Essay topics: The following appeared in a letter to the school board in the town of Centerville.
"All students should be required to take the driver's education course at Centerville High School. In the past two years, several accidents in and around Centerville have involved teenage drivers. Since a number of parents in Centerville have complained that they are too busy to teach their teenagers to drive, some other instruction is necessary to ensure that these teenagers are safe drivers. Although there are two driving schools in Centerville, parents on a tight budget cannot afford to pay for driving instruction. Therefore an effective and mandatory program sponsored by the high school is the only solution to this serious problem."
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.
While the author does bring to notice a situation that is potentially dangerous, the arguments used to support it are as speculative as the short shrift solution presented. Failing to present any concrete data leaves many gaps in the several, and arguably misguiding, assumptions the author has made.
To start with, the authors main source of concern is the involvement of teenagers in 'several' accidents in the past two years. Since no light has been shed on the context and severity of this 'several' number, it is quite possible that these 'several' numbers are completely irrelevant to the situation in hand. Whether teenagers are involved in 9 of the 10 accidents occurring in the area near the author's residence or in 9 out of 1000 occurring around the town would mean two very different things. May be the author lives in a locality that has more high school drop-outs than in other parts of the town. Such teenagers, who are not bound by the busy curriculum at school are more likely to be involved in reckless behaviour than even the most outgoing of the students in rest of the town.
The use of the word 'involved' itself indicates how obscure a premise the author has based the argument on. Does 'involved' include those sitting in the rear seat of a car driven by an adult involved in an accident? Does it also include those incidents where teenagers get 'involved' in an accident while riding a bicycle, or just while crossing the road? Teenagers could have been 'involved' in 'several' accidents, but there has been no evidence provided, nor has it even been stated that they were actually responsible for them.
Moving on, the author has pointed out that a 'number' of parents are too busy to teach their teens how to drive. Let us assume that that 'number' is actually big enough. Recent economic meltdown has put a lot of people under extreme pressure, especially those with teen-aged children. The same may also have made their financial situation weak enough that many cannot afford professional driving instructors. It is not necessary that these parents send their children to the Canterville High School. The author has not talked about any other schools in town, so either he (she) has assumed that all parents send their children to Canterville High School, or that other schools are willing to introduce, let alone sponsor, such courses in their curriculum. In case of the former, even though it is highly unlikely that there is only one school in the whole town (the town is big enough to accommodate two driving schools), it would be a nightmare to arrange for the proper facilities and safety measures for such a large number of potential learners, those too, teenagers. Driving schools organise classes throughout the year, even several batches a month, to cope up with the number of aspirants. Adapting the high school curriculum and schedules to accommodate these extra classes would be cumbersome to say the least.
If the author has assumed the latter and expects other schools to follow suite, perhaps he (she) is gravely underestimating the amount of facilities and regulations that the providers of such courses have to maintain. It would be naive to expect that each school would be similarly funded and equipped. Turning the car park into a training circuit is not as easy as it sounds, if one forgets how impractical and wasteful it would be in the first place.
Lastly, the author has failed to consider the stand of the local government on the issue at hand. If all the assumptions above are actually valid, then the local authorities must be deliberating on their own set of possible solutions. The author expects that even if the situation becomes considerably dangerous, the local authorities would still be willing to allow teenagers to drive. Other factors like global warming, depleting oil reserves, increasing congestions on roads, etc. are pushing governments to favour public transport over individual vehicles. Furthermore, from the fitness point of view, riding a bicycle is a far healthier practice than using motorized vehicles. By not considering such alternatives, the author has ignored the chance to build a healthy and sustainable culture among the budding minds of today.
It is not the lack of concern for the safety of the youngsters, but the lack of insight in the data, consideration in the assumptions, and practicality in the solution, that make this speculative and intangible.
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