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GRE Argument Essay: Ten-year Budget For The City Of Calatrava - With A Free Essay Review
Prompt: "The following appeared as a recommendation by a committee planning a ten-year budget for the city of Calatrava. 'The birthrate in our city is declining: in fact, last year's birthrate was only one-half that of five years ago. Thus the number of students enrolled in our public schools will soon decrease dramatically, and we can safely reduce the funds budgeted for education during the next decade. At the same time, we can reduce funding for athletic playing fields and other recreational facilities. As a result, we will have sufficient money to fund city facilities and programs used primarily by adults, since we can expect the adult population of the city to increase.' Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.
In the recommendation, the author suggests that the city should reduce funds budgeted for education and athletic playing fields, and use these funds for city facilities and adults' programs. However, the recommendation contains several unaddressed issues that can potentially affect the validity of the recommendation.
First of all, the author argues that the birthrate is declining by showing that last year’s birthrate was one-half that of five years ago. This argument is flawed, because the author does not specify why the statistics only include the birthrates of last year and five years ago. If the birthrate of last year was the lowest, whereas the birthrate five years ago reached the peak for past decades, then, it is not logical or accurate to use this data to extrapolate the trend of birthrate. In order validate this point, we need to know information about the birthrate for past decade maybe—the continuous data.
Even if the birthrate in Calatrava is declining, which may not be true, then, we need to know if there the number of students attending public schools in this city would necessarily drop. The author does not consider the possibility that students from other cities or states can attend public schools in Calatrava, and this is especially common among college students. If there is a large number of out of state students attending public schools in Calatrava, then, the declining of the local birthrate, which is suspicious, would not have significant impact on the number of students attending public schools in Calatrava. Therefore, the trend of the birthrate would not accurately predict the number of students attending public schools in the city.
Moreover, the author contends that city should cut the budget for athletic playing fields because there are fewer young people. However, there is a large leap between the given evidence and conclusion, because there is no evidence suggesting that adults do not use athletic playing field. Thus, in order to support the claim, the author needs evidence to show that a majority of adults in this city do not use athletic playing fields, and teenagers and children indeed tend to use athletic playing field less.
In conclusion, the author omits specific evidence that can more directly lead to the conclusion. In order to make the recommendation more convincing, the author needs more direct evidence to bolster the claim such as the drop of real number of students, and declining of the usage of athletic facilities.
The committee begins with a factual claim (the birthrate is declining) not an argument, so I think it is incorrect to suggest that that claim actually depends on the evidence that "last year's birthrate was one-half that of five years ago." It is true, nonetheless, that the comparison of last year's birthrate with that of five years ago is not necessarily indicative of the extent of the decline in the birthrate, so it is reasonable to want to see statistics covering several years. Note, however, that you need to explain (as per the instructions) "how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument." Presumably you don't do that because the point would seem to be obvious. I would suggest doing it anyway.
You stray a bit further from the assigned task in the next paragraph where you focus on critiquing a logical error (the assumption that the birthrate is a good predictor of the number of students who will attend public schools in the city) instead of discussing specific evidence needed to evaluate the recommendation. You are right of course to say that the birthrate might not be the only factor relevant to the enrollment in public schools.
Finally, you leave out the final part of the argument; namely that the city "will have sufficient money to fund city facilities and programs used primarily by adults" and the related claim that "we can expect the adult population of the city to increase." There is no evidence presented to support the expectation of an increase in the adult population, nor any evidence about the expected size of the increase. The latter would be relevant to evaluating the claim that the reduction in funds for public schools would make enough funds available for the adult facilities. It would also be helpful, I suppose, to know how much of the funding for public schools depends on the number of students attending; there may be fixed costs (maintenance, certain salaries) that are independent of that number.