Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

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Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Sat Nov 13, 2010 9:09 pm

A 20/20 tournament billing itself as regular difficulty for the high school level simply cannot have 1/1 Social Science, especially anthropology and sociology, and 1/1 World literature. Independently written sets have been going through a phase over the last few years where this is the norm. I want to make it emphatically clear to all writers that if you are intending to write a "regular" high school set, you simply cannot write questions in those subjects at such a high frequency. Barring some very rare exceptions, these categories are almost exclusively gotten by the top teams, who are intimately familiar with these categories, and the incredibly vast majority of the rest of the circuit simply cannot even answer these questions.

Top teams should of course get the advantage in quizbowl, but the advantage should be given by virtue of the teams buzzing in earlier on tossups and bonuses on an otherwise fairly balanced distribution. The amount of benefit a team can derive from the distribution alone should be minimized to the utmost. Setting at 1/1 the amount of social science and world literature is a bad idea, since they are topics that good teams are disproportionately good at not because they have a breadth of askable topics and inherent importance in the lives of high schoolers that obviously justifies them being asked about at the same rate as painting or american history, but rather because they study them solely for quizbowl. This is almost entirely universal, and I think any coaches and players who have done well at these topics would admit as much. These topics alone take up to 140 points in an 800 point match basically off the table for any teams that are not intently preparing to do well at the NSC and ACF (2 tossups, plus whatever their related bonuses are, then two other bonuses).

I should also note that there are other categories that somewhat spill over into this as well - if you ask more than an absolute minimum of computer science, and it has to be about basic, basic, basic stuff, you have made similarly inaccessible questions, although for slightly different reasons. I invite other people to nominate quizbowl categories we should somewhat rethink evaluating for the high school game if we want to make the game more ideal across the board, and discuss other ways that little things in how sets are written inherently bias them towards top teams in a way that moves it out of "top teams deserve to win" territory and into "everyone else is being very negatively impacted" territory. That seems to inherently be the problem with a lot of sets now being too hard for the average audience.

And I will leave you with a parting thought, so that you will maybe realize just how much of a disadvantage some schools are at when it comes to how much they could reasonably exposed to for quizbowl. I have two teammates at Mizzou who went to a high school that literally did not offer chemistry. That's right, an entire high school without a basic chemistry class. I don't say that we should cut all chemistry or anything, but just think a little more about just how many schools out there are not good, and then perhaps rethink your writing accordingly.
Last edited by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) on Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:26 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Sat Nov 13, 2010 9:15 pm

Philosophy probably has the same problem as socio/anthro. The segment of social science that does not have the above problem--perhaps not at all--is government, since civics classes are so widespread (as are AP Gov exams, mock trial and things, etc.).
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Sat Nov 13, 2010 9:50 pm

A slightly different problem that also hurts the rest of the circuit is when you write hard finals packets. I guess I will veer into directly criticizing BATE here, but it's been done at lots of other tournaments as well, and I think lots of other editors are planning to do it in the future. The finals packet was so hard that at the site I was staffing, the winning team won with a score of 180-30, which was unusually low even for those teams. By ramping up the difficulty of the finals so as to please the best teams, you make all the tournaments that have finals where non-top teams are playing (hint: that's most tournaments) do even worse than they would have otherwise, because suddenly instead of lots of teams getting buzzes at the end of the tossup, you have teams not getting tossups, and teams that might get a lot of 10s on a bonus in an earlier packet get 0 on a lot of bonuses in this packet. Top teams can keep up with ramped up difficulty, everyone else really can't, and the contrast is stark. By making the finals catered towards determining matches between the top 20 teams, you make the matches become much more random for the oodles of tournaments with no teams in the top 50 playing, and you make all those finals matches much less enjoyable as a result. It also makes the matches less logically consistent with the results of the rest of the day, given that everything else in the tournament is determined by one type of questions, while all of a sudden the most important game is decided by a different type of questions. Why make that abrupt switch? Why not just make every game consistent?

