How to Analyze the Author’s Response to Opposing Viewpoints for the GED RLA

By Achim K. Krull, Murray Shukyn

The GED Reasoning Through Language Arts test has questions intended to test your understanding of the author’s viewpoint. Authors often have to respond to opposing viewpoints, and they have numerous tools at their disposal to do so. They can question or disprove the logic used to arrive at the opposing viewpoint or present evidence that challenges or undermines the evidence used to support the opposing viewpoint.

Writers can also use deceitful practices and logical fallacies to argue their point, such as personally attacking anyone who disagrees with them, using emotional language to drown out logic and facts, selecting only facts that support their position and ignoring data that challenges it, and distorting facts to support their point of view.

Whenever a question on the GED test challenges you to analyze a response to an opposing viewpoint, ask the following questions and jot down your answers:

  • Does the author address the opposing viewpoint?

  • What evidence does the author present to counter the opposing viewpoint?

  • Is the evidence used appropriate?

  • Does the author use emotional language to sway the argument?

  • Does the argument support the conclusion?

If your answer to any one of these questions is “no,” then you’ve found a weakness in the argument or the response to the opposing viewpoint that you may want to explore more deeply in your analysis.

Consider these two passages:

Passage One

Some youth deliberately set out to harm others; this act is called bullying. However, when it happens by using social media, texting, and other technologies, it is called cyberbullying. That, too, should be a crime, especially because the intent to hurt and harm is there. Worse, considering how pervasive media technology is today, the bullying never stops; it follows the victims wherever and whenever they try to escape. The resulting evidence of the harm is also clear. The number of young people who have in desperation committed suicide after months and years of horrific abuse shows that.

Cyberbullying is a form of abuse, just like cyberstalking. It relentlessly hounds a designated target, even following the victim when he or she moves or changes schools. In a recent case, a teen was raped, and photographs of the rape were distributed to classmates in her school. Comments that followed taunted her as a slut — it was her fault; she was asking for it — to the point that she transferred schools.

The teen reported the rape to the police who took little action, and the perps remained free. She received an endless stream of abusive e-mails and texts. Meetings with the principal of both high schools and parents of the bullies solved nothing. Even after transferring, the bullies found her again and the harassment started again. Only after being faced with community outrage did the police take action, and then only after the teen had committed suicide.

This was not an isolated case. Nearly half of all teens report they have been victims of cyberbullying. There have been multiple suicides in many countries. The police are often unwilling or unable to take action, claiming that cyberbullying itself does not constitute a crime.

Education programs don’t work, either. Virtually all schools these days have anti-bullying programs. Even grade-school children are taught about bullying and to show respect for others. They are also educated on how to be safe online. Yet the cyberbullying continues.

The threat of a criminal record is a deterrent and, at the very least, will give the police a tool with which to fight cyberbullying. Arresting bullies will certainly stop them in their tracks. It might also give the victims a tool for seeking redress. All the other initiatives have failed, so what choice is left?

Passage Two

Why criminalize cyberbullying? There are already laws that can be used against cyberbullies if the issue becomes serious. Cyberbullying may be crude and rude, but it is not a crime unless it becomes slanderous or libelous. If there is no physical harm done and no intent to drive someone to self-harm, why treat verbal abuse as a crime? If it continues and crosses into destruction of reputation, then it is criminal harassment, a chargeable offense.

If the cyberbullying is not serious enough for criminal charges, victims and their parents have other tools available. They can approach the school or parents of the perpetrators. They can ask websites to take down offensive materials. Parents can deal directly with each other.

Newspapers have stories about victims who have been driven to suicide or attempts at self-harm. But what proof is there that the cyberbullying was the sole cause? Were the victims already suffering from depression? Were there other issues in their lives that made them unstable and prone to self-harm?

Proponents argue that the fear of a criminal charge will be a deterrent. But if that is the case, why do so many people still drive drunk or continue to indulge in recreational drugs? There are clear consequences for these acts if caught, but they certainly do not stop these incidents. Teens are not the most rational beings, and the idea that their actions might result in criminal charges is not really foremost in their minds.

There are other tools available. Making someone into a criminal should be the last resort.

When analyzing the second essay, which is a response to the opposing viewpoint presented in the first essay, ask these questions and jot down your answers, as in the following example:

  • Does the author address the opposing viewpoint? Yes. The author discusses the issue and expands on it by differentiating between cyberbullying that becomes criminal and cyberbullying that is merely name-calling.

  • What evidence does the author present to counter the opposing viewpoint? By differentiating between minor and major cyberbullying, the author points out that criminal charges are available where required and that other solutions are available for lesser offenses.

  • Is the evidence used appropriate? Yes. The information presented seems credible. The case study, in particular, is presented like a news story, merely stating the facts.

  • Did the passage include emotional language? Yes and no. The last statement, “What choice is left?” is certainly emotional, but that is the only place where it’s used.

  • Does the argument support the conclusion? Yes. The argument and the evidence used to back it all build to support the position. Whether the reader agrees with the position is a personal issue. In this instance, the argument is meant to sway the reader.