GMAT : Analysis of An Argument

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An Argument

23. The following appeared in a speech delivered by a member of the city council.

Twenty years ago, only half of the students who graduated from Einstein High School went to attend a college or university. Today, two thirds of the students who graduate from Einstein do so. Clearly, Einstein has improved its educational effectiveness over the past two decades. This improvement has occurred despite the fact that the school's funding, when adjusted for inflation, is about the same as it was twenty years ago. Therefore, we do not need to make any substantial increase in the school's funding at the time.


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.


This speaker draws the conclusion that there is no need to substantially increase funding for Einstein High School. To support this conclusion, the speaker claims that Einstein has improved its educational efficiency over the past 20 years, even though funding levels have remained relatively constant. His evidence is that two thirds of Einstein's graduates now go on to college whereas 20 years ago only half of its students did so. This argument suffers from several critical problems.

To begin with, we must establish the meaning of the vague concept educational efficiency. If the term is synonymous with the rate of graduation to college, then the statistics cited would strongly support the argument.

But, normally we are interested in something more than just the numbers of students who go on to college from a high school. We also want to know how well the school has prepared students for a successful college experience - that is, whether the school has provided a good secondary education. Thus, for the speaker the term educational efficiency must essentially carry the same meaning as educational quality.

Given this clarification, one of the speaker's assumptions is that the rate of graduation to college has increased because Einstein is doing a better job of educating its students. However, the fact that more Einstein graduates now go on to college might simply reflect a general trend. And the general trend might have less to do with improved secondary education than with the reality that a college degree is now the standard of entry into most desirable jobs.

But even if the quality of education at Einstein had improved, would this be a compelling reason to deny Einstein additional funding? I don't think so. It is possible that the school has managed to deliver better education in spite of meagre funding. Teachers may be dipping into their own pockets for supplies and other resources necessary for doing their job well. Perhaps the quality of education at Einstein would improve even more with additional financial support.

In sum, this argument does not establish the conclusion that additional funding for Einstein is unnecessary. To do so, the speaker would have to provide evidence that the quality of education at Einstein has improved. This could be done by examining student assessment scores or by tracking-students through their college careers to see how many successfully graduate and find jobs. In addition, the speaker would also have to show that Einstein is doing a good job with adequate financial support and not merely in spite of insufficient funding.

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