Sample Response to Real GRE Argument Questions
Topic # 4: The following
is from an editorial in the Midvale Observer, a local newspaper.
"Ever since the 1950's, when television sets began to appear in the
average home, the rate of crimes committed by teenagers in the country of
Alta has steadily increased. This increase in teenage crime parallels the
increase in violence shown on television. According to several national
studies, even very young children who watch a great number of television
shows featuring violent scenes display more violent behavior within their
home environment than do children who do not watch violent shows.
Furthermore, in a survey conducted by the Observer, over 90 percent of the
respondents were parents who indicated that prime-time
television--programs that are shown between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.---should
show less violence. Therefore, in order to lower the rate of teenage crime
in Alta, television viewers should demand that television programmers
reduce the amount of violence shown during prime time."
The author of this editorial states that the rate of teenage crime in the
country of Alta has increased along with the increase in violence shown on
television, beginning with the 1950's when television was introduced in
the average home. In addition, the author states that several national
surveys have shown that young children watching violent television
programs are more prone to violence than children who do not. The write
also says that a survey indicated that ninety percent of parents
responding said that prime-time programs should show less violence.
Finally, the author comes to the conclusion that to lower the rate of
teenage crime in Alta, television watchers should demand a reduction in
violence shown during prime time. This argument suffers from several
Firstly, the writer equates the rate of increase in teenage crime in Alta
to the increase in violence shown on television but gives no causal
linkage other than the similar time periods. The author makes no
distinction between types of crimes - whether they are violent or
nonviolent crimes by teenagers. Furthermore, there are several possible
alternative causes for the increase in teen crimes. For example, perhaps
all types of crimes have increased for all ages, or maybe the police are
now doing a better job of catching teenage criminals than they were
before. Perhaps the reason for the increase is simply an increase in the
overall population and that as a percentage of the population, teen crime
is even less than it was before. Without ruling out these and other
causes, the argument fails to convince by showing no causal linkage
between television violence and teenage crime.
Secondly, the author mentions national studies that show that young
children that watch violent programs show more violent behavior at home
than children who do not watch such programs. This argument fails on two
levels - one by assuming that children and teenagers are equally affected
by television programs; and two by again assuming that there is some type
of cause and effect relationship between television violence and teenage
crime. Young children and teenagers are not the same and it should not be
assumed that more violent behavior within the home leads to crimes outside
as these children grow into teenagers.
Thirdly, the author offers a survey showing that ninety percent of the
respondents were parents who indicated that prime time television programs
should show less violence. The survey methods are not discussed - it is
possible that the sample was improperly chosen or somehow predisposed to
include parents that are very much opposed to television violence.
Additionally, it is possible that such parents are far more vocal in their
opinions than those who care little or not at all about prime time
television violence, again skewing the results of the survey. Even
assuming the veracity of the sample population surveyed, it is not logical
to associate television violence with teen crime solely on that basis.
Finally, the author makes the gratuitous assumption that simply having
television viewers demand that television programmers reduce the amount of
violence during prime time will lower the rate of teenage crime in Alta.
Regardless of the flawed arguments previously discussed, simply demanding
a change will have no effect whatsoever on teen crime. To strengthen his
or her argument, the author needs to show some direct causal linkage
between television violence and teen crime rather than making vague and
unsupported comparisons purporting to show a link. There is no proof given
either that television violence of any kind causes teenage crime or that a
reduction in prime time violence will keep teenagers from breaking the