LSAT Reading : Main Idea of Social Science Passages

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Example Question #1 : Main Idea Of Social Science Passages

Adapted from The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature by William James (1902)

Most books on the philosophy of religion try to begin with a precise definition of what its essence consists of. Some of these would-be definitions may possibly come before us in later portions of this course, and I shall not be pedantic enough to enumerate any of them to you now. Meanwhile the very fact that they are so many and so different from one another is enough to prove that the word "religion" cannot stand for any single principle or essence, but is rather a collective name. The theorizing mind tends always to the oversimplification of its materials. This is the root of all that absolutism and one-sided dogmatism by which both philosophy and religion have been infested.

Let us not fall immediately into a one-sided view of our subject, but let us rather admit freely at the outset that we may very likely find no one essence, but many characters which may alternately be equally important to religion. If we should inquire for the essence of "government," for example, one man might tell us it was authority, another submission, another police, another an army, another an assembly, another a system of laws; yet all the while it would be true that no concrete government can exist without all these things, one of which is more important at one moment and others at another. The man who knows governments most completely is he who troubles himself least about a definition that shall give their essence. Enjoying an intimate acquaintance with all their particularities in turn, he would naturally regard an abstract conception in which these were unified as a thing more misleading than enlightening. And why may not religion be a conception equally complex?

The author's main point is best summarized by which of the following statements?

Possible Answers:

"Religion" is a concept that is not easy to define with a simple statement of basic characteristics.

"Religion" is a concept very similar to the concept of "government."

"Religion" should only be talked about carefully because it is a subject that can easily offend people.

"Religion" can be easily reduced to its most basic elements for ease of definition.

"Religion" is a concept which should not be defined, as it is not worthy of study.

Correct answer:

"Religion" is a concept that is not easy to define with a simple statement of basic characteristics.

Explanation:

The author is attempting to be quite careful in defining "religion," largely because he wants to have a deeper conversation about the idea of "religion." As this serves the purpose of beginning a more nuanced discussion, the author is making an argument for religion as a valuable course of study and one which should be studied carefully. The author's discussion of "government" in the second paragraph is used as a parallel to his point about "religion."

Example Question #2 : Main Idea Of Social Science Passages

Adapted from the third volume of The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (1782)

The spectator who casts a mournful view over the ruins of ancient Rome, is tempted to accuse the memory of the Goths and Vandals, for the mischief which they had neither leisure, nor power, nor perhaps inclination, to perpetrate. The tempest of war might strike some lofty turrets to the ground; but the destruction which undermined the foundations of those massy fabrics was prosecuted, slowly and silently, during a period of ten centuries; and the motives of interest, that afterwards operated without shame or control, were severely checked by the taste and spirit of the emperor Majorian. The decay of the city had gradually impaired the value of the public works. The circus and theaters might still excite, but they seldom gratified, the desires of the people: the temples, which had escaped the zeal of the Christians, were no longer inhabited, either by gods or men; the diminished crowds of the Romans were lost in the immense space of their baths and porticos; and the stately libraries and halls of justice became useless to an indolent generation, whose repose was seldom disturbed, either by study or business. The monuments of consular, or Imperial, greatness were no longer revered, as the immortal glory of the capital: they were only esteemed as an inexhaustible mine of materials, cheaper, and more convenient than the distant quarry. Specious petitions were continually addressed to the easy magistrates of Rome, which stated the want of stones or bricks, for some necessary service: the fairest forms of architecture were rudely defaced, for the sake of some paltry, or pretended, repairs; and the degenerate Romans, who converted the spoil to their own emolument, demolished, with sacrilegious hands, the labors of their ancestors. Majorian, who had often sighed over the desolation of the city, applied a severe remedy to the growing evil.

He reserved to the prince and senate the sole cognizance of the extreme cases which might justify the destruction of an ancient edifice; imposed a fine of fifty pounds of gold (two thousand pounds sterling) on every magistrate who should presume to grant such illegal and scandalous license, and threatened to chastise the criminal obedience of their subordinate officers, by a severe whipping, and the amputation of both their hands. In the last instance, the legislator might seem to forget the proportion of guilt and punishment; but his zeal arose from a generous principle, and Majorian was anxious to protect the monuments of those ages, in which he would have desired and deserved to live. The emperor conceived that it was his interest to increase the number of his subjects; and that it was his duty to guard the purity of the marriage-bed: but the means which he employed to accomplish these salutary purposes are of an ambiguous, and perhaps exceptionable, kind. The pious maids, who consecrated their virginity to Christ, were restrained from taking the veil till they had reached their fortieth year. Widows under that age were compelled to form a second alliance within the term of five years, by the forfeiture of half their wealth to their nearest relations, or to the state. Unequal marriages were condemned or annulled. The punishment of confiscation and exile was deemed so inadequate to the guilt of adultery, that, if the criminal returned to Italy, he might, by the express declaration of Majorian, be slain with impunity.

