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Stan the Man


By Paul M. Barrett

SEYMOUR THE GARDENER has inadvertently mulched his employer, Mrs. Snodgrass, with the John Deere Suburbanite Lawn Tractor. Executors of the Snodgrass estate sue Seymour for the cost of a new tractor transmission. He contests.

Rule 1: It is illegal to operate four-wheel non-industrial lawn care equipment in the state of Connecticut. Rule II: Household servants, including gardeners, are responsible for the care of mechanical devices put in their trust, except in cases involving lawn care equipment manufactured before 1973.

Question: If John Deere provides a three-year warrantee for all electrical malfunctions, is Seymour liable?

Stanley H. Kaplan has the answer. He has it at one of his seven million Educational Centers, located conveniently throughout Cambridge. He also has an explanation for why the question is relevant but can only be solved by applying one of the two rules, which themselves are in conflict. He has tapes and booklets and sample answer grids and self-addressed, stamped envelopes in case you want to take the MCATs or GMATs or TOEFLs or MSKPs or National Podiatry Boards (no acronym) when you finish with the LSATs. He has all this for you. You have $325 for him.

Stanley is invisible, but he communicates with his operatives like the guy with the intercom in "Charlie's Angels." That's why the people who work at the Educational Centers always use the first-person plural. "We have researched this question type thoroughly," they say, speaking for themselves and for Stanley. "And we find that there are often two good answers, but only one really good answer."

This is the type of insight you need to succeed on the LSAT. In fact, Stanley is to standardized test preparation as Kleenex is to a)Kool-Aid, b)photo-copying machines, c)facial tissue, d)lawn care equipment? (Correct, the answer is "c"). Stanley knows his stuff; it's just that the process of transferring to LSAT-think creates a danger of mental short-circuiting when you try to maintain normal synapse activity at the same time

For instance, let's say that scientists have discovered a startling new source of low-calorie roughage. In a report to the Great Neck Ear, Eye and Throat Consortium, Drs. Hugo and Margot Frodo explained "Ground glass provides the gritty texture crucial to a person's roughage intake. Consumed in bulk, we predict that glass will improve regularity without fear of cholesterol accumulation."

According to this passage, you naturally ask yourself, is it implied that the author infers that the Frodos deduced that when reading between the lines, the people who make Raisin Bran have been stonewalling ground glass for years?

If confused, refer to Stanley's Test-N-Tape Menu (registered product name). The Menu is available at the Educational Center, which if you happen to go to the Central Square branch office, consists of an oversized dentist's office on the third floor of a Mass. Ave. professional building. Just ask the receptionist at the counter for the cassette and booklet, surrendering your Stanley ID card and sharpening your two No. 2s. If you've been good, you can take a peppermint sucker from the big glass candy jar that Stanley keeps on the counter top.

Down the hall, you pass bulletin board after bulletin board overflowing with test-taking information and articles mentioning Stanley's success in the business. "Just In!" proclaims a grape-purple poster with lemon-yellow lettering. "New exercises for the NCLEX-RN (registered nurses' exam)! Straight from the latest ETS administration!" The hallway opens up into a lounge with food machines and a water cooler. Classroom and Test-N-Tape rooms branch out on all sides. Stanley watches silently from the news clipping photographs, smiling his kindly middle-aged person's smile.

YOU DO TAPES. The tapes are members of Stanley's family who talk to you about why you got wrong answers on practice tests. They have vaguely Jewish, vaguely Long Island accents and they laugh a lot at their own jokes. "Quite a way to go, no? --Getting mulched by the lawn tractor!" chortles Aunt Miriam. "Ho! Ho! Ho!" You turn the tapes off and figure out for yourself why the other correct answer was the better correct answer. It's comforting to know that the money you have paid for the tapes you don't use is going toward a snazzy new kitchen set for Miriam's condo in Palm Springs.

The classes give you even more time to ponder the dull pain of humiliation. Technique piles up on top of technique, forming a match stick fortress that crumbles every time you realize that the whole game comes down to psyching up for a given morning in October. Still you obediently attack the arguments Stanley provides for you. You root out faulty linkage between evidence and conclusion. Indeed, which information if true will most weaken the author's discussion? What is the, most appropriate title for this passage--"Ground Glass: Roughage for the Eighties" or "Startling New Discovery Turns Roughage Biz on its Ear?"

If Dunderhead tanks the LSATs, then will he lose his grip and deteriorate into a social misfit and turn to alcohol? Name something that's white and black and red all over. What kind of horse power do you get on John Deere lawn tractors, anyway?

Only one man knows for sure.

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