Anyway, if you are writing a high school tournament, and you decide you are writing the bulk of the packets for everybody, and are writing the finals packets only for good teams, unless you are writing a tournament that is only going to be played by top teams, you have also not properly produced a regular difficulty tournament, and you will hurt many mirrors of your event.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sun Nov 14, 2010 12:01 am

Enter the chorus of people who went to elite schools in the DC suburbs, who will talk about how their high school experience was full of social science and organic chem, assuming that their experience was representative.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:14 am

Morraine Man wrote:Enter the chorus of people who went to elite schools in the DC suburbs, who will talk about how their high school experience was full of social science and organic chem, assuming that their experience was representative.
To be fair, I know of like one school in the DC area that offers any version of Orgo.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:32 am

Jeremy Gibbs Freesy Does It wrote:Setting at 1/1 the amount of social science and world literature is a bad idea, since they are topics that good teams are disproportionately good at not because they have a breadth of askable topics and inherent importance in the lives of high schoolers that obviously justifies them being asked about at the same rate as painting or american history, but rather because they study them solely for quizbowl.
and....

I don't disagree with this post. However, I would like to ask to to specify how you arrived at social science. I mean, before I started playing quizbowl, I never had formal instruction and knew incredibly little about the following quizbowl staples: painting, non-Christian religion, philosophy, mythology (except for, like, 2 weeks in 7th grade), and non-British euro lit. Those categories were every bit as alien to me as, say, social science. I took and had a good understanding of econ and government and my very non-DC suburb public school offered a psychology class. Anthro would have been inaccessible to me as a student, but no more so than Norse myth, abstract painting, Italian lit, and Continental Philosophy. Anyway, I'm not advocating 1/1 social science. But why cut social science and not, say, classical music?
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Cheynem » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:44 am

I would be okay with taking more of a catch-all emphasis on social science that perhaps incorporated more current events and civics type questions and less anthropology and sociology. Maybe even more gentle linguistics questions.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by at your pleasure » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:50 am

Ethnic history of the Vilnius region wrote:
Jeremy Gibbs Freesy Does It wrote:Setting at 1/1 the amount of social science and world literature is a bad idea, since they are topics that good teams are disproportionately good at not because they have a breadth of askable topics and inherent importance in the lives of high schoolers that obviously justifies them being asked about at the same rate as painting or american history, but rather because they study them solely for quizbowl.
and....

I don't disagree with this post. However, I would like to ask to to specify how you arrived at social science. I mean, before I started playing quizbowl, I never had formal instruction and knew incredibly little about the following quizbowl staples: painting, non-Christian religion, philosophy, mythology (except for, like, 2 weeks in 7th grade), and non-British euro lit... But why cut social science and not, say, classical music?
I would think because social science is something that one is not likely to be exposed to out of an academic setting unlike painting, classical music, or RMP. I would imagine there are rather more high school students who play classical music or do non-christian religious things than who read up on Malinowski or Durkheim in their spare time.
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I would be okay with taking more of a catch-all emphasis on social science that perhaps incorporated more current events and civics type questions and less anthropology and sociology. Maybe even more gentle linguistics questions.
In that vein, why not write some anthro questions on archeological research or paleoanthropolgy? both are generally recongized as branches of anthropology and are somewhat easier to gain exposure to without learning about in school.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:12 am

As I said, most current tournaments using 1/1 social science distributions tend to heavily skew towards asking about anthropology and sociology, and while a small part of that should undeniably come up in high school quizbowl, right now lots of those questions either 1) are gotten, probably pretty early, by a very good team that is actively reading college packets to prepare to do well at nationals, and who learned that material solely from quizbowl preparation, or 2) go completely dead. Every other category you listed I have seen gotten by teams of all shapes and sizes with real knowledge poking through even from some otherwise low quality teams. I find this disparity between how social science plays with how, say, music plays to really drive home that, in its current form, tournaments using large distributions of social science with lots of anthropology and sociology are fundamentally rewarding teams for studying college packets and not for something that they are actually likely to encounter through their own cultural awareness. There are social sciences that high schoolers actually do have a reason to know, especially psychology and economics, and we should ask about them, but there is only so much of those topics we can ask before we run out of appropriate material, and instead of asking a bunch of questions on people like Ruth Benedict who basically nobody in high school would have a reason to know of outside of quizbowl, we should cut down the SS distribution to have it more accurately reflect what high schoolers might know and add some more questions to other categories that high schoolers do know.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:15 am

