RS204: religion, logic, and the media

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Spring 2016

Mondays, 4:00-6:45 PM

Sierra Hall 384

Instructor: James D. Findlay


Office: Santa Susanna 419

Phone: 818-677-6878

Office Hours: Mon/Wed 12:30-1:30 PM, Wednesdays 3:30-4:30 PM, or by appointment
The California Faculty Association is in the midst of a difficult contract dispute with management. It is possible that the faculty union will call a strike or other work stoppage this term. I will inform the class as soon as possible of any disruption to our class meeting schedule.
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 a statement or claim, nor 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 the student to attain the following outcomes.

1. Explain and apply the basic concepts of deductive logic as a dimension of critical reasoning

2. Apply the principles of deductive logic to the critical analysis of statements made about religion in the news and entertainment media

3. Understand the historical and social contexts in which media misunderstand or distort 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.

Student Learning Outcomes

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 Mon. Feb. 22 and Mon. April 18; a Third Essay, on the Logic and Legal Reasoning used in Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, as well as an exploration on Inequality in US Education, due Mon. May 2. 3-5 pages, double-spaced.

*Numerous Quizzes will be administered throughout the semester.

*Mid-Term Exam, given in class on Mon. Mar. 14.

*Class Portfolios: Will be submitted as drafts, graded, and then resubmitted as a Final Portfolio, due on Mon. Apr. 25. This assignment entails the carefully organized presentation of media examples from class sessions, showing students’ understanding of concepts of logic, deductive fallacies, forms of non-argument persuasion, evaluation of arguments, and analysis of contemporary religion(s) and religious issues. 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

Monday Jan. 25: Introductions, Syllabus.

Introduction to Critical Thinking and Logic. Horne, vii-viii.
Monday Feb. 1: Logical Definitions and Argumentation. Horne, 3-9.

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

Monday Feb. 8: Media Examples

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

Monday Feb. 15: Media Examples: Religion and Art.

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

Monday Feb. 22: Media Examples.

Elements of Non-Argument Persuasion. Horne, 39-43.

Short Essay on Religion, Art, and Critical Thinking DUE
Monday Feb. 29: Media Examples.

Deductive Fallacies. Horne, 51-71.

Monday Mar. 7: Media Examples.

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

Monday Mar. 14: MID-TERM EXAM.

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

Monday Mar. 28: Media Examples.

Diagramming Categorical Claims and Syllogisms. Horne, 103-117.

Monday Apr. 4: Media Examples.

Critical Analysis of Historical and Social Context of Communication Media.

READING: Selections from Digital Disconnect, Robert McChesney. Available as E-book via CSUN Oviatt Library. Link provided by Instructor.

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

Monday Apr. 18: Media Examples.

Logic in Everyday Life. Horne, 141-152.

Short Essay on Critical Analysis of Communication Media DUE

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

Monday May 2: Essay on Logic, Legal Reasoning and Inequality in Education DUE.

Exploration of Applying Logic and Legal Reasoning to Education In-Equality Issues.

Monday May 9: Summary and Conclusions

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