14. The following appeared as part of a newspaper editorial.
Two years ago Nova High School began to use interactive computer instruction in three academic subjects. The school dropout rate declined immediately and last year's graduates have reported some impressive achievements in college. In future budgets the school board should use a greater portion of the available funds to buy more computers and all schools in the district should adopt interactive computer instruction throughout the curriculum.
Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underline the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate in conclusion.
The editorial recommends that the school board of Nova High spend a greater portion of available funds on the purchase of additional computers and adopt interactive computer instruction throughout the curriculum.
Two reasons are offered in support of this recommendation.
First, the introduction of interactive computer instruction in three academic subjects was immediately followed by a decline in the school dropout rate. Second, impressive achievements in college were experienced by last year's graduates.
This argument is unconvincing for two reasons.
To begin with, this argument is a classic instance of "after this, therefore because of this" reasoning. The mere fact that the introduction of interactive computer instruction preceded the impressive performance of recent graduates and the decline in the dropout rate is insufficient to conclude that it was the cause of these events. Many other factors could bring about these same results.
For example, the school may have implemented counselling and training programs that better meet the needs of students who might otherwise leave school to take jobs. In addition, the school may have introduced programs to better prepare students for college.
Secondly, the author assumes that the impressive achievements of last year's graduates bear some relation to the introduction of interactive computer instruction at Nova High. However, no evidence is offered to support this assumption.
Lacking evidence that links the achievements of the recent graduates to the interactive instruction, it is presumptuous to suggest that the computer instruction was in some way responsible for the students' impressive performance.
In conclusion, the recommendation that Nova High spend a greater portion of available funds on the purchase of additional computers and adopt interactive computer instruction throughout the curriculum is ill-founded. To strengthen this recommendation the author will have to demonstrate that the decline in the dropout rate and the impressive performance of recent graduates came about mainly as a result of theuse of computer-interactive instruction. All that has been shown so far is an accidental correlation between these events.