The June LSAT Reading Comprehension Section Reviewed

    focusThe June LSAT was a tough one for a lot of students, and with the recent score release many have been reviewing their results. Last week we reviewed the Logic Games section; the following is an overview of the Reading Comprehension section of the test. 

    The first passage in the section deals with visual anthropology, and the effect that ubiquitous access to video equipment has had on the study of indigenous cultures, many of whom have recently become the documentarians themselves. The author of the passage discusses the mixed response among Western anthropologists: Some see it as an “assault of Western values,” costing such peoples their true cultural identity, while others argue that the video medium can be utilized without unwittingly adopting a Western perspective, with the additional benefit of documenting native languages and traditions that may wane with Western exposure (a real-world example, with which the author closes the passage, supports the latter view).

    Second is a Law passage that deals with the issue of judge recusal and disqualification from cases in which there exists potential for bias. Judges are expected to recuse themselves when there is reason to question their impartiality. In some jurisdictions, the judges themselves are the only ones who can recuse themselves; elsewhere, other parties to a case can request disqualification). The rules of recusal, which turn on “whether impartiality can be reasonably questioned,” are quite vague, and, says the author, make the mistake of focusing on the appearance of bias, rather than on eliminating biases. The author argues that the best way to guard against bias is to require judges to make their reasoning transparent.

    The Comparative Reading passages are presented next: Humanities passages concerning various takes on the Golden Rule. The first author discusses the issue of lying, and the question of whether there exists justification for lying to liars - perhaps a restoration of equilibrium and the implicit forfeiture by liars of the right to expect others to deal with them honestly. This issue begs two moral questions: Does a liar have a fair claim to the truth? And, is one more justified in lying to a liar? A harmless but pathological liar would have no reasonable cause to complain about being lied to, but that doesn’t mean one is justified in lying to him or her, because it’s not just about personal characteristics of the individual; there are bigger-picture issues to consider when taking liberty with the truth: “…harm to self, others, and general trust…” The second author deals with the similar issue of whether a rational person’s immoral acts implicitly authorize others to act immorally toward that person. Does this imply a duty to punish such immoral acts? This would be excessive, says the author, because while a rational person’s wrongful acts may authorize others to do the same, such acts do not compel others to wrongdoing.

    Closing the section is a Science passage that deals with properties of glass and shatters a common myth about its makeup—that it flows slowly downward like an extremely thick liquid. This notion, perhaps based on a misunderstanding of glass’ lack of a fixed atomic crystal structure, has been used to explain the ripples in old windows, as well as the relatively greater thickness at the bottom of old stained glass. The author refers to a new study, however, which concludes that any such noticeable difference in thickness of the glass in question would take more time than the universe has been in existence (and thus certainly more than the few centuries since medieval churches were built). Rather than a very slow downward flow, the author suggests, such glass may be thicker at the bottom because of the way glass was processed at the time, in large discs that had ripples and were thicker at the edges (cutting the glass to make windows thicker at the bottoms would be a logical choice for window-makers of the time).


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    Image: Focus, courtesy of Mark Hunter