Which one of the following most accurately states the main point of the passage?

Possible Answers:

We are unfair in blaming the barbarians for a problem which the Romans caused.

Majorian had an obsession with repopulation.

Majorian was a good conservationist but a poor social scientist.

The transition from barbarian-caused destruction to self-destruction happened over many years.

Many overlook Majorian's attempts to reverse the destruction of Rome.

Correct answer:

Many overlook Majorian's attempts to reverse the destruction of Rome.

Explanation:

It is obvious that the central focus of the passages is Majorian's rule. The passage is largely concerned with the measures Majorian took to control the self-destruction which are perhaps overlooked by other historians. While the other answers do appear at points in the passage, we cannot definitely say that any of the others fulfill the role of a “main point.” We cannot say, for instance, that Majorian was a good conservationist, as the destruction he was attempting to avert still took place.

Example Question #170 : Social Science

Adapted from the third volume of The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (1782)

The spectator who casts a mournful view over the ruins of ancient Rome, is tempted to accuse the memory of the Goths and Vandals, for the mischief which they had neither leisure, nor power, nor perhaps inclination, to perpetrate. The tempest of war might strike some lofty turrets to the ground; but the destruction which undermined the foundations of those massy fabrics was prosecuted, slowly and silently, during a period of ten centuries; and the motives of interest, that afterwards operated without shame or control, were severely checked by the taste and spirit of the emperor Majorian. The decay of the city had gradually impaired the value of the public works. The circus and theaters might still excite, but they seldom gratified, the desires of the people: the temples, which had escaped the zeal of the Christians, were no longer inhabited, either by gods or men; the diminished crowds of the Romans were lost in the immense space of their baths and porticos; and the stately libraries and halls of justice became useless to an indolent generation, whose repose was seldom disturbed, either by study or business. The monuments of consular, or Imperial, greatness were no longer revered, as the immortal glory of the capital: they were only esteemed as an inexhaustible mine of materials, cheaper, and more convenient than the distant quarry. Specious petitions were continually addressed to the easy magistrates of Rome, which stated the want of stones or bricks, for some necessary service: the fairest forms of architecture were rudely defaced, for the sake of some paltry, or pretended, repairs; and the degenerate Romans, who converted the spoil to their own emolument, demolished, with sacrilegious hands, the labors of their ancestors. Majorian, who had often sighed over the desolation of the city, applied a severe remedy to the growing evil.

He reserved to the prince and senate the sole cognizance of the extreme cases which might justify the destruction of an ancient edifice; imposed a fine of fifty pounds of gold (two thousand pounds sterling) on every magistrate who should presume to grant such illegal and scandalous license, and threatened to chastise the criminal obedience of their subordinate officers, by a severe whipping, and the amputation of both their hands. In the last instance, the legislator might seem to forget the proportion of guilt and punishment; but his zeal arose from a generous principle, and Majorian was anxious to protect the monuments of those ages, in which he would have desired and deserved to live. The emperor conceived that it was his interest to increase the number of his subjects; and that it was his duty to guard the purity of the marriage-bed: but the means which he employed to accomplish these salutary purposes are of an ambiguous, and perhaps exceptionable, kind. The pious maids, who consecrated their virginity to Christ, were restrained from taking the veil till they had reached their fortieth year. Widows under that age were compelled to form a second alliance within the term of five years, by the forfeiture of half their wealth to their nearest relations, or to the state. Unequal marriages were condemned or annulled. The punishment of confiscation and exile was deemed so inadequate to the guilt of adultery, that, if the criminal returned to Italy, he might, by the express declaration of Majorian, be slain with impunity.

Which one of the following questions is central to the passage?

Possible Answers:

How many factors should be considered as attributes to the fall of Rome?

Where can we find evidence that Majorian was a great Roman emperor?

Did Majorian's policies contribute to the destruction of Rome?

Who was responsible for the defense against the barbarian nations?

What caused the destruction of Rome? 

Correct answer:

What caused the destruction of Rome? 

Explanation:

What is largely central to the passage, and supposedly the work the passage came from, is the question “What or who caused the destruction of Rome?” This is obvious after reviewing the other answers, which are either incorrect or insufficient in summarizing the intention of the passage. The author, for instance, does not question which policies were detrimental, but instead tries to show how they could have helped.