Also, just to make it as emphatically clear as I can to independent editors:
No reputable company producing pyramidal questions that set the standard for the so-called regular circuit asks about social science or world literature at a frequency of 1/1 per packet. This is because they have found it unreasonable to ask about them that much in high school fields. They know what they are doing.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Cheynem » Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:31 am

I will agree with Charlie in that the other topics in quizbowl seem to be something you could reasonably expect someone to take a personal shine to even if it didn't come up in a class. I knew plenty of people in HS, including myself, who learned about classical music, mythology, painting, history, and geography on their own time, and I think this is probably pretty common (I am not saying they learn it in any organized manner). It is less common to find people who take this personal interest in the social sciences in high school (I am not saying it doesn't happen, it just seems less common for someone to grab an anthropological or sociological text on their own, as opposed to someone who would read a book of myths or listen to a piece of music).

World lit is an interesting case. I would say that it's not that HSers are completely unexposed to world lit, it's just that it's pretty hard to determine what they've been exposed to. I agree that while there are numerous instances where certain HSers would have definitely read or studied a piece of world lit on their own or in class, it's tough to find consistencies there sometimes beyond the obvious ones which I assume Charlie would be okay with keeping anyway.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region » Sun Nov 14, 2010 4:41 am

Cheynem wrote:I will agree with Charlie in that the other topics in quizbowl seem to be something you could reasonably expect someone to take a personal shine to even if it didn't come up in a class. I knew plenty of people in HS, including myself, who learned about classical music, mythology, painting, history, and geography on their own time, and I think this is probably pretty common (I am not saying they learn it in any organized manner). It is less common to find people who take this personal interest in the social sciences in high school (I am not saying it doesn't happen, it just seems less common for someone to grab an anthropological or sociological text on their own, as opposed to someone who would read a book of myths or listen to a piece of music).

World lit is an interesting case. I would say that it's not that HSers are completely unexposed to world lit, it's just that it's pretty hard to determine what they've been exposed to. I agree that while there are numerous instances where certain HSers would have definitely read or studied a piece of world lit on their own or in class, it's tough to find consistencies there sometimes beyond the obvious ones which I assume Charlie would be okay with keeping anyway.
I'm sure that anthro and sociology aren't the hobbies of choice for most high schoolers. And certainly there are a lot of high schoolers who do know a little about classical music. But as someone who has read at a lot of high school tournaments and has tried to acclimate college freshmen without quizbowl experience for the last 10 years or so, I'm not convinced that some of the categories (painting, religion, etc.) are that much better known than basic econ and psychology. The way I see it, your garden variety, "non-professional" quizbowler might know Picasso, Bach, and Zeus just like they might know Adam Smith, Sigmund Freud, and John Maynard Keynes. After that, though, I'm just not seeing a ton of green quizbowlers who know Cezanne, Rite of Spring, and Jainism. I think that art, myth, etc. might be marginally better known than social science, but in the end I see all of those categories sharing the same problem: at some point, it just gets hard to ask accessible questions on them without getting too hard or too boring. Oh well. People who know better than me set the distribution. As long as I continue to write high school questions, though, I'll always try to think of the player I was in high school and make it accessible to him. I reckon that will be easy enough for everyone.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region » Sun Nov 14, 2010 4:51 am

Cheynem wrote:World lit is an interesting case. I would say that it's not that HSers are completely unexposed to world lit, it's just that it's pretty hard to determine what they've been exposed to. I agree that while there are numerous instances where certain HSers would have definitely read or studied a piece of world lit on their own or in class, it's tough to find consistencies there sometimes beyond the obvious ones which I assume Charlie would be okay with keeping anyway.
Oh yeah, I forgot to talk about world lit. The only world lit I learned in high school was my English teacher recommending Things Fall Apart for independent reading. In all