Hillsdale College’s revamped core cur­riculum now includes a three­credit course in clas­sical logic and rhetoric, dis­ci­plines which were a mainstay in higher edu­cation until the nine­teenth century.
The course has not yet been imple­mented due to a lack of available faculty, but planning is underway. According to Provost David Whalen, the course is an attempt to restore the ancient tra­dition of formal logic in edu­cation.

“Formal logic con­cerns rea­soning, the arts of denying, the nature of propo­si­tions, and the rela­tionship between propo­si­tions in rea­soning,” Whalen said.
He said a course in clas­sical logic and rhetoric studies per­tains more to “state­ments and propo­si­tions and words,” than to math­e­matical, abstract symbols.

Pro­fessor of English Stephen Smith, who co­chaired the course design ini­tiative with Pro­fessor of Speech Kirstin Kiledal, said that logic and rhetoric, two thirds of the trivium, have been at the heart of liberal edu­cation for cen­turies.
“We hope to bring about a renais­sance,” he said.

Whalen clar­ified the purpose of the class.
“One of the modes of rhetorical argu­men­tation is logos, or logic,” Whalen said. “In asking, ‘How logical is your argument?’ you need to know what con­sti­tutes a logical argument.”
For example, the class will teach stu­dents to make dis­tinc­tions between essences and prop­erties. They will discuss modes of cau­sation. Whalen likened the class to a toolbox –– a set of terms that aids stu­dents in how to think clearly about things.
“One could argue clas­sical logic and rhetoric fell out of the cur­riculum the way phrenology [the practice of reading head bumps] fell out of favor. Why throw a mum­mified dis­ci­pline onto a cart and roll it into a modern course?” Whalen said. “But it is our belief — a belief in which we have a lot of con­fi­dence — that that toolbox is very far from out­moded, irrel­evant, or out­dated.”
He argued that stu­dents’ intel­lectual edu­cation and common public dis­course suffer from the lapse of clas­sical logic and rhetoric.
“The inability of people in common dis­course to engage in dis­cussion from dif­ferent view­points, using similar sets of tools, is owing in part to the absence of a common toolbox,” Whalen said. “Tools are important. I actually think it is easier to drive a nail with a hammer than with a muffin.” Faculty across the college are inter­ested in the course, but, because the course has fallen out of favor in higher edu­cation, almost anyone who takes on the task of teaching it will require some training.
Kiledal and Assistant Pro­fessor of Edu­cation Jeffrey Lehman, however, have extensive expe­rience in both dis­ci­plines. This semester and last, Lehman taught a newly­required course in the edu­cation department entitled Logic and Rhetoric in Clas­sical Edu­cation.
“Although there is no formal con­nection between our course and the new core course, many faculty are inter­ested in seeing how this existing course goes, given how similar the content and approach will likely be for the new core course,” Lehman said.
Lehman added that a course in logic and rhetoric is a “natural fit” for Hillsdale College.
“The study of the liberal arts is meant to be intro­ductory, foun­da­tional, and for­mative,” he said.

“For a student engaged in liberal edu­cation, a course in logic and rhetoric will pave the way for advanced studies in a variety of dis­ci­plines and unite these studies through careful attention to the arts of the word.”
Kiledal said the course will involve a large number of written exer­cises and some short papers. “The course has to inte­grate logic and rhetoric, two large branches of study, into a single semester,” she said. “In order for that to occur, we have had to create limits, and one of those is with regard to the canon of delivery. This is true at least for the first version of the syl­labus, passed by the faculty in the spring. The course may see imple­men­tation without new hires — but that will place strain on a number of depart­ments.”

Whalen esti­mated as many as four new faculty members would be nec­essary to teach the class or free up people at the college to teach it. One of the goals of the Rebirth of Liberty and Learning Cam­paign is raising money to launch the program.