Example Question #3 : Main Idea Of Social Science Passages

Adapted from an essay by Charles William Eliot in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914)

The first and principal contribution to which I shall ask your attention is the advance made in the United States, not in theory only, but in practice, toward the abandonment of war as the means of settling disputes between nations, the substitution of discussion and arbitration, and the avoidance of armaments. If the intermittent Indian fighting and the brief contest with the Barbary corsairs be disregarded, the United States have had only four years and a quarter of international war in the one hundred and seven years since the adoption of the Constitution. Within the same period the United States have been a party to forty-seven arbitrations—being more than half of all that have taken place in the modern world. The questions settled by these arbitrations have been just such as have commonly caused wars, namely, questions of boundary, fisheries, damage caused by war or civil disturbances, and injuries to commerce. Some of them were of great magnitude, the four made under the treaty of Washington (May 8, 1871) being the most important that have ever taken place. Confident in their strength, and relying on their ability to adjust international differences, the United States have habitually maintained, by voluntary enlistment for short terms, a standing army and a fleet which, in proportion to the population, are insignificant.

The beneficent effects of this American contribution to civilization are of two sorts: in the first place, the direct evils of war and of preparations for war have been diminished; and secondly, the influence of the war spirit on the perennial conflict between the rights of the single personal unit and the powers of the multitude that constitute organized society—or, in other words, between individual freedom and collective authority—has been reduced to the lowest terms. War has been, and still is, the school of collectivism, the warrant of tyranny. Century after century, tribes, clans, and nations have sacrificed the liberty of the individual to the fundamental necessity of being strong for combined defense or attack in war. Individual freedom is crushed in war, for the nature of war is inevitably despotic. It says to the private person: "Obey without a question, even unto death; die in this ditch, without knowing why; walk into that deadly thicket; mount this embankment, behind which are men who will try to kill you, lest you should kill them." At this moment every young man in Continental Europe learns the lesson of absolute military obedience, and feels himself subject to this crushing power of militant society, against which no rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness avail anything.

In the War of Independence there was a distinct hope and purpose to enlarge individual liberty. It made possible a confederation of the colonies, and, ultimately, the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. It gave to the thirteen colonies a lesson in collectivism, but it was a needed lesson on the necessity of combining their forces to resist an oppressive external authority. The War of 1812 is properly called the Second War of Independence, for it was truly a fight for liberty and for the rights of neutrals, in resistance to the impressment of seamen and other oppressions growing out of European conflicts. The Civil War of 1861-65 was waged, on the side of the North, primarily, to prevent the dismemberment of the country, and, secondarily and incidentally, to destroy the institution of slavery. On the Northern side it therefore called forth a generous element of popular ardor in defense of free institutions.

In all this series of fightings the main motives were self-defense, resistance to oppression, the enlargement of liberty, and the conservation of national acquisitions. The war with Mexico, it is true, was of a wholly different type. That was a war of conquest, and of conquest chiefly in the interest of African slavery. It was also an unjust attack made by a powerful people on a feeble one; but it lasted less than two years, and the number of men engaged in it was at no time large. Its results contradicted the anticipations both of those who advocated and of those who opposed it. It was one of the wrongs which prepared the way for the great rebellion; but its direct evils were of moderate extent, and it had no effect on the perennial conflict between individual liberty and public power.

The ordinary causes of war between nation and nation have been lacking in America for the last century and a quarter. How many wars in the world’s history have been due to contending dynasties; how many of the most cruel and protracted wars have been due to religious strife; how many to race hatred! No one of these causes of war has been efficacious in America since the French were overcome in Canada by the English in 1759. Looking forward into the future, we find it impossible to imagine circumstances under which any of these common causes of war can take effect on the North American continent. Therefore, the ordinary motives for maintaining armaments in time of peace, and concentrating the powers of government in such a way as to interfere with individual liberty, have not been in play in the United States as among the nations of Europe, and are not likely to be. Such have been the favorable conditions under which America has made its best contribution to the progress of civilization.

This essay could best be titled __________.

Possible Answers:

On the Positive Contributions America has Made to the End of Warfare

On America’s Changing Perceptions of Warfare

On the Positive Contributions America has Made to the Personal Liberty of Mankind

On America’s Complicated History with Warfare

On America’s Militaristic Rivalry with the British Empire

Correct answer:

On the Positive Contributions America has Made to the Personal Liberty of Mankind

Explanation:

The best title of this essay is one that takes into account the author’s emphasis on America’s positive contributions to mankind and on the improvements to personal liberty that have resulted from these contributions. It is perhaps reasonable to answer “On the Positive Contributions America has Made to the End of Warfare.” But, the author makes no mention of “the end of warfare”; rather, he suggests that America has changed the manner in which warfare affects the liberty of the individual. (For those who are curious, the actual title of the essay is "Five American Contributions to Civilization.")

