Logical Thinking: An Indispensable Skill

Logical Thinking: An Indispensable Skill
By Dr Jan Strydom (MA, HED, DEd)
Logical thinking is a very important skill. Like all other skills, it must be
taught. There are many everyday life situations in which the ability to
think logically is of great importance. If a person stands at a curb and
there is a car approaching, his life literally depends on whether he is
able to think logically or not. If he can, he will understand that he
must wait for the car to pass, otherwise it will run him over.
This means that logical thinking is thinking in terms of causes and
consequences, which in its turn means that it is sequential thinking.
Logical thinking means following a train of thought. It is like looking
into and predicting the future: if this happens, then that will happen.
However, this has nothing to do with fortune telling. It is based on the interpretation of certain
prevalent conditions and then predicting what will happen if the same conditions continue to
Logical thinking is in a way the opposite of short-term memory. Short-term memory is the skill
that enables one to keep track of the immediate past. Logical thinking allows one to keep track of
the immediate future. The two skills are closely connected. They are like a painter sweeping his
brush — the beginning-sweep naturally leads into the end-sweep. The person who has a poor
short-term memory will therefore naturally have a weak ability to think logically because the one
leads to the other.
An example or two should make this clear. If one is sitting in a crowd at a soccer match, and one
sees the first three players running out onto the field, one would certainly expect that the next
who comes running out will also be one of the players. However, it is only because one is able to
remember that three players have just run onto the field that one can draw the conclusion that a
fourth one is soon to be expected. Of course, the knowledge that there are eleven players in a
soccer team also plays an important role in coming to this conclusion.
The ability to think logically is of immense practical importance in our daily lives. Day after day,
from moment to moment, we are busy interpreting available evidence and making predictions on
what will happen next. When I walk along the sidewalk, it is my interpretation of the available
evidence that leads me to the conclusion that it will be safe to put a foot forward for the next
step. The moment conditions change — for example, if I hear a gunshot — I may have to
reinterpret, and may then conclude that it is no longer safe to put a foot forward for a next step.
The opposite skills of short-term memory and logical thinking turn us in a miniature way into
time travelers. They enable our consciousness to reach back into the past, and also forward into
the future. Without these skills, our consciousness would have been like a person with tunnel
vision. A person with tunnel vision can focus on one little thing at a time. The mind of the child
who has not been taught the skills of short-term memory and logical thinking is equally
Logical thinking is not only of great importance in our everyday lives, but is also a skill that is
indispensable for children in school. Very little of what happens in any learning situation is not
dependent on logical thinking. It is therefore of the utmost importance that parents should as
early in life as possible teach their children this very important skill.