes time to progress onto more powerful, more universal critical reasoning.
We have seen that from the ages of five to 10, argumentation is a way of nourishing the child’s critical faculties in the period prior to the development of reasoning faculties. From the age of 10, the development of logical skills and the growing body of acquired knowledge will allow the child to combine argumentation and reasoning to support the effective use of critical thinking.
It is far easier to weaken, or even disprove, an idea through critical reasoning than it is to demonstrate its validity. For example, if someone makes a sweeping statement like, “Female politicians are all less aggressive than male politicians,” one needs only to use a counterexample to prove that this is false.
It would be more difficult to disprove the claim that female politicians are less aggressive than male politicians, on average. We cannot prove this false by way of a counterexample, a single “aggressive” female politician.
This kind of logical error is often made even by adults. Demonstrating that the latter proposition is true or false would require a rigorous method, reliable indicators, and statistical calculations. By undertaking this kind of logical procedure, we can teach older children to go beyond mere argumentation.
Case Study 2