ARG-105

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.


In the letter, the writer recommends an initiation of a high-school-sponsored driver’s education course program and predicts that such a program will help solve the teenage driving problem in Centerville. While this program might be beneficial to some extent, the reasoning of this argument is unconvincing due to several unsubstantiated assumptions which, if proven unwarranted, will seriously challenge the author’s recommendation.

First of all, the writer’s recommendation relies heavily on the assumption that the driving problem involving teenage drivers in the town of Centerville is serious enough to require immediate measures be taken. Based on such an assumption, the writer therefore proposes formal instruction to ensure that these teenagers become safe drivers. However, this assumption is potentially problematic because we are not informed with the exact number of the accidents. Nor do we know whether the teenage drivers are to blame for these accidents. In addition, we even have no idea whether or not the teenage drivers are local. If it turns out that the accidents are not sufficiently serious, or they could be attributed to factors other than the local teenage drivers’ negligence, then the author’s argument for a proposed driver education program is unconvincing.


In addition, by stating that parents have either little time or funding to provide their teenagers with driving courses, the writer rules out alternative methods which could rival the proposed driving program. However, we need to re-examine the assumption that the driving program is the only solution to the teenage driving problem. It is likely that the so-called busy parents just use their unavailability as an excuse because they are reluctant to teach. It is of equal possibility that parents with limited budget make up only a minority of parents. In addition, government-sponsored driving courses could also serve as an alternative method. If any of these possibilities is true, then we are inclined to believe that other solutions could overshadow the one proposed to solve the driving problem.


Even if the assumptions mentioned above are valid, the writer’s recommendation could be unnecessary due to the doubtful assumption regarding the efficiency of the proposed driving program. Claiming that this program will be effective, the writer might be too optimistic. It is unreasonable to assume that all parents, including those who would like to teach their teenagers personally, will readily accept such a school-sponsored mandatory driving instruction program. Also, the writer hastily comes to the conclusion that the local high school should sponsor this program but does not discuss whether the school is financially capable of doing so. Furthermore, we cannot be sure that there will be fewer accidents involving local teenage drivers after the implementation of the proposed recommendation. If this program provokes general discontent amongst parents or the school cannot afford such a program, then the recommendation may not be enacted and we cannot therefore expect a decrease in the number of driving accidents in Centerville.

To summarize, whether or not we should implement the writer’s recommendation depends greatly on the validity of the assumptions in the argument. If these assumptions prove unwarranted, then the recommendation will be little more than the writer’s wishful thinking, and accordingly we need to consider other solutions to the teenage driving problem in Centerville.

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