 

Example Question #4 : Main Idea Of Social Science Passages

Adapted from an essay by Charles William Eliot in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914)

The first and principal contribution to which I shall ask your attention is the advance made in the United States, not in theory only, but in practice, toward the abandonment of war as the means of settling disputes between nations, the substitution of discussion and arbitration, and the avoidance of armaments. If the intermittent Indian fighting and the brief contest with the Barbary corsairs be disregarded, the United States have had only four years and a quarter of international war in the one hundred and seven years since the adoption of the Constitution. Within the same period the United States have been a party to forty-seven arbitrations—being more than half of all that have taken place in the modern world. The questions settled by these arbitrations have been just such as have commonly caused wars, namely, questions of boundary, fisheries, damage caused by war or civil disturbances, and injuries to commerce. Some of them were of great magnitude, the four made under the treaty of Washington (May 8, 1871) being the most important that have ever taken place. Confident in their strength, and relying on their ability to adjust international differences, the United States have habitually maintained, by voluntary enlistment for short terms, a standing army and a fleet which, in proportion to the population, are insignificant.

The beneficent effects of this American contribution to civilization are of two sorts: in the first place, the direct evils of war and of preparations for war have been diminished; and secondly, the influence of the war spirit on the perennial conflict between the rights of the single personal unit and the powers of the multitude that constitute organized society—or, in other words, between individual freedom and collective authority—has been reduced to the lowest terms. War has been, and still is, the school of collectivism, the warrant of tyranny. Century after century, tribes, clans, and nations have sacrificed the liberty of the individual to the fundamental necessity of being strong for combined defense or attack in war. Individual freedom is crushed in war, for the nature of war is inevitably despotic. It says to the private person: "Obey without a question, even unto death; die in this ditch, without knowing why; walk into that deadly thicket; mount this embankment, behind which are men who will try to kill you, lest you should kill them." At this moment every young man in Continental Europe learns the lesson of absolute military obedience, and feels himself subject to this crushing power of militant society, against which no rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness avail anything.

In the War of Independence there was a distinct hope and purpose to enlarge individual liberty. It made possible a confederation of the colonies, and, ultimately, the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. It gave to the thirteen colonies a lesson in collectivism, but it was a needed lesson on the necessity of combining their forces to resist an oppressive external authority. The War of 1812 is properly called the Second War of Independence, for it was truly a fight for liberty and for the rights of neutrals, in resistance to the impressment of seamen and other oppressions growing out of European conflicts. The Civil War of 1861-65 was waged, on the side of the North, primarily, to prevent the dismemberment of the country, and, secondarily and incidentally, to destroy the institution of slavery. On the Northern side it therefore called forth a generous element of popular ardor in defense of free institutions.

In all this series of fightings the main motives were self-defense, resistance to oppression, the enlargement of liberty, and the conservation of national acquisitions. The war with Mexico, it is true, was of a wholly different type. That was a war of conquest, and of conquest chiefly in the interest of African slavery. It was also an unjust attack made by a powerful people on a feeble one; but it lasted less than two years, and the number of men engaged in it was at no time large. Its results contradicted the anticipations both of those who advocated and of those who opposed it. It was one of the wrongs which prepared the way for the great rebellion; but its direct evils were of moderate extent, and it had no effect on the perennial conflict between individual liberty and public power.

The ordinary causes of war between nation and nation have been lacking in America for the last century and a quarter. How many wars in the world’s history have been due to contending dynasties; how many of the most cruel and protracted wars have been due to religious strife; how many to race hatred! No one of these causes of war has been efficacious in America since the French were overcome in Canada by the English in 1759. Looking forward into the future, we find it impossible to imagine circumstances under which any of these common causes of war can take effect on the North American continent. Therefore, the ordinary motives for maintaining armaments in time of peace, and concentrating the powers of government in such a way as to interfere with individual liberty, have not been in play in the United States as among the nations of Europe, and are not likely to be. Such have been the favorable conditions under which America has made its best contribution to the progress of civilization.

The main point of the third paragraph is that __________.

