November 10, 2009

Homework #26 Answer

Judges in the Kingsborough Student Essay Contest disqualified Sam's entry because it broke one of the contest rules. The rules specified that students should place their name ONLY on the cover page of the essay, which the judges would not see, to make sure they judged it fairly and without bias against the individual student. Sam, however, put his name on each and every page of his essay. Nevertheless, Sam's entry should be allowed to qualify, because Sam's parents recently got divorced, and it's been very hard for him.

Which one of the following explains why this is a flawed response to the judges' decision?

A. It presents a conclusion without providing supporting evidence.

(A) is incorrect because the conclusion is supported by evidence, even though that evidence is completely irrelevant. The conclusion is that Sam's essay should be allowed to qualify; the "evidence" is that his parents recently got divorced and he is struggling with that. The reasons why Sam broke the rule are irrelevant, because the rule regarding the placement of the student's name does not take the student's reasons for doing it wrong into account. This is true for most rules. The best example is traffic violations. If you speed, or run a stop sign, it doesn't matter why you did it; you're guilty unless you can prove that you did not actually speed, or that you did not actually run the stop sign. Why you did it is of no consequence, even if you had a really good reason. You're still guilty and still have to pay the fine.

B. It treats a factor that may cause a particular outcome as the only possible cause of that outcome.

(B) is incorrect whether the "outcome" refers to Sam's mistake or the resulting disqualification. In the case of Sam's mistake, the cause is irrelevant. It doesn't matter why he wrote his name on every page of the essay. In the case of the disqualification, again it doesn't matter that there are other reasons why he could have been disqualified. The fact that he was disqualified because he wrote his name on every page is the only thing that matters.

C. It focuses on a trivial, unimportant aspect of the judges' argument.

(C) is incorrect because there is nothing trivial or unimportant about any aspect of the judges' argument. There was a rule, Sam broke the rule, and he broke it in such a way as to completely defeat the purpose of having the rule in the first place.

D. It incorrectly states the facts that formed the basis of the judges' decision.

(D) is incorrect because there is nothing in the stimulus to suggest that Sam did not actually break the rule, or that the judges are mistaken (or lying) about his name being on every page.

E. It appeals to the judges' emotions instead of addressing their reason for disqualifying the essay.

(E) is correct. The argument is an appeal for sympathy, nothing more. It suggests that the judges should ignore the fact that Sam broke the rule and admit his essay anyway because they feel sorry for him. Whether you agree with this or not, the fact remains that Sam broke the rule and defeated its purpose; there is no logical reason or rational basis for admitting his essay under these circumstances.