Behind the hope that computers can replace teachers is the idea that the student’s understanding of the subject being taught consists in knowing facts and rules, the job of a teacher being to make the facts and rules explicit and convey them to the student, either by practice drills or by coaching. If that were indeed the way the mind works, the teacher could transfer facts and rules to the computer, which would replace the teacher as drillmaster and coach. But since understanding does not consist merely of knowing facts and rules, but of the grasp of the general concepts underlying them, the hope that the computer will eventually replace the teacher is fundamentally misguided.

Which one of the following, if true, would most seriously undermine the author’s conclusion that computers will not eventually be able to replace teachers?

[A]. Computers are as good as teachers at drilling students on facts and rules.
[B]. The job of a teacher is to make students understand the general concepts underlying specific facts and rules.
[C]. It is possible to program computers so that they can teach the understanding of general concepts that underlie specific facts and rules.
[D]. Because they are not subject to human error, computers are better than teachers at conveying facts and rules.
[E]. It is not possible for students to develop an understanding of the concepts underlying facts and rules through practice drills and coaching.
Answer: C

According to the author, if a student’s understanding of a subject consisted only of knowing facts and rules, then computers might well eventually replace human teachers as drill masters and coaches. However, a student's understanding also consists of having a grasp of the general concepts underlying them. The author concludes that the computer will not eventually replace the teacher, obviously assuming that computers can’t teach these general concepts along with the facts and rules. (C) undermines the argument by attacking this assumption.

(A) asserts that computers are as good as teachers in drilling students on rules and facts, and (D) goes one step further and says that they’re better. The author freely admits that computers would be capable of replacing teachers if that’s all there is to it, but argues that computers fall short because learning requires a grasp of underlying concepts as well.

(B) Au-contraire; this actually supports the argument by stating that the teacher's essential task is to make students understand the general concepts behind specific facts and rules— exactly what the author claims computers are not able to do.

(E), if anything, supports the argument, because the author implies that drills and coaching are the computer’s strong point.

One of the most common ways to weaken an argument is to call the author’s central assumption into question.

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