Possible Answers:

American entanglements with the British have always ended in defeat for the British, proving America’s moral superiority

America has emerged triumphant from several wars in the nineteenth century and now does not have to rely on warfare as a means of diplomacy

America failed to prevent the outbreak of warfare on numerous occasions and so is perhaps less deserving of the praise offered in the first two paragraphs

in the majority of American conflicts, the primary motivation is self-defense and the preservation of liberty

America has been embroiled in numerous conflicts in the nineteenth century, but they have all been the fault of someone else

Correct answer:

in the majority of American conflicts, the primary motivation is self-defense and the preservation of liberty

Explanation:

The main point of the third paragraph is actually most succinctly defined at the beginning of the fourth paragraph. In the third paragraph, the author describes the various wars that the United States was involved in and the reasons why those wars broke out, with his overarching thesis being that the wars were fought for liberty and independence. At the beginning of the fourth paragraph, the author states, “In all this series of fightings the main motives were self-defense, resistance to oppression, the enlargement of liberty, and the conservation of national acquisitions.” This is the conclusion he wishes the reader to take from the third paragraph.

Example Question #5 : Main Idea Of Social Science Passages

Adapted from “Federalist No. 5. The Same Subject Continued (Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence)” by John Jay in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1788)

The history of Great Britain is the one with which we are in general the best acquainted, and it gives us many useful lessons. Although it seems obvious to common sense that the people of such an island should be but one nation, yet we find that they were for ages divided into three, and that those three were almost constantly embroiled in quarrels and wars with one another.

Should the people of America divide themselves into three or four nations, would not the same thing happen? Instead of their being "joined in affection" and free from all apprehension of different "interests," envy and jealousy would soon extinguish confidence and affection, and the partial interests of each confederacy, instead of the general interests of all America, would be the only objects of their policy and pursuits. Hence, like most other bordering nations, they would always be either involved in disputes and war, or live in the constant apprehension of them.

The most sanguine advocates for three or four confederacies cannot reasonably suppose that they would long remain exactly on an equal footing in point of strength, even if it was possible to form them so at first; but, admitting that to be practicable, yet what human contrivance can secure the continuance of such equality? Whenever, and from whatever causes, it might happen, and happen it would, that any one of these nations or confederacies should rise on the scale of political importance much above the degree of her neighbors, that moment would those neighbors behold her with envy and with fear. Both those passions would lead them to countenance, if not to promote, whatever might promise to diminish her importance. She would soon begin, not only to lose confidence in her neighbors, but also to feel a disposition equally unfavorable to them. Distrust naturally creates distrust, and by nothing is good-will and kind conduct more speedily changed than by invidious jealousies and uncandid imputations, whether expressed or implied.

From these considerations it appears that those gentlemen are greatly mistaken who suppose that alliances offensive and defensive might be formed between these confederacies, and would produce that combination and union of wills of arms and of resources, which would be necessary to put and keep them in a formidable state of defense against foreign enemies.

When did the independent states, into which Britain and Spain were formerly divided, combine in such alliance, or unite their forces against a foreign enemy? The proposed confederacies will be distinct nations with different degrees of political attachment to and connection with different foreign nations. Hence it might and probably would happen that the foreign nation with whom the southern confederacy might be at war would be the one with whom the northern confederacy would be the most desirous of preserving peace and friendship. An alliance so contrary to their immediate interest would not therefore be easy to form, nor, if formed, would it be observed and fulfilled with perfect good faith.

Nay, it is far more probable that in America, as in Europe, neighboring nations, acting under the impulse of opposite interests and unfriendly passions, would frequently be found taking different sides. Considering our distance from Europe, it would be more natural for these confederacies to apprehend danger from one another than from distant nations, and therefore that each of them should be more desirous to guard against the others by the aid of foreign alliances, than to guard against foreign dangers by alliances between themselves. And here let us not forget how much more easy it is to receive foreign fleets into our ports, and foreign armies into our country, than it is to persuade or compel them to depart. How many conquests did the Romans and others make in the characters of allies, and what innovations did they under the same character introduce into the governments of those whom they pretended to protect.

The primary argument of the first paragraph is that __________.

