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Reading Comprehension Cause and Effect Help (page 3)

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Updated on Sep 21, 2011

Practice

Why is the afternoon snack concession at the train station being discontinued?

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Answers

You should have noticed four causes in the announcement:

  1. Poor sales.
  2. A renovation on the side of the train station where the concession is located.
  3. Town regulations will now close the station at 6 p.m., which will decrease commuter traffic significantly.
  4. The proprietor of the concession has decided to retire.

Contributing vs. Sufficient Cause

You'll notice that the previous announcement informs commuters that "none of these factors on their own would have caused the long-term closure of the concession." This means that each of these causes is a contributing cause. A contributing cause helps make something happen but can't make that thing happen by itself. It is only one factor that contributes to the cause.

On the opposite end of the cause spectrum is the sufficient cause. A sufficient cause is strong enough to make something happen by itself. Sufficient cause is demonstrated in the following paragraph.

Dear Mr. Miller:
It has come to our attention that you have breached your lease. When you signed your lease, you agreed that you would leave Apartment 3A at 123 Elm Street in the same state that you found it when you moved in. You also agreed that if the apartment showed signs of damage upon your departure, then we (Livingston Properties) would not return the security deposit that you gave us at the time you moved into the building. Upon inspection, we have found a great deal of damage to the appliances in the apartment as well as the wood floors. Consequently, we will not be returning your security deposit.

Here, you can see that there is one clear reason why Livingston Properties will not return Mr. Miller's security deposit. He breached his lease by damaging the apartment he rented from them. (If you don't know what breach means, you should be able to determine the meaning from the context.)

Evaluating Opinions about Cause and Effect

Sometimes, in a cause and effect passage, an author will offer his or her opinion about the cause or effect of something, rather than facts about the cause or effect. In that case, readers must judge the validity of the author's analysis. Are the author's ideas logical? Does he or she support the conclusions he or she comes to? Consider, for example, two authors' opinions about instituting mandatory school uniforms.

Paragraph A

Mandatory school uniforms are a bad decision for our district. If students are required to wear a uniform, it will greatly inhibit their ability to express themselves. This is a problem because dress is one of the major ways that young people express themselves. A school uniform policy also directly violates the freedom of expression that all Americans are supposed to enjoy. Consequently, young people will doubt that their basic rights are protected, and this will affect their larger outlook on civil liberties. Furthermore, school uniforms will interfere with the wearing of certain articles of religious clothing, which will create tensions among certain religious groups that can lead to feelings of discrimination. In addition, school uniforms will place an undue financial burden on many low-income families who may not have the money to spend on new uniforms every year, especially if they have several children. Finally, school uniforms will negate one of the most important concepts we can teach our children—individuality. When push comes to shove, we'd all be better off choosing individuality over uniformity. Mandatory school uniforms are a step in the wrong direction.

Paragraph B

Mandatory school uniforms will have a tremendously positive impact on our district. If students are required to wear a uniform, it will greatly inhibit gang behavior since they will no longer be able to wear gang colors. As a result, schools will experience an overall decrease in school violence and theft. Since violence is one of the major concerns that parents, teachers, and students raise about our district, this change will be welcomed with open arms. In addition, school uniforms will instill a much-needed sense of discipline in our student body, and discipline is something that is, unfortunately, in short supply in our school district. Also, students dressed in uniforms will feel a strong sense of community with their peers, which will lead to a more harmonious school environment. Finally, if students were wearing school uniforms, administrators and teachers would no longer have to be clothing police, freeing them to focus on more important issues than whether someone is wearing a dress that is too short or a T-shirt with an inappropriate message. You can make our schools a better place by supporting mandatory school uniforms.

What effects does the author of paragraph A think mandatory uniforms would have?

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What effects does the author of paragraph B think mandatory uniforms would have?

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You'll notice that both authors take one cause—mandatory school uniforms—and offer several possible effects. Often, authors will use the cause and effect structure to make arguments like the ones we've just seen: one for and one against mandatory school uniforms. It is up to the reader to determine whose argument seems most valid.

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