This thread is part of the "The Big Vision" series. Click here to go back to index/introduction.Expanding the Circle Even Further Brief Thoughts on Middle School, College, and International Quizbowl
While the focus of this series is on establishing a future vision for American high school quizbowl, currently the most populous part of the quizbowl ecosphere, I did mention that "everything is interrelated" in the intro, and the American high school game interconnects pretty strongly with other levels. I'll take this opportunity to make some brief points about those levels, focusing in on how they interrelate with high school gameplay. I welcome further input from others.Middle School
I was initially reluctant to say much here -- as of the writing of this post, I have never staffed a middle school tournament or written a middle school question. I did not know what quizbowl was when I was in middle school myself (the present, NAQT-driven era of good middle school questions only really started in 2010). So I could be totally wrong about all of this and welcome corrections from people with more on-the-ground involvement.
But it seems clear to me that, perhaps even more than outreach efforts at the high school level, the existence of middle school quizbowl provides the single biggest untapped opportunity that high school quizbowl has ever gotten for increasing its size and vibrancy.
If kids start playing quizbowl in 6th or 7th grade, rather than 9th or 10th, high school teams everywhere are provided with a large group of players who know how quizbowl works and want to keep playing it. Perhaps most importantly, in areas where middle school teams take root first, dedicated middle school players are likely to matriculate at schools with no existing high school team with the interest and skills to start one. The middle school level of National History Bee and Bowl, perhaps underreported on these boards, is pulling in hundreds of individual competitors
from far-flung states, and dozens of new teams
who could be brought into all-subject quizbowl immediately or once their members reach high school. Schools which start earlier than 9th grade, such as Hunter and Westminster, can look towards their middle school contingent as a way to build up future title contenders further in advance.
What's more, the way things are now, it's pretty easy to get new schools to see the benefit of middle school quizbowl with a lot less imposition than a competitive high school team; it's possible to find a given school's gifted/talented coordinator and just say "hey; there's this competition you can do" with little hassle. With an upper limit of about five good sets per year at present, coaching a middle school team doesn’t have to be a very large imposition, since most teams will be attending only 3-6 tournaments during the year and then maybe MSNCT. That said, it's hard for middle school quizbowl to take off if the same people who run the high school and college game also have to take it under their wing. The goal for the most part should be to find dedicated coaches and adult organizers who can make middle school quizbowl their primary focus.
It definitely seems very patchwork, from region to region, whether many teams care about building a strong middle school quizbowl circuit. It seems like Georgia, Texas, and Illinois are definitely going full-bore, but other regions with a strong high school presence have less going on at the middle school level. It will be interesting to see what effect this starts to have on the teams that make it to the finals at high school (and, two or three years down the line, collegiate) national finals, and whether other regions will begin to establish themselves more strongly so middle school quizbowl also becomes truly national.College
By contrast, I was pretty seriously involved in college quizbowl, and will continue to be as an alumnus.
The short point I want to make about college quizbowl is this: It’s proven basically impossible to do outreach and create college teams at new campuses in the same way that it can be done in high school. For a new college team to form, for the most part, you need a seriously interested person to go to said new college and put in the effort. The only real way to increase the rate at which this happens is to ensure that more high school players are leaving high school with positive quizbowl experiences far more, since the ratio of “high schoolers going to college quizbowl : people who can capably start new teams” is quite small. It seems clear to me that there is a “trickle-up” effect (first posited in Matt Weiner’s response to Paul Litvak back in 2006, and definitely true still) -- as more effort and resources go into making the high school game successful, a larger number of people will be committed enough to quizbowl to see it as something they’ll want to keep doing in college. Looking outside the United States / “Going global”
I’ve been relentlessly USA-centric with these posts, in part because it’s the only country where I’ve seen quizbowl organization and play in person. But exciting things are afoot abroad. A team from China and a team from Singapore both attended the last PACE NSC. A set of small but consistent tournaments exists in Ontario, Canada. The efforts of National History Bee and Bowl are bringing in more attention, at least to all-history events, across Europe and around the Asian side of the Pacific ocean. There was even a team from Central America (Honduras? or Nicaragua?) at this past year’s HSNCT. As of now, we’re basically limited to the English-speaking students and/or international schools in these places, but there’s quite literally a whole world out there of schools which could start to get in on quizbowl competition once the first few seeds get sown. (I know for a fact that there is a circuit of international schools in Asia which is very serious about flying around for activities such as Model UN; a lot of the IHBB schools that Madden has found are in that circuit.) As more people in these places play events on good questions, it will be interesting to see how the torch passes to them, and how interaction between countries might occur. Which non-United States state or province will be the first to send a team to NASAT? And which will be the tenth?