September 14, 2009

Monday's questions and sample explanations - #3

3. Many people have cynically suggested that a child’s intellectual ability is determined by the socioeconomic status of his family. To test this belief, infants from poor families were removed from their homes and placed in special schools, where they were taught relatively advanced subjects from the time they were only three months old. These children had an average IQ of 110 by the time they reached school age. It would seem, therefore, that it is the degree of pre-kindergarten education the child has received, not his parents’ socioeconomic level, that determines his future intelligence.

Which one of the following, if true, would provide the best foundation for a rebuttal of the above argument?

  1. The degree of pre-K education that a child receives is related to his family’s socioeconomic status.
  2. Children from wealthy families who were placed in the same special schools also had an average IQ of 110 when they reached school age.
  3. Families in lower income brackets often have more children, and thus cannot give as much attention to each one.
  4. Children learn better between the ages of five and ten than they do between the ages of one and five.
  5. Few parents at any socioeconomic level attempt to teach their children before the children reach the age of five.
(A) is correct. This is a weaken question; it asks what is the best way to rebut the argument and thereby make the conclusion less likely. The basic premise of the argument is that pre-K education, not socioeconomic status, determines future intelligence; X, not Y, = Z. Answer choice (A) suggests that both are factors; not just one or the other. It does not contradict the author's conclusion, but it makes it less likely to be valid. If pre-K education is related to socioeconomic status, then the latter cannot be excluded as a determining factor.

(B) is incorrect because it would actually strengthen the argument. If wealthy children were placed in the same schools and produced the exact same results as poor children, then it is more likely, not less, that education alone, and not status, is responsible for future intelligence.

(C) is incorrect because it is irrelevant. Poor families' inability to give individual attention to each child does not prevent us from excluding socioeconomic status as a determining factor for future intelligence. The argument takes no position on what goes on in children's homes. Pre-K education would have the same impact regardless of whether (C) is true.

(D) is incorrect because how well children learn after they reach the age of five is irrelevant. The argument is only concerned with how they learn between the ages of one and five. Even if they learn better when they are older, we can still claim that pre-K education determines their intelligence and socioeconomic status does not.

(E) is incorrect for essentially the same reason as (C). The argument takes no position one way or another on the role of parents or families in facilitating children's education. The author only argues that the quantity and quality of pre-K education determines future intelligence, and socioeconomic status does not. The statement does not weaken the argument.