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GRE Argument Essay: The Following Appeared In A Letter To The Editor Of The Parkville Daily Newspaper - With A Free Essay Review
Prompt: "The following appeared in a letter to the editor of the Parkville Daily newspaper. 'Throughout the country last year, as more and more children below the age of nine participated in youth-league sports, over 40,000 of these young players suffered injuries. When interviewed for a recent study, youth-league soccer players in several major cities also reported psychological pressure exerted by coaches and parents to win games. Furthermore, education experts say that long practice sessions for these sports take away time that could be used for academic activities. Since the disadvantages outweigh any advantages, we in Parkville should discontinue organized athletic competition for children under nine.' Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted."
The author of this letter expresses concern for children below 9 years of age participating in sports competition. He also makes a lot of assumptions: the youth-league has players only less than 9 years old; the soccer players who reported about their pressure are less than 9 years of age, discontinuing athletic competition would result in children under 9 not suffering injuries. First, the author cites the number of young players in youth-league sports who suffered injuries as the participation of number of children under 9 increased the previous year. The 40,000 students that the author has mentioned need not be under 9 years of age. It may also be the case that as there was an increase in participation in the number of children under nine, coaches would have concentrated more on those kids and hence the amount of coaching received by children over 9 would have decreased, resulting in majority of the children who got hurt be over 9. Author assumes that as the number children getting hurt increased along with the number of children participating in youth-league sports, all those children who got hurt were under 9 years of age.
The second assumption is that the soccer players from youth-league sports who reported about the pressure they get from parents and coaches are not lying hoping that they would get some help in skipping the classes so that they can stay at home lazily. We do not know the number of children who reported about the pressure and we do not know that they were not lying about it and finally we do not know if they are under nine. The author assumes all the above to be true and concludes that athletic competition should be cancelled for children under nine. Furthermore, the author has mentioned the complaints from education experts that long practice sessions takes away time that could be used for academic activities. Education experts have only said that long practice time on sports could have instead been invested in academic activities and have not complained that long practice sessions makes them poor in scoring good academic grades. The author seems to have assumed the above and takes that as a disadvantage to conclude about discontinuing the competition.
Finally, the author wants to discontinue the athletic competition assuming that those 40,000 children injured has got those injuries from participating in athletics. It may be the case that almost negligible number of children got hurt from participating in athletics and most children got hurt only from other games. With knowing this information for sure, author has made assumptions and has recommended that athletic competition at Parkville be discontinued.
I believe your first argument is incorrect. The phrase “these young players” in the given sentence can only refer to “children below the age of nine” so it is not an assumption that children who were injured were under nine but rather a factual claim.
Your second argument is better, although you don’t need to speculate about why youth soccer players might lie in response to a survey. It is true and relevant that we don’t know that the children are under nine, though you should probably explain explicitly why you think the argument assumes that they are. It is also true that we don’t know the number of children who reported psychological pressure, but you don’t clarify why that is relevant. Remember that in every case, for this type of prompt, you will need to identify the specific assumption that you think the argument depends on. (An additional assumption here that you miss is the assumption that psychological pressure to win is a disadvantage of organized athletic competition; i.e., it is assumed that such pressure has some kind of negative effect. Perhaps it is fair to say that the argument assumes that participation in organized athletic competition will have a negative impact on academic performance; it also seems to assumes that taking time away that could be used for academic activities is necessarily a bad thing. (Eating and sleeping also takes time away that could be used for academic activities, but that’s not necessarily a good reason to stop eating or sleeping.) The argument of course also assumes that young children in organized sports do take part in lengthy practice sessions.
Note, finally, that the essay doesn’t devote very much attention to explaining how the argument depends on the assumptions you identify and devotes less attention to the task of explaining what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted. In it crucial in the GRE test to respond precisely to the specific instructions that accompany the prompt.