x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Sound logic behind creative education

All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal. Even if it¿s a matter of life and death, we can¿t forgive that kind of pedantic teaching style. Nor should you.

The word "syllogism" is, admittedly, the stuff of teenage nightmares. Images spring to mind of a humid classroom and a bespectacled teacher wearing a bowtie slapping pupils with a slide rule. And all the while he's chanting:


All men are mortal

Socrates is a man

Therefore, Socrates is mortal


Even if it's a matter of life and death, we can't forgive that kind of pedantic teaching style. But this is not a lesson on the human condition, gender determination or even, technically, Greek history. It's not a lesson in what to think - but in how to think.

The syllogism taught in classical education curricula is a lesson in logic: given two premises, the conclusion is always, sometimes or never true. (Socrates is dead, so guess which one applies in this case). The critical thinking exercise is to be able to tell the difference.

Skip ahead a couple of millennia to "Changing the Game", the educational initiative at Al Marwah School reported in The National yesterday. Again, there is a logic behind the lessons. The training is to encourage the 77 Emirati teenagers to develop their computer programming skills, some of whom have already written their own game software.

The foundation skills don't sound too hard to master. At first, the pupils simply play computer games. "We start them off with physical play where they have to act like the objects of the game," said Lisa Stark, of Parsons the New School for Design, who drew up the curriculum. "They then have to write up the instruction sets and this allows them to think logically about the game."

For those with an aptitude for and interest in computer programming, this could open a door to a career in an increasingly lucrative industry. Video games and mobile apps seem unlikely to go out of fashion.

But even for those who have interests elsewhere - who have no interest in being programmers or classical philosophers - these lessons teach critical thinking skills that can be applied in every area of life.

The students already agree that creating new programs is more useful than memorising theories. And that is logic that you cannot disprove.