Possible Answers:

the nations of Great Britain fought many wars between themselves in their long history and unification has proved a challenging undertaking as a result

the history of Great Britain is a relevant example to the United States and offers evidence as to why America ought to experiment with different forms of government

British unification has been of great benefit to the prosperity of continental Europe

the example provided by the history of Great Britain only partially applies to the United States because Great Britain was an island nation

the nations of Great Britain ought to have been united against their continental rivals, but instead suffered from in-fighting

Correct answer:

the nations of Great Britain ought to have been united against their continental rivals, but instead suffered from in-fighting

Explanation:

The primary argument of the first paragraph is that the three nations of Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) would have been best served by uniting against their common rivals on the continent, but instead, throughout their history, they have taken to fighting amongst themselves to the detriment of their prosperity. This argument is best evidenced in the excerpt that reads, “Although it seems obvious to common sense that the people of such an island should be but one nation, yet we find that they were for ages divided into three, and that those three were almost constantly embroiled in quarrels and wars with one another.” The answer choice that reads “The history of Great Britain is a relevant example to the United States and offers evidence as to why America ought to experiment with different forms of government” is incorrect for two reasons. Firstly, the initial part of the answer, that focuses on the fact that the history of Great Britain is a relevant example to the United States is closer to the thesis of the whole essay than it is to the argument of the first paragraph. Secondly, it offers evidence as to why America ought to remain united, not experiment with different forms of government.

Example Question #6 : Main Idea Of Social Science Passages

Adapted from "The Moral Leadership of the Religious Press,” a speech given in May 1893 by Susan B. Anthony

People expect too much of the press and too much of the ministers. It is the pews that make the pulpit and decide what the pulpit shall be, and it is the constituents and subscribers for the religious papers that decide what the religious paper shall be, and therefore when you tell me that a minister is thus and so in opposing any great moral reform, or that the religious press and newspaper is thus and so, what do you tell me? You tell me that the majority of the people in the pews indorse that minister, that the majority of the church members who read that paper won't allow that editor to speak anything on the question. That is all. I am glad that the day is changing, and that the people are feeling that the press is a little laggard and want to whip it up a little.

Take the specific question of suffrage. It is but recently that the religious press has begun to speak in tolerably friendly terms in relation to us. Take the great Methodist Episcopal church; think of its having an editor chosen by the general conference, Mr. Buckley, denounce the suffrage movement as something born—not of heaven, and yet if the vast majority of the members of the Methodist church were in favor of the enfranchisement of women and felt that it was a religious duty of the church to take its position in that direction, and of the religious newspaper, the organ of the society, to take position, Mr. Buckley would either be born again or else he would be slipped out of that editorial chair. He would be born again. He would believe in suffrage before he would lose his position.

I am not irreverent. I look to the public press. I look to the president of an organization, to the exponents of any society, religious or otherwise, as to the hands of the clock. They tell the time of day. Representing the suffrage movement, I stand to express the idea how high the tide has risen with the majority of the suffrage men and women of the day, and that is what a leader can do and but little more. We do not get very much ahead. We call ourselves leaders, but generally there are some down in the ranks a good deal ahead of us if they only had power to speak. I wish we had a great woman's rights press that knew how to speak the deepest and holiest thought of the best women of this country on the question of religious liberty, of political liberty, and of all liberty. And next to having such a press of our own is of course having the press of all the different denominations, of all the different political parties, of all the different interests in the country, come as near as possible to expressing our idea; and therefore, when I take up the Western Methodist paper, I forget what its name is, when I take up the Advance, when I take up any of the Western religious newspapers I am made to feel that their editors have been born again into this recognition of the principle of equality of rights in the church for the women as well as for the men. I suppose the New York Observer and the New York Advocate and so on will have to lag behind until they are moved over on the ferry boat. However much they hold back, they have to go with the boat. I suppose these old papers will hang back just as long as they possibly can.

Which of the following imaginary newspapers would be mostly likely to present a solution to the problem the author articulates?

Possible Answers:

Free Woman Times

The New York Conservative

Holy Methodist Quarterly

The Pan-Religion Journal

National Homemaker’s Gazette

Correct answer:

Free Woman Times

Explanation:

Susan B. Anthony’s ideal solution to newspapers’ and churches’ entrenched views is “a great woman's rights press that knew how to speak the deepest and holiest thought of the best women of this country on the question of religious liberty, of political liberty, and of all liberty.” The newspaper most likely to fit these criteria is the Free Woman Times.

Example Question #7 : Main Idea Of Social Science Passages

Adapted from "The Moral Leadership of the Religious Press,” a speech given in May 1893 by Susan B. Anthony

People expect too much of the press and too much of the ministers. It is the pews that make the pulpit and decide what the pulpit shall be, and it is the constituents and subscribers for the religious papers that decide what the religious paper shall be, and therefore when you tell me that a minister is thus and so in opposing any great moral reform, or that the religious press and newspaper is thus and so, what do you tell me? You tell me that the majority of the people in the pews indorse that minister, that the majority of the church members who read that paper won't allow that editor to speak anything on the question. That is all. I am glad that the day is changing, and that the people are feeling that the press is a little laggard and want to whip it up a little.

