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GRE ESSAY On Palean Woven Baskets - With A Free Essay Review
PROMPT: Woven baskets characterized by a particular distinctive pattern have previously been found only in the immediate vicinity of the prehistoric village of Palea and therefore were believed to have been made only by the Palean people. Recently, however, archaeologists discovered such a "Palean" basket in Lithos, an ancient village across the Brim River from Palea. The Brim River is very deep and broad, and so the ancient Paleans could have crossed it only by boat, and no Palean boats have been found. Thus it follows that the so-called Palean baskets were not uniquely Palean. 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.
Your essay is all but illegible, so probably doesn't matter that much whether you are answering the question or not. However, you are not answering the question. You are not being asked to critique the argument. You are being asked to do two specific things:
1. To discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument.
2. Explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.
You need to do both of these things, but your essay does neither.
Consider your claim that baskets might have been flown to the other side of the bank. That's certainly a possibility, but you need to consider what kind of evidence would be needed to support that hypothesis and explain how it would help to weaken or strengthen the argument. For instance, you could say something like the following:
In order to support the theory that Paleans had an alternative flight-based mode of basket delivery, we would need evidence of their flight capability. If archaeologists found an ancient helicopter, for example, that would weaken the argument that the so-called Palean baskets were not uniquely Palean.
Consider, next, your claim that baskets might have been carried across the river by a Palean swimmer. In that case, to respond to the question, you might say something like the following:
In order to support the theory that Paleans carried baskets on their back while swimming across the river, we would need evidence of their ability to swim. If archeologists dug up a Palean book entitled "How to swim across the river with a basket on your back," that would weaken the original argument. However, if the archaeologist found a Palean book entitled "Ten Reasons Not to Try Swimming Across the River with a Basket on Your Back," that would and strengthen the original argument, by supporting its assumption that a boat would have been needed.
Obviously, I am being a little bit glib with these examples. Archaeologists don't (yet) dig up ancient helicopters. But as examples of the structural components of an appropriate answer to the question, these examples are good. Generally, the structure is the following
2. What evidence needed to support the hypothesis.
3. What impact on the given argument would the evidence have.
There are other ways of structuring your response, but the above does work.
Now let’s get serious for a minute. These types of GRE essays are intended primarily, I assume, to test critical thinking, where "critical thinking" is defined in part as an ability to identify the hidden assumptions of an argument. There are probably dozens of hidden assumptions in any argument, but I suspect that the GRE prompts are designed so that there are at least one or two egregious, non-trivial hidden assumptions. You correctly identify the following hidden assumption: The river is consistently broad and deep and was always broad and deep. So you would definitely get points for that. That's the strongest part of your essay, but it's buried in the middle of your fourth paragraph. It might be a good idea to devote a single paragraph to your strongest argument, and make the central claim of that argument as prominent as possible (e.g., by putting it in the topic sentence of the paragraph). Again, you would need to specify what evidence would support the idea that the river might not always have been broad and deep, such as a traditional Palean song about the good old days when they used to wade across the river with baskets on their head; or geological evidence about a massive drought in the region.
You don't identify the most problematic assumption: Only Paleans could have transported the baskets across the river. That's the kind of assumption that, once you've identified it, will cause you to jump out of the bath naked and run around the town shouting Eureka! (Since you may not get that reference, let me be boringly obvious: when you identify the most problematic hidden assumption, you know you've found the real answer to the question, the one the examiners will be looking for).
Here's how you devote a paragraph to the most important idea. I'm being serious here.
The most important hidden assumption of the argument is that only Paleans could have transported the basket across the river. It may be, however, that others could have transported the basket. If archaeologists found evidence of boats in the region (for example, in the area inhabited by the Lithos people), then such evidence would support the hypothesis that others (e.g., the Lithos people) transported the basket across the river. Such evidence would weaken the original argument because the original argument depends on the assumption that basket could only have been transported by the Paleans. Such evidence would not be devastating to the argument that the so-called Palean baskets are not unique to Palea. It would only weaken the assumption that Palean baskets were never transported across the river. It may be the case that, despite the existence of boats in the region, such boats were never used to transport baskets. It may be, for instance, that Lithos basket makers crossed the river to learn the Palean technique and then returned home to weave their own copies.
Note that the important claim is in the first sentence of the paragraph - the topic sentence. Note that the paragraph explicitly answers that part of the question that asks about the kind of evidence that would be needed to assess the argument. Note that the paragraph also explicitly answers that part of the questions that asks you to explain the impact the evidence would have on the argument.
Finally, here's what I think really happened. Some disgruntled archaeologist's assistant surreptitiously carried the basket across the river in his standard-issue yellow canoe and buried the basket at the site of the archaeological dig to mess with his boss. This hypothesis could be tested by having the CIA subject the assistant to various enhanced interrogation techniques (also known as "technically not torture") in order to get him to confess. If he confessed, this evidence would weaken the original argument because that argument depends heavily on the assumption that only ancient Paleans could have carried the basket across the river. We would also want to know, however, whether the extracted confession could be trusted. We could subject the wicked assistant to additional enhanced interrogation techniques to see whether he might confess to having lied to the original interrogator. Alternatively, the archaeologist himself may have been up for tenure at the time he "found" the basket. Perhaps he should be "technically not tortured" too.
Anyway, do remember to answer the question. If they ask you to write about evidence, write about evidence. Some addition evidence that one might write about:
Evidence that Alexander the Great River Crosser occupied the region during the basket-weaving epoch.
Evidence of ballistic technology (catapults, cannons, or strong arms).
Evidence of falconry (assuming falcons can carry baskets).
Evidence of telecommunication technology (big-throated Paleans and big-eared Lithosians, for instance)
Evidence of postal technology (e.g., pigeons!)
(DNA!) Evidence of a Palean-Lithos baby.
Evidence of the existence of local giraffes (they don't say it's not a giraffe pattern) which might have inspired basket weavers working independently on both sides of the river.
The evidence shows from the conclusion that Palean baskets were not only belong to the palean people. To support this conclusion arguers cites that immediate vicinity of the prehistoric village of Palea and therefore were believed to have been made only by the Palean people. Arguer also point out that "Palean" basket in Lithos, an ancient village across the Brim River from Palea. Also The Brim River is very deep and broad, and so the ancient Paleans could have crossed it only by boat, and no Palean boats have been found. Arguer reasoning have many flaws and unpersuasive as it stands.
First of all, this argument assumes that immediate vicinity does not mean the Palean people but may be there can be some other group who made woven baskets. This concept contradicts the situation.
Secondly, another argument which point out to the first statement that woven baskets found only in Plea but in another statement “Palean” basket found in Lithos, means Plea is not only place where we can found woven baskets. There is a flaw in the argument due to lack of information.
Thirdly, the fact that I found that Brim River is very deep and broad but there is possibility that Brim River is not always deep and broad but maybe it is shallow or maybe there was no river at that time to transfer basket from Plea and also may be destroyed over a period of time. But no boat found in Palea. May be there is another kind of boat or case can be used and its concept is different and not consider as boat. One also possibility is that baskets might be flown to other side of bank or swimmers swam and transport baskets in Lithos.
In conclusion, we can say that information seems fallacious to the inference to the detail of the argument. Author didn’t provide the detail information about peoples of Palea, Litho and river. So, we can’t reach to the conclusion of the argument.