Africa and African Americans in Sets

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Africa and African Americans in Sets

Postby Big Y » Mon Jan 15, 2018 12:28 am

Since this is MLK Day weekend, I decided to go through a few sets and find how much content they had related to Africa and African Americans. That's two different subjects, but my lists combine them.

I am not naming the sets here. My methodology was unprofessional, and I don't think any writers and editors should feel any need to defend themselves based on this post. (My methodology was to scan through the answers and pick the ones that fit the category, occasionally reading a question to determine borderline cases. Borderline decisions were based on what I felt like.)

Set A:
History: Kadesh/Rameses/Muwatallis II, Boston Massacre/Crispus Attucks/Thomas Preston, Punic Wars, de Gaulle/Algeria/FLN, Mali/Musa/Sumanguru, Ethiopia, Giza/sphinx/Khufu, Akhenaten
Literature: Toni Morrison, Things Fall Apart, Wole Soyinka, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Disgrace/Coetzee/Life & Times of Michael K, Nadine Gordimer, The Stranger, Cry the Beloved Country/Gertrude/Paton, Heart of Darkness/Conrad/Nostromo
Geography: South Africa/Limpopo/Johannesburg, Mount Kilimanjaro
RMP: Ra, Kwanzaa, voodoo/loas/Santeria, Osiris, Dido/Aeneas/Anchises
Fine Arts: piano (jazz), Duke Ellington, So What/Miles Davis/Bitches Brew, Coltrane/Parker/Coleman
Current Events: Boko Haram, Zimbabwe
Pop Culture: Drake, Miami Heat, Phelps/Lochte/South Africa, Steph Curry/Warriors/Davidson, Super Bowl/Broncos/Von Miller, John Oliver/Trevor Noah/Colbert


Set B:
History: Akhenaten, Qing/Chinese Gordon/Khartoum, Kadesh/chariots/Hittites, Liberia/American Colonization Society/Clay, independence from France, Ethiopia, African National Congress, Ethiopia/Operation Moses/Peres, Rosetta Stone/Champollion/Demotic, Louisiana Purchase/Haitian Revolution/Adams-Onis, Heart of Atlanta Motel v US/Commerce Clause/West Coast Hotel vs Parrish
Literature: NYC/Pittsburgh/Newark (with Pittsburgh based on August Wilson), The Color Purple, Athol Fugard, Achebe/Things Fall Apart/Ikemefuna, Harlem Renaissance/Hughes/Ways of White Folks, Phillis Wheatley, South Africa/Cry the Beloved Country/Coetzee, Uncle Tom’s Cabin/Beloved/Confessions of Nat Turner, Native Son/Wright/Black Boy
Geography: Kalahari Desert, Ghana/Gulf of Guinea/Cape Lopez, Tanzania
RMP: Nut/Hathor/Bastet, Quakers/ahimsa/MLK, Nigeria/Yoruba/Orisa, Isis, Aeneas
Fine Arts: Rococo/Fragonard/Nigeria, Hamilton, Ellington/Stevie Wonder/piano, Louis Armstrong
Current Events: Ben Carson/HUD/Americans, South Sudan/Gai/Bashir, The Gambia/Jammeh/female genital mutilation
Pop Culture: Knicks/Porzingis/Ewing, NY Giants/Plaxico Burress/David Tyree, Golden State Warriors, Chance/Life of Pablo/Sia, The Weeknd
Other: Swahili/Bantu/English, Ashanti/Klimt/Agamemnon


Set C:
History: abolition, Egypt/Nasser/UAR, triangle trade/slaves/middle passage, Carthage, Stanley/Congo/Kinshasa, Somalia, Wallace/Byrd/Arkansas, Libya, Songhai, Rhodesia
Literature: I Too/Hughes/dream deferred, Younger family/Raisin in the Sun/Hansberry, Alexandria/Durrell/Cairo, Huck Finn/Jim/Hank Morgan, Things Fall Apart, Smales/July’s People/South Africa, Simon Legree/Uncle Tom’s Cabin/Stowe, Camus, Stephen Kumalo/Paton/Too Late the Phalarope, Costaguana/Heart of Darkness/Conrad, Phillis Wheatley
Geography: Kalahari Desert, Great Rift Valley
RMP: voodoo, Egypt/Canaan/tabernacle, Isis, Rasta/Garvey/Promise Key, Arianism/Africa/Nag Hammadi, Ptah/Memphis/mouth
Fine Arts: Strayhorn/Ellington/In the Heights, Milhaud/saxophone/Parker, Porgy and Bess, ABBA/Alan Menken/Cole Porter
Current Events: HUD/Devos/Mnuchin, ECOWAS/Gambia/Britain
Pop Culture: Max Martin/Daft Punk/The Weeknd, Drake
Social Science: Goodall/chimp/Tanzania, Murray/out of wedlock births/white


I'm not sure exactly what to make with this information, but here are some trends I noticed:

There wasn't a huge difference across the three sets I looked at as far as how much content there was and to a large extent what that content was.

All three sets had a number of questions related to Africa across subjects, including its history, literature, and geography. There was significant overlap in the sets, but it's hard to know what to make of that because I haven't collected parallel information about other topics to see if African content is significantly more repetitive than non-African content.

All three sets had some African American literature. The number of such questions ran from 1 to 5.5, which is a significant difference. If you're going to write something like 25 US Lit questions for your set, more than one is probably a good idea.

I was underwhelmed by the amount of African American history. In one set it was a bonus part on Crispus Attucks. In another set it was three scattered bonus parts. In another set it was a bonus on the slave trade and another on whites against civil rights. I realize that history is a broad subject with a large canon, and there will always be a lot of history missing from any one set, but I read three sets and didn't see a single tossup on any part of African American history, and that's not good. Hopefully, that type of thing is not happening across quizbowl. The good news is that they didn't miss the topic completely.

All three sets had some jazz that mentioned and/or asked for African American musicians.

The amount of pop culture varied widely. I don't know whether or not I care about that. It probably is unfortunate that the percentage of African American answerlines tends more to pop culture than white answerlines. It's difficult to say to what extent that is just our game reflecting our society and its history and to what extent it's something we should do better.

I don't have a tidy conclusion/moral for this post. Teams showing up for tournaments should expect some African and African American content in the questions. Teams are getting that somewhat, though it looks like we could do better.
David Reinstein
PACE President, Head Writer and Editor for Scobol Solo and Masonics (Illinois), TD for New Trier Scobol Solo and New Trier Varsity, Writer for NAQT, IHSSBCA Board Member, IHSSBCA Chair (2004-2014), New Trier Coach (1994-2011)
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Re: Africa and African Americans in Sets

Postby Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Jan 15, 2018 3:45 am

Not sure how true this is for high school sets in general, but I always thought college tournaments did a pretty good job with having a balanced representation of African-American literature, history, etc. Perhaps this is due to the fact that a lot more tougher social history becomes askable at that level.

I would distinguish this from African content, and think the game has done a decent job in that area, though some areas of history could use some more exploration (but this would probably need to be done at Regionals or higher levels).
Will Alston
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