In his perennial novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis’s character of the Professor bemoans the state of modern progressive education. “Logic!” he cries, “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?” Despite there being many teachers who have read the book and re-read it to their children or students, this pointed question hasn’t really sunk in and continues to go unaddressed. The pursuit of logic vanishes like a summer fog in the clamour of educationalists, politicians and social commentators demanding a greater curriculum focus on literacy, numeracy or – God-forbid! – STEM.

Doubtlessly, our schools provide many benefits. Through them, students gain the arsenal of skills and knowledge necessary to provide a future income for themselves and their families. Educational institutions carry on graduating successful lawyers, doctors, businessmen, nurses, and – some would even hazard to say – teachers. They also play a vital role in socialisation which, whether for good or ill, assists in building up the moral character of young people. These are all fine things. And while Australian schooling hardly represents the crème de la crème of higher learning, as a pragmatic and utilitarian model, it is effective enough. There is one area, however, that represents a distinct, perhaps even disastrous, deficiency: good thinking.

Now, being able to think well is complex. At its most basic, we are dealing with the ability to clearly define concepts; string discrete concepts into chains of cogent ideas; connect these ideas together as structured and substantiated arguments; and then be able to understand, analyse and critique such arguments to discern their validity and soundness. Traditionally, this educative process has been the domain of the discipline of logic. Some schools today give it cursory coverage in philosophy or perhaps indirectly in other subjects, but there is no explicit, long-term habitual study of logic as one finds in classical education.

Classical pedagogy recognises the central place of logic as it forms part of the trivium, the foundational curriculum children master before moving on to further learning. The logic (or dialectic) stage trains those “critical thinking” skills so lauded though undelivered by contemporary educationalists. As a fundamentally “rational animal” (Aristotle) or “thinking thing” (Descartes) living in community, humans require the expression of our messy and confused thoughts into both coherent communication and a means of understanding the world around us. The grammar phase achieves the first purpose by inculcating the comprehension and use of language to converse with others; logic then pursues the second, elevating a tool of discourse into one for seeking truth. (Rhetoric combines the two by developing truth-seeking language into persuasive communication.) A fine example can be seen in the articles of St Thomas’s Summa Theologica. Whether dealing with questions about God’s existence, the powers of the human soul, or government of the natural world, Aquinas follows a three-fold pattern that mirrors the trivium. He initially clarifies and precisely defines the topic, question or concept being considered (grammar), then engages in a review and evaluation of arguments for and against (logic), before concluding with his own thesis, which in the medieval school would be part of a verbal disputation (rhetoric). It is a process followed by barristers in courtrooms today. All in all, the trivium of comprehension, argumentation and persuasion is the culmination of the human thinking process, of which logic is essential.

How might this look in a classroom? The simple answer is: varied. The teaching of logic need not only take the form of direct argument construction and analysis, learning how to write a valid syllogism or spot fallacies. It should be creative and oral too. The reading and performance of Platonic dialogues, “choose your own adventure” type stories with different routes, music, and engineering all involve implicit or explicit logical instruction. For the youngest of children, showing that “fireman” goes with “fire engine”, classifying animals according to habitat or species, and simple logic puzzles, train the mind to think well. For older students, newspaper editorials, short essays and debates are rich media to be mined. Logic naturally extends itself to mathematics and symbolic logic, so there is scope in many subjects.

The unfortunate demise of logical education helps explain Western society’s present moral malaise. It is there in the propensity to respond to arguments with sentiment, the overwhelming power of advertising, the preference of the subjective and relative over objective facts, and the rapid, radical changes ripping to shreds the safety net of natural law principles that keep Australia afloat.

We need look no further than to the illustrious Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, as an example of poor logical thinking and an equally poor response by the public. For instance, Andrews will affirm transgender ideology and medical intervention to stop individuals suffering, specifically self-harming and committing suicide. He has said: “Trans kids are 15 times more likely to self-harm. I don’t think this debate [of whether trans athletes can compete in sports of the opposite biological sex] is doing any of those young Victorians any good…”1 And on another occasion: “If you’re trans in this state, you’re five times more likely to self-harm than if you’re not. This is a very serious issue.”2 Irrespective of the disparity between the evidence cited, Andrews defends supporting transgender issues to avoid self-harm. In a momentous speech to Victorian Parliament, the Premier apologised for previous state laws that made homosexual actions illegal, and stated: “You have a government that sees these indisputable statistics – of LGBTI self-harm, of suicide – and commits to their complete upheaval.”3 So far, this makes sense, and Andrews appears to defend a principle that governments must act to prevent self-harm and suicide. Yet, his Government is responsible for legislating the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2017) that allows assisted suicide for practically the same reasons that he wants to prevent it among the LGBTQI community. Is there a contradiction here?

Additionally, as Australia pours funding into overcoming eating disorders like anorexia, where someone’s mental self-image is at variance with, and harmful to, one’s physical body, our country is also moving towards affirming (even in children) transgender medication (puberty blockers, hormone replacements) and surgery to mutilate the body (biological sex) in favour of a socio-psychological construction (gender). Any contradiction? We vociferously oppose the death penalty: even those guilty of heinous crimes should be given the opportunity to rehabilitate and, indeed, a community that kills becomes itself a killer. Still, we are content to legalise the direct and intentional killing of innocent unborn human beings in the womb. Contradiction? On the whole, the mass media ignores or approves of such views – suggesting either immense stupidity or connivance – and, as heirs to that great dissembler, David Hume, our society reacts emotively rather than logically; we do not think well.

Of course, classical education doesn’t guarantee right thinking. However, it does establish the groundwork for it in a way that the progressive model does not. As Chesterton noted: “Logic is concerned merely with the fidelity and accuracy with which a certain process is performed, a process which can be performed with any materials, with any assumption. You can be as logical about griffins and basilisks as about sheep and pigs… If a man starts with certain assumptions, he may be a good logician and a good citizen, a wise man, a successful figure. If he starts with certain other assumptions, he may be an equally good logician and a bankrupt, a criminal, a raving lunatic. Logic, then, is not necessarily an instrument for finding truth; on the contrary, truth is necessarily an instrument for using logic – for using it, that is, for the discovery of further truth and for the profit of humanity. Briefly, you can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.”4 Accordingly, tradition was careful to combine logical learning with other areas of knowledge, especially philosophy (broadly) and theology.

The Australian educational landscape is in many respects a barren wilderness without logic. Explicit logical instruction is one of the seeds of hope that classical education provides. Planted and encouraged over time, these will provide hope to transform our society into one that thinks better.



  1. Daniel Andrews slams “cruel” politicians driving debate over transgender athletes,, 22 April 2022.
  2. Victoria’s Daniel Andrews accuses Liberal candidate of “hateful transphobic” bigotry,, 24 July 2022.
  3. “Unimaginably wrong”: Victoria's gay conviction apology speech in full,, 24 May 2016.
  4. G. K. Chesterton, Daily News, 25 February 1905.