Instructor: James D. Findlay

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Spring 2014

Mondays and Wednesdays, 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM

Sierra Hall 192

Instructor: James D. Findlay


Office: Santa Susanna 233

Phone: 818-677-2742

Office Hours: M/W 12:30-1:30 PM, Mondays 3:30-4:30 PM, or by appointment

Course Description: This course introduces students to the use and understanding of the basic concepts of logic and critical reasoning. Utilizing these concepts, students will gather, discuss, analyze, and critically examine material from broadcast, print, and Internet news sources on matters pertaining to religion. Our primary concern in logical analysis is not the truth of the statement, or personal opinions about it, but rather the analysis of the formal structure of the example itself. This course satisfies the "Critical Thinking” requirement in General Education. In addition, it is part of the Arts, Media, and Society General Education PATH program.

Student Learning Objectives:

Course SLOs: This course is intended to enable each student to achieve the following goals:

*) Explain and apply the basic concepts of deductive logic as a dimension of critical reasoning;

*) Apply the principles of deductive and inductive reasoning to the critical analysis of statements made about religion in the news and entertainment media;

*) Understand the historical and social contexts in which media present or interpret statements made by or about religious groups or spokespersons.

G.E. SLOs: Critical Thinking

Goal: Students will analyze information and ideas carefully and logically from multiple perspectives and develop reasoned solutions to problems.

Students will:

  1. Explain and apply the basic concepts essential to a critical examination and evaluation of argumentative discourse;

  2. Use investigative and analytical thinking skills to examine alternatives, explore complex questions and solve challenging problems;

  3. Synthesize information in order to arrive at reasoned conclusions;

  4. Evaluate the logic and validity of arguments, and the relevance of data and information;

  5. Recognize and avoid common logical and rhetorical fallacies.

Arts, Media, and Society GE PATH SLOs:

A) Students will develop an understanding of the basic history, criticism and aesthetics of one or more of the traditional forms of artistic endeavor.

B) Students will have a basic knowledge of the history, development and theoretical debates surrounding issues of media and media and society.

C) Students will be able to write in the typical critical idiom and discourse regarding one or more art or media modes and practice.

D) Students will have a basic understanding of the debates and theories surrounding critical approaches to the relationship amongst art, media and society along with some of the histories of these debates and relationships.

Required Text:

David Lawrence Horne, Straight to the Point: A Primer for a Logical Introduction to Critical Thinking (Pearson Custom Publishing, 2005).

Student selected and printed copies, brought to each class session, of current (within one month of date used in class) media examples on Religion from credible print or online news sources. (WIKIPEDIA IS NOT ACCEPTABLE AS A CREDIBLE SOURCE FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS COURSE). Sources must include stories or investigations about a wide range of religious traditions.

Course Requirements:

*Class Work: Careful Preparation for Class Sessions, Punctuality, Attendance, and Engaged Participation in Class Exercises, Discussion, and Arguments are a significant part of the course. All absences must be arranged beforehand via personal or e-mail contact with Instructor, or will be considered unexcused, and will have a negative effect on students’ grades.

*Hard-copy media example assignments are due regularly (see above). NO LATE SUBMISSIONS ARE POSSIBLE.

*Three Short Essays: One Each on Art and Media Analysis, due Wed. Feb. 26 and Wed. April 23; a Third Essay, on the Logic and Legal Reasoning used in Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, due Wed. May 5. 3-5 pages, double-spaced.

*Numerous Unannounced Quizzes will be administered throughout the semester.

*Mid-Term Exam, given in class on Wed. Mar. 19.

*Class Portfolios: Will be submitted as drafts, graded, and then resubmitted as a Final Portfolio, due on Mon. April 28. This assignment entails the analysis of media examples from class, as well as additional media examples pertaining to Religion(s), of each student’s choice, using concepts of logic and critical reasoning learned in class sessions. NO LATE SUBMISSIONS ARE POSSIBLE.

*Respect for other students and the class environment. This includes placing all cell phones and other electronic communication devices in the OFF position before entering the classroom space.


Class Participation: 15%

Media Examples, with Analysis: 15%

Short Essays: 15 %

Quizzes: 15%

Mid-Term Exam: 15%

Class Portfolios: 25%

Possible Websites to use for research and media examples:

Los Angeles Times:

New York Times:

Washington Post:




Democracy Now:

Colbert Nation:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life:

Big Questions Online:

Blogs About Religion:

Religion News Service:

PBS, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly:

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life:

The Independent of London:

Class Schedule and Plan

Wed. Jan. 22: Introductions, Syllabus

Mon. Jan. 27: Introduction to Critical Thinking and Logic. Horne, vii-viii.

Wed. Jan. 29: Logical Definitions and Argumentation. Horne, 3-9.

Mon. Feb. 3: Media Example.

Wed. Feb. 5: Logical Argumentation: Identify Arguments and Indicators. Horne, 15-22.

Mon. Feb. 10: Instructor Presentation: Art and Critical Thinking. Reading: Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility,” provided by Instructor.

Wed. Feb. 12: Media Examples: Religion and Art.

Mon. Feb. 17: Making Arguments Explicit: Diagramming, Validity, Soundness. Horne, 23-35.

Wed. Feb. 19: Media Examples.

Mon. Feb. 24: Elements of Non-Argument Persuasion. Horne, 39-43.

Wed. Feb. 26: Media Examples.

Short Essay on Religion, Art, and Critical Thinking DUE

Mon. Mar. 3: Deductive Fallacies. Horne, 51-71.

Wed. Mar. 5: Media Examples.

Mon. Mar. 10: Informal Arguments: Evaluating and Critical Examination. Horne, 75-81.

Wed. Mar. 12: Media Examples.

Mon. Mar. 17: Portfolios. FIRST PORTFOLIO DRAFT DUE.

Wed. Mar. 19: MID-TERM EXAM.

Mon. Mar. 24: Formal Logic: Basic Symbols and Patterns. Horne, 89-97.

Wed. Mar. 26: Media Examples.

Mon. Mar. 31: NO CLASS, Cesar Chavez Day

Wed. April 2: Diagramming Categorical Claims and Syllogisms. Horne, 103-117.

NO CLASS, Mon. April 7 and Wed. April 9, Spring Recess

Mon. April 14: Critical Analysis of Historical and Social Context of Communication Media.


Mon. April 21: Formal Logic: Logical Derivation Proofs. Horne, 135-137.

Wed. April 23: Media Examples.

Short Essay on Critical Analysis of Communication Media DUE

Mon. April 28: Logic in Everyday Life. Horne, 141-152.


Wed. April 30: Logic in Legal Reasoning. Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Horne, 147-151.

Mon. May 5: Essay on Logical and Legal Reasoning DUE.

Wed. May 7: Summary and Conclusions.

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