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#16 - Media consultant: Electronic media are bound to bring

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For this one, I think (E) should be the right answer. Particularly, I find I cannot interpret (D) under the context of the question stem. Which part of the question stem is "enabling an institution to arise" and which part of the question stem is "something necessary to the institution"?
Lucas Moreau
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Hello, GLDMYP,

This question is partially an error of conditional reasoning, so we'll look at that part first. And all errors of conditional reasoning can be simplified into the following: confusing sufficient and necessary conditions with each other.

This breaks down into Mistaken Reversals (where, if you're given A :arrow: B, would be B :arrow: A) and Mistaken Negations (where, if you're given A :arrow: B, would be Not!A :arrow: Not!B), but those are really the same mistake. In much the same way that a conditional reasoning relationship proves its own contrapositive (A :arrow: B proves Not!B :arrow: Not!A), so too is a Mistaken Reversal the contrapositive of a Mistaken Negation (B :arrow: A proves Not!A :arrow: Not!B, or it would if B :arrow: A was true).

So for this one, it seems that the relatively inexpensive printed books were what allowed the traditional school to begin as an institution. In this way, the books were a sufficient condition (though probably not the only sufficient condition) for the traditional school to arise. This could be diagrammed like so:

Books :arrow: School

Like I said, there are most likely other sufficient conditions for the school, but for now let's ignore those.

The stimulus goes on to say that relatively inexpensive printed books will be gradually fading out of our culture, replaced with electronic media. This could be seen as Not!Books. From this, he asserts, the traditional school will be doomed. This could be diagrammed:

Not!Books :arrow: Not!School

Do you see how that's a Mistaken Negation? Just because books are sufficient to let a traditional school arise doesn't mean they're necessary for that school to arise.

The other part of this problem is that the argument fails to distinguish between that which a traditional school needs to arise and that which it needs to keep on going. Even if relatively inexpensive printed books were necessary for a traditional school to arise, it doesn't follow that they will remain a permanent requirement of traditional schools. We used to need horses and wagons to move large amounts of things around, but we no longer do. :-D

Hope that helps,
Lucas Moreau
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I understand why answer choice D) is correct, but I picked C) and even now when I look at them, they seem very hard to tell apart.

To me, what makes answer choice C) correct is the fact that the author does presuppose that just because something can happen (i.e.: traditional school will not survive in our culture because the function of books in communicating information is gradually being taken over by electronic media), it will happen.

The only distinguishing feature that I can tell between C) and D) it that the correct answer choice D) is more concrete in pointing out the reasoning flaw - books are not the necessary condition and not a sufficient condition in the stimulus for the school's existence. We only know that they helped bring about the traditional school and the author treats books as a required condition.

Am I on the right track in my analysis?

Thank you for your help!
Adam Tyson
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In order to pick an answer like C, you would have to be able to show that somewhere in the stimulus the author included a premise that whatever he is trying to prove can happen and then conclude that it therefore will happen. While it must be true that the author assumes that traditional schools can fail to survive, he never actually says it. Also, perhaps more importantly, he would have to base his conclusion primarily, maybe even solely, on that premise. In other words, the argument would have to be something explicit like "Traditional schools could fail to survive due to the increased prevalence of electronic media, therefore they will fail to survive."

That didn't happen here - the idea that they could fail was only embodied in the assumptions and in his conclusion, rather than in any premises. Additionally, he based his conclusion not merely on that possibility, but on some historical evidence about printed books. That should take answer C out of the running - it only covers a portion of the argument and not the heart of the argument.

I think there is something very important to note in your analysis, and that's your statement that answer D is "more concrete". I think it's fair to say that's pretty close to saying it's a better answer, isn't it? Remember that the instructions tell us to pick the best answer and not merely a good answer or even the correct answer. If D is more concrete, it's better, and that means that if you are stuck between C and D you MUST pick D, even if you think C is also possibly true. Don't let your feelings about an answer being good stop you from picking another answer that's better.

Again, good job and good thinking. Keep it up!
Adam M. Tyson
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I get why D is correct. I was back and forth between D and E and ultimately chose E. What I still don't understand though, is why E is inferior to D? I feel like they are equally right, almost different sides of the same coin, if you will. Like, if D said something completely different (i.e WRONG), I would have no problem choosing E, and visa-versa. I think what aids in the confusion is the term, "facilitated," and what that means to the reader? It's like, the author is putting way too much value in the medium by which it operates, so much so that she mistakes it for a necessary condition of school.
Luke Haqq
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Hi avengingangel,

Answer (E) states that the flaw is that the author "confuses the value of an institution with the medium by which it operates."

(E) can't be correct because that answer discusses value, but the passage does not. The "institution" in (E) refers to the "institution of the traditional school in our culture" discussed in the stimulus. However, the stimulus doesn't talk about that traditional school's value. Additionally, the conclusion is not talking about value. Rather, the author is arguing and predicting that electronic media will make the traditional school obsolete.