ARG-008

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.


This letter argues that due to a decrease in the birthrate in the city of Calatrava, the number of children and thereby of students enrolled in public schools is expected to drop. As a result, the author maintains that funding for education and recreational facilities (including athletic fields) can be safely reduced. Furthermore, the money made possible by the reduction in the budget for education and recreational facilities could be used for adult programs.

: Although the author’s lines of reasoning look appealing, there are some unsubstantiated assumptions that underlie his argument and could be wrong. When new evidence emerges, invalidating those assumptions, the author’s conclusion will be seriously weakened.

: Although it may be reasonable to transfer funds from children-related fields to adult-related domains, this is not a conclusion that can be safely arrived at given the amount of information presented by the author. More evidence is needed to determine whether such a proposal is logical.

: Albeit there are seemingly some merits in the committee’s recommendation, it does not receive adequate support in the author’s lines of reasoning because of some potentially problematic assumptions that remain unsubstantiated. Before we can give an accurate evaluation of the proposal, a number of questions must be addressed.


(Assumption) In the first place, in concluding that the number of children will decrease, the author assumes that the birthrate can faithfully represent the actual number of the new-borne. However, the total number of population might also change, thereby affecting the birthrate even if the new-borne population remains the same. For instance, the drop in birthrate compared to five years ago could merely originate from a rapid and substantial increase in total population, while each year more infants are born. This scenario would disprove the author’s assumption, thereby rendering his subsequent conclusion shaky.


(Question) Even if we acknowledge that the population of children will drop in response to the decline in the birthrate, it remains an open question whether the actual attendance in public schools will plummet as well. This is because of an unsubstantiated assumption that only local students can and will attend public schools, which is open to question. If this is the case, the author’s prediction on public school enrollment will be more convincing. On the other hand, if it turns out that public schools at Calatrava could admit students from other regions, their attendance may not be adversely affected by the shrinking size of children population. In an extreme case, the influx of non-local students might even over-compensate for the loss of students due to the decline in birthrate, making the recommendation endorsed by the committee less logically acceptable.


(Evidence) Granted that public school enrollment does go down as the committee anticipates, more evidence is needed to evaluate the claim that funding for athletic playing fields and other recreational facilities can be safely reduced. Built upon this conclusion is the assumption that only students will use those facilities. And yet no supporting evidence is present. It may be the case that those facilities are used not only by students but also by adults in Calatrava. To solve this uncertain question, a large-scale, independent survey investigating the usage of athletic playing fields and recreational facilities is highly desirable. The author’s recommendation will be bolstered if it shows that the majority of users of those facilities are students. In contrast, if the survey reveals that many adults also take advantage of those facilities, it is less logically sound to reduce funding for the playing fields and other facilities.


To sum up, while it may be logical to reduce the funding for education and recreational facilities and increase the budget for adult-centered programs, the committee does not convincingly presents evidence to support its claim.

: There are several uncorroborated assumptions in the lines of reasoning, and when they prove unwarranted, the final conclusion will be weakened.

: We need more information to make a rational judgment on whether the local government should adopt the committee’s recommendation.

: In order to determine whether this claim is reasonable, we need to consider several questions regarding the interpretation of the birthrate data, the admission policy of the public schools, and the actual use of recreational facilities in the city of Calatrava.

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