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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 on 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 this time.”
Discuss how well reasoned... etc.
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
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
meager 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.