Interview: Andrew Brody of the Princeton Review LSAT Podcast
(The third in a series of occasional interviews with people I find interesting or who work on interesting projects.)
I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t the LSAT a test of some sort? Why should I care about a test, and why on Earth is there a podcast about it? And why would a podcast about a test be worth listening to? I’ll tell you why. The LSAT is the Law School Admissions Test, focusing on logical and analytical reasoning. Finding logical flaws in arguments is an essential skill for a lawyer, so LSAT scores are a major factor in law school applications. But logic and analytical reasoning are important in everyday life, too. The same skills that lawyers use to recognize or pick apart bad arguments in court can be used by all of us to recognize flawed logic in the media, around the office, in advertisements, and among our acquaintances.
That’s where the podcast LSAT Logic in Everyday Life comes in, hosted by Andrew Brody of the Princeton Review, a leading test preparation company. Each week, Andrew picks a topic that’s been hot in the media and analyzes the arguments involved from a strictly logical viewpoint. He emphasizes that it’s important to put aside preconceived notions and biases, and look strictly at the argument itself to determine its validity, whether we agree with it or not. Each podcast, at just about 8 or 9 minutes long, is engaging and entertaining, and teaches you to retrain your brain to recognize flawed logic.
Andrew was nice enough to answer a few questions for Ironic Sans.
I find the podcast applicable to everyday life, even though I don’t plan on taking the LSAT. Is it intended for a wide audience? Or is it intended specifically for LSAT test takers?
The podcast is intended for anyone who is interested in critical thinking. It was designed to gently help students studying for the LSAT start to see the world around them like one big LSAT question, but, as it turns out, the large majority of listeners are not currently studying for the LSAT. I think it is appealing to people who are skeptical and who believe that issues are much more complex than politicians, pundits, journalists, and advertisers would have us believe.
How do you decide on topics for the LSAT podcast? Who writes them?
I write and produce the podcasts. I try to choose topics that are the ‘hot topics’ of discussion for that week, the types of topics that people can’t help but overhear discussion about. Every now and then I’ll choose a more esoteric topic because I think it’s a good example of flawed logic.
Even the most logically-minded person must, from time to time, find him or her self lapsing in logical reasoning. Do you have an example of a time you realized you weren’t being logical in your daily life?
Where should I begin? Unlike, say, the laws of physics, the laws of logic can be broken at will. I say on the podcast that the first rule of LSAT logic is to not get emotionally involved in the subject matter. Usually, logical lapses come when there is an emotional interest at stake.
When you’re having a discussion with someone in your daily life, and they aren’t being logical, what’s the best way to point that out in plain terms to someone who might not know what “ad hominem” means, without coming across as a pompous know-it-all?
Good question. I think that many ‘arguments’ in daily life arise over different opinions of what constitutes good evidence. In other words, you’ve read your book and I’ve read mine, and we’re both going to believe what we believe because the book we read backs it up. This doesn’t usually make for a good discussion. An interesting discussion comes when people are looking at the same book and drawing different conclusions. I think the least pompous way to confront another person’s logical lapse is to call attention to assumptions that people make in their arguments that they usually don’t even realize they’ve taken for granted, instead of referencing high-falutin names of logical flaws.
Do you have a favorite text on logic that you recommend as a good introduction?
Yes. Crimes Against Logic, by Jaymie Whyte, is an excellent, easy-to-read introduction to logic, especially with a focus on logic in the media. My favorite part is the discussion on the logic of “well, i’m entitled to my opinion.”
I think it’s never too early to teach logic. Do you recommend any resources for teaching logic to kids?
Children can learn to think critically and logically from their parents. Giving honest answers to the endless “why’s” is a good start. Answering, “because I say so” seems to me to be a very harmful thing to say to a child in terms of their intellectual development.
Are there situations where logic doesn’t apply?
Logic and religion have a pretty contentious relationship. Religion is all about taking certain truths for granted, on faith.
Are there situations where you see logic not being applied, and wish it would be?
Yes. That’s what the podcasts are for.
What is your background?
I graduated magna cum laude from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service, and I was a “Culture and Politics” major. I have taught and tutored the LSAT since I graduated, and I currently work for the Research and Development department at The Princeton Review. I never attended law school, although I was accepted at NYU Law School. I chose to defer and then dropped enrollment.
And finally, what did you score when you took the LSAT?
The last time I took the test was in December of last year. I scored a 180. It may seem immodest to reveal a perfect score, but I am a teacher, and I took the test exactly as I teach it, so it’s obviously important for me to score well.
Thanks, Andrew! All episodes of the podcast can be heard at the Princeton Review’s website and you can follow that link to learn how to subscribe via iTunes.