Friday, March 1, 2013

My Young Intellectual Engineers


About a week ago I told my students that my goal was to turn them into sappers. As many of you know, a sapper is a military or combat engineer who performs many duties such as bridge-building, searching minefields for mines and clearing them, building field defenses, and engaging in general construction and repairs. As sappers, I want my students to be able to construct arguments, to break down arguments and put them back together again (analysis), to repair ineffective arguments, and to search out and identify propositions, key terms, and underlying assumptions. But in particular, my young sappers are expected to use certain tools to help them in their tasks as intellectual engineers. Their tools are a series of questions. They are as follows:

S------What is the significance? (importance, relevance, implication)  #4
A-----What are the alternatives?  #5
P------What is the proposition or problem?  #1
P------From whose point-of-view am I seeing or hearing?  #3
E------What is the evidence?  #2
R------What is the relationship between/among ideas?  #6

[Photographic Art by Ric Couchman]