October 7, 2009

Homework #14 Answer

Due to a rash of behavior problems among a particular group of high school students, the principal has canceled all school extracurricular activities for the next month. The organizers of a pep rally, which is scheduled to take place two weeks from now, have made the case that their event should be allowed. They have argued that the increase in school spirit brought about by the pep rally will bond everyone together, which in turn will result in fewer behavior problems in school in the future.

The organizers of the pep rally assume which one of the following in making their argument?

A. The principal did not intend to cancel the pep rally along with the other activities.

(A) is incorrect because the organizers' argument does not depend on this being true. Remember, an assumption question asks what MUST be true for the argument to hold water, not what COULD be true, what is most likely to be true, or what conclusion can be drawn from the stimulus. The question you need to ask is, if this is NOT true, is the argument still valid? The organizers are arguing that the principal, who has canceled all activities for the next month, should make an exception for their pep rally because it will help solve the behavior problem. Whether the principal intended to cancel the pep rally along with everything else, and we can probably assume she did, doesn't make their argument any more or less persuasive either way. If she intended to make an exception then the argument is moot and a waste of time; if she didn't, then the argument can still be made that she should, but the argument doesn't depend on this fact one way or the other.

B. The students with behavior problems will be participating in the pep rally.

(B) is correct. The only way the pep rally can have the desired effect on the behavior problems, the effect the organizers claim it will have, is if the students responsible for those problems will be participating in the pep rally. If not, then the argument falls apart, and the principal will have no reason to make the exception based on the organizers' claim.

C. No other activities besides the pep rally should be allowed to take place during the next month, unless it can be shown that such activities will "bond everyone together."

(C) is incorrect because the organizers are only concerned with their own event, the pep rally. They are not trying to prevent the principal from making exceptions for other events, nor are they trying to limit the basis of any exception made to the one they have proposed. In other words, the argument does not depend on what the standard should be for determining whether ANY exceptions should be made. Note also that this is expressed as an opinion (note the word "should") and therefore cannot be an assumption, because it cannot be either true or false.

D. A pep rally is the most effective type of extracurricular activity to deal with the problem of bad behavior in school.

(D) is incorrect because even if it is not true, the argument is still valid. Even if there are more effective ways of dealing with bad behavior, the organizers can still make their case that the pep rally will help in this regard, and the argument would not be any more or less persuasive. The statement in (D), if true, would certainly help, but it's not a necessary part of the argument; it's not an underlying assumption that MUST be true for the argument to be effective. This is an assumption question, not a support question.

E. The principal will allow other canceled events to take place once she sees the positive effect that the pep rally will have on the students.

(E) is a prediction, not an opinion, but it's still incorrect because the argument does not depend on it being true. The organizers are trying to get the principal to make an exception for their pep rally. Whether she will make more exceptions later once she sees the benefits of making this one is debatable, but whether she does so or not does not make the present argument any more or less persuasive, or more or less likely to succeed.