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Complete Question Explanation

Weaken—CE. The correct answer choice is (A)

The argument concludes that a program instituted two years ago to
increase morale has ultimately caused the recent decrease in high school
dropouts. You must focus on a causal conclusion when one is presented to
you! Whenever you encounter a causal conclusion, ask yourself whether
the relationship must be as stated by the author or if another explanation
can be found.

In simplified form, the conclusion appears as follows:

..... ..... P = program to raise high school morale
..... ..... RD = reduction in dropouts

..... ..... ..... C ..... E
..... ..... ..... P :arrow: RD

Regardless of the question asked, this assessment is helpful. The question
stem asks you to weaken the argument, and according to the “How to
Attack a Causal Conclusion” section there are five main avenues of attack
you should be prepared to encounter. The correct answer, (A), falls into
one of the most frequently occurring of those categories—the alternate

Answer choice (A): This is the correct answer. The answer attacks the
conclusion by introducing an alternate cause: it was not the morale
program that led to a decrease in high school dropouts, but rather the fact
that fewer jobs were available for individuals contemplating dropping out
of high school. The job availability factor is important because the first
sentence of the stimulus indicates that high school students who drop
out go to work. Thus, if a recession led to a high level of unemployment,
this could cause high school students to rethink dropping out and stay in

Answer choice (B): At best, the answer choice is irrelevant. At worst, this
answer confirms that some of the high school students had low morale,
and in that sense, the answer strengthens the argument.

Answer choice (C): The argument indicates that the dropout rate is lower
relative to the preceding year; there is no claim that the dropout rate ever
exceeded the retention rate. Thus, to suggest that more students stayed in
school than dropped out has no effect on the argument.

Answer choice (D): This is a Shell Game answer. The stimulus refers to
high school dropouts. This answer choice refers to high school graduates.

Answer choice (E): The argument uses information about the city’s overall
dropout rate. Therefore, the target high schools of the antidropout program
are irrelevant.
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Why is D) wrong? I understand that it mentions graduate students, but does not that provide an incentive for current students to graduate so they can benefit from these placement offices? Thanks in advance!
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Good question, this one is tricky!

We're told in the stimulus that the students who drop out have a pessimistic view of their academic performance and drop out to work instead. Presumably, these students see working and earning money as a better use of their time than staying in school.

The issue with answer choice (D) is that if these students can drop out of school before graduating and start working right now, why would they instead choose to stay in school for another few years to start working later? In the working now vs. working later calculation, these at-risk students have already chosen the "working now" route.

For answer choice (D) to be correct, we would have to make an additional assumption that securing employment is difficult for dropouts, so they would have an incentive to stay in school and benefit from the job placement program. This is a jump too far, particularly since the stimulus tells us that dropouts have been able to start working instead of going to school without significant search costs.

Contrast this with answer choice (A), which tells us that if students dropped out now, they would have real difficulty finding work. We don't have to make any inferential jumps -- we know that the alternative to staying in school is no longer available, so students will be less likely to drop out.

I hope that makes sense. Good luck studying!
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I got this down to (A) unemployment and (D) placement office. Both weaken the argument by providing an alternate explanation. Both are problematic because they both require a lot of assumptions.

(A) assumes the high employment includes jobs the high school students would take, and jobs in their neighborhood, and not average unemployment limited to specific industries or geographic locations.
(D) assumes students are willing to stay in school because they have better job opportunities than they could on their own, and they're willing to muscle through 2-3 more years to graduate.

But (D) requires one more assumption - that the placement office was NOT part of the morale program. That isn't established in the passage. (A) cannot fail based on that flawed assumption.

Therefore, between two alternate explanations for the lower drop-out rate, where both require a ton of assumptions, (A) is the one that CANNOT be attributed to the morale program while it's still possible (D) CAN be part of the morale program.
 Rachael Wilkenfeld
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Hi bruce,

Remember that in weaken questions we aren't worried about assumptions being made by the answer choices. We assume the answer choices are true, because they tell us so in the question stem. Our job is to see how it would impact the argument if it is true.

Answer choice (A) would provide a potential alternate cause. It suggests that maybe students weren't staying in due to the awesome program, but instead due to a lack of alternatives. It doesn't PROVE that the causal argument in the stimulus is false, but it doesn't have to. It just needs to shed some doubt on it.

Answer choice (D) doesn't actually impact the argument. Answer choice (D) is about programs for graduates, which doesn't really address the morale program at all. There's no link between this program for graduates and the morale of drop outs. They are talking about different issues, and answer choice (D) doesn't have an impact on the argument.

Hope that helps!

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