Logic Games And Poor People
October 24, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Stripped to its most basic essentials, the practice of law comes down to an exercise in logic, usually in the form of Facts=>Law=>Result. For example:
- The defendant did X.
- The law says Y.
- Therefore, the defendant is guilty.
Success as a lawyer depends on one’s ability to convince judges and juries of the validity of your logic, and the flaws in your opponent’s.
On Thursday, Admiral Greenfield leveled a rhetorical broadside against Caroline Kitchener’s article in the Atlantic. Kitchener took issue with the Analytical Reasoning section of the Law School Admissions Test, usually called the “Logic Games section.” Kitchener has a low opinion of these types of questions, claiming that
[E]very year, they stop tens of thousands of applicants from attending top law schools.
Which is correct, but trivial. Another way of phrasing that is tens of thousands of applicants are rejected from top law schools because their GPAs and LSAT scores aren’t up to snuff, and the logic games section is 25% of the LSAT score.
Kitchener goes on to say that the games section is contributing to the lack of socioeconomic diversity at top law schools, because rich students can afford to pay for prep classes to teach them how to solve the games. Which is also trivial. Rich students also have better cars, better clothes, and better accommodations, so it follows that they can afford better test prep as well.
But, our mean-ass editor misses the mark also. When he said:
Calling it the logic “games” suggests that’s just another ploy of the elites to keep the marginalized down. After all, it’s a game. It games law school admissions. And as the post URL says, the game is “rigged,” a word that’s bandied about a lot lately.
He was reading waaay too much into it. Everyone calls it the “logic games” section, in the same way that everyone calls short-sleeved, three-button knit shirts “polo shirts” or paper tissues that come from a box “Kleenex.”
Kitchener made the point that:
The section relies heavily on formal logic, a concept rarely taught outside of high-level college mathematics or philosophy courses.
Scott snapped back:
Formal logic? As opposed to, informal logic? Or what has become popularly known among humanities majors as their feelz? After all, if you’re not taught this “concept” of formal logic, then you obviously can’t be expected to be, you know, formally logical, right?
Kitchener is actually right about this. A better name for it might be “symbolic logic,” meaning the ability to express a series of rules in mathematical or algebraic notation. Consider the following sample logic game:
A university library budget committee must reduce exactly five of eight areas of expenditure—G, L, M, N, P, R, S, and W—in accordance with the following conditions:
If both G and S are reduced, W is also reduced.
If N is reduced, neither R nor S is reduced.
If P is reduced, L is not reduced.
Of the three areas L, M, and R, exactly two are reduced.
If both M and R are reduced, which one of the following is a pair of areas neither of which could be reduced?
A) G, L
B) G, N
C) L, N
D) L, P
E) P, S
Solving this sort of game requires, among other things, knowledge of a very specific concept called the contrapositive. Take the first rule, which reduced to short hand as “G and S => not W.” Assuming you know how to derive the contrapositive, you can double the amount of information because “W=>not G or not S.” (To derive the contrapositive, you have to flip the terms, negate the terms, and reverse and/ors.)
That said, unless you’re a philosophy major, you probably didn’t learn that in college. But most people, no matter how intelligent or “logical,” aren’t going to spontaneously figure that out any more than they could independently figure out long division. So, either you have to learn that from an LSAT prep book or learn it from a prep class. Speaking as a former LSAT prep teacher, the students who plunked down the $1000 to attend my class got a better grounding on this subject than the ones who could only afford the $60 prep book.
Scott goes on to say:
This paean to ignorance is meant to demonstrate how poor students, unable to spend the time and money to take LSAT prep courses to teach them how to game the game, and thus snag the socioeconomic marginalized seat at HYS that will make society fair and just, must fail. It’s merely assumed by the patriarchally-challenged author that normal people can’t possibly be capable of logic.
It’s not that normal people aren’t capable of logic. It’s that if you’re giving a test on long division, statistically speaking the students who have had the best instruction on how to long divide are going to perform better on the test. This is not mush-headed Social Justice Warrior thinking…it’s just something that’s been true since the cavemen who lived by the better tree could afford a better spear.
 Or not, depending on whether you’re the prosecution or the defense.