Take the specific question of suffrage. It is but recently that the religious press has begun to speak in tolerably friendly terms in relation to us. Take the great Methodist Episcopal church; think of its having an editor chosen by the general conference, Mr. Buckley, denounce the suffrage movement as something born—not of heaven, and yet if the vast majority of the members of the Methodist church were in favor of the enfranchisement of women and felt that it was a religious duty of the church to take its position in that direction, and of the religious newspaper, the organ of the society, to take position, Mr. Buckley would either be born again or else he would be slipped out of that editorial chair. He would be born again. He would believe in suffrage before he would lose his position.

I am not irreverent. I look to the public press. I look to the president of an organization, to the exponents of any society, religious or otherwise, as to the hands of the clock. They tell the time of day. Representing the suffrage movement, I stand to express the idea how high the tide has risen with the majority of the suffrage men and women of the day, and that is what a leader can do and but little more. We do not get very much ahead. We call ourselves leaders, but generally there are some down in the ranks a good deal ahead of us if they only had power to speak. I wish we had a great woman's rights press that knew how to speak the deepest and holiest thought of the best women of this country on the question of religious liberty, of political liberty, and of all liberty. And next to having such a press of our own is of course having the press of all the different denominations, of all the different political parties, of all the different interests in the country, come as near as possible to expressing our idea; and therefore, when I take up the Western Methodist paper, I forget what its name is, when I take up the Advance, when I take up any of the Western religious newspapers I am made to feel that their editors have been born again into this recognition of the principle of equality of rights in the church for the women as well as for the men. I suppose the New York Observer and the New York Advocate and so on will have to lag behind until they are moved over on the ferry boat. However much they hold back, they have to go with the boat. I suppose these old papers will hang back just as long as they possibly can.

What is most nearly the antithesis of this passage’s main idea?

Possible Answers:

Religious leaders should continue to base their opinions about women’s suffrage on their congregations.

Women’s suffrage will only be achieved when women can be ordained ministers.

Church presses should make an effort to acquire old-fashioned newspaper companies such as the New York Observer and the New York Advocate.

Public presses are superior to religious ones.

Religious leaders should continue to fight their congregations on topics such as temperance and women’s suffrage.

Correct answer:

Religious leaders should continue to base their opinions about women’s suffrage on their congregations.

Explanation:

In the passage, Susan B. Anthony advocates for leaders of both newspapers and churches to stop basing their views of women’s suffrage on popular opinions; therefore, the notion than religious leaders should continue seeking their congregations’ approval on topics such as women’s suffrage is the closest antithesis to the author’s main idea.

Example Question #176 : Social Science

Adapted from "The Moral Leadership of the Religious Press,” a speech given in May 1893 by Susan B. Anthony

People expect too much of the press and too much of the ministers. It is the pews that make the pulpit and decide what the pulpit shall be, and it is the constituents and subscribers for the religious papers that decide what the religious paper shall be, and therefore when you tell me that a minister is thus and so in opposing any great moral reform, or that the religious press and newspaper is thus and so, what do you tell me? You tell me that the majority of the people in the pews indorse that minister, that the majority of the church members who read that paper won't allow that editor to speak anything on the question. That is all. I am glad that the day is changing, and that the people are feeling that the press is a little laggard and want to whip it up a little.

Take the specific question of suffrage. It is but recently that the religious press has begun to speak in tolerably friendly terms in relation to us. Take the great Methodist Episcopal church; think of its having an editor chosen by the general conference, Mr. Buckley, denounce the suffrage movement as something born—not of heaven, and yet if the vast majority of the members of the Methodist church were in favor of the enfranchisement of women and felt that it was a religious duty of the church to take its position in that direction, and of the religious newspaper, the organ of the society, to take position, Mr. Buckley would either be born again or else he would be slipped out of that editorial chair. He would be born again. He would believe in suffrage before he would lose his position.

I am not irreverent. I look to the public press. I look to the president of an organization, to the exponents of any society, religious or otherwise, as to the hands of the clock. They tell the time of day. Representing the suffrage movement, I stand to express the idea how high the tide has risen with the majority of the suffrage men and women of the day, and that is what a leader can do and but little more. We do not get very much ahead. We call ourselves leaders, but generally there are some down in the ranks a good deal ahead of us if they only had power to speak. I wish we had a great woman's rights press that knew how to speak the deepest and holiest thought of the best women of this country on the question of religious liberty, of political liberty, and of all liberty. And next to having such a press of our own is of course having the press of all the different denominations, of all the different political parties, of all the different interests in the country, come as near as possible to expressing our idea; and therefore, when I take up the Western Methodist paper, I forget what its name is, when I take up the Advance, when I take up any of the Western religious newspapers I am made to feel that their editors have been born again into this recognition of the principle of equality of rights in the church for the women as well as for the men. I suppose the New York Observer and the New York Advocate and so on will have to lag behind until they are moved over on the ferry boat. However much they hold back, they have to go with the boat. I suppose these old papers will hang back just as long as they possibly can.

Based on the passage, Susan B. Anthony’s views on leadership is best paraphrased by which of the following statements?

Possible Answers:

Leaders of churches have slightly different and less demanding roles than leaders of publishing presses.

Leaders are a necessary evil.

Leaders are often not as advanced or forward thinking as some of their followers.

Leaders are unusually prescient when it comes to predicting social change.

Leaders are the most vital component of any political movement.

Correct answer:

Leaders are often not as advanced or forward thinking as some of their followers.

Explanation:

In the third paragraph of the passage, Anthony states the following about leaders: “I look to the president of an organization, to the exponents of any society, religious or otherwise, as to the hands of the clock. They tell the time of day. Representing the suffrage movement, I stand to express the idea how high the tide has risen with the majority of the suffrage men and women of the day, and that is what a leader can do and but little more. We do not get very much ahead. We call ourselves leaders, but generally there are some down in the ranks a good deal ahead of us if they only had power to speak.” In other words, leaders more or less indicate the status quo, while others in their movement may be more advanced or progressive.

Example Question #8 : Main Idea Of Social Science Passages

Passage adapted from Giuseppe Mazzini's The Duties of Man (1860)

Education, we have said; and this is the great word which sums up our whole doctrine. The vital question agitating our century is a question of education. What we have to do is not to establish a new order of things by violence. An order of things so established is also tyrannical even when it I better than the old. We have to overthrow by force the brute force which opposes itself to-day to every attempt at improvement, and then propose for the approval of the nation, free to express it will what we believe to be the best order of things and by every possible means educate men to develop it and act in conformity with it. The theory of rights enables us to rise and overthrow obstacles, but not to found a strong and lasting accord between all the elements which compose the nation. With the theory of happiness, of well-being, as the primary aim of existence we shall only form egoistic men, worshippers of the material, who will carry the old passions into the new order of things and corrupt it in a few months. We have therefore to find a principle of education superior to any such theory, which shall guide men to better things, teach them constancy in self-sacrifice and link them with their fellow men without making them dependent on the ideas of a single man or on the strength of all. And this principle is Duty. We must convince men that they, sons of one only God, must obey one only law, here on earth; that each one of them must live not for himself, but for others; that the object of their life is not to be more or less happy, but to make themselves and others better; that to fight against injustice and error for the benefit of their brothers is not only a right, but a duty; a duty not to be neglected without sin, — the duty of their whole life.

Italian Working-men, my Brothers! Understand me fully. When I say that the knowledge of their rights is not enough to enable men to effect any appreciable or lasting improvement, I do not ask you to renounce these rights; I only say that they cannot exist except as a consequence of duties fulfilled, and that one must begin with the latter in order to arrive at the former. And when I say that by proposing happiness, well-being, or material interest as the aim of existence, we run the risk of producing egoists, I do not mean that you should never strive after these things. I say that material interests pursued alone, and not as a means, but as an end, lead always to this most disastrous result. When under the Emperors, the old Romans asked for nothing but bread and amusements, they became the most abject race conceivable, and after submitting to the stupid and ferocious tyranny of the Emperors they basely fell into slavery to the invading Barbarians…

Material improvement is essential, and we shall strive to win it for ourselves; but not because the one thing necessary for men is to be well fed and housed, but rather because you cannot have a sense of your own dignity or any moral development while you are engaged, as in the present day, in a continual duel with want. You work ten or twelve hours a day: how can you find time to educate yourselves?

The primary argument of the third paragraph is that ____________.

Possible Answers:

it is only necessary for working men to be well-fed and well-housed

education prevents material improvement 

working men should work ten to twelve hour days 

working men should seek education in addition to material improvement 

Correct answer:

working men should seek education in addition to material improvement 

Explanation:

The primary argument of the third paragraph is that men should seek education in addition to material improvement, as evidenced by "material improvement is essential... but rather because you cannot have a sense of your own dignity or any moral development while you are engaged, as in the present day, in a continual duel with want." The author clearly says that education, not only being well-fed and housed, is of the upmost importance. While he notes that men work ten to twelve hours per day, that is not the primary focus of the paragraph. Finally, the author believes that education aids rather than hinders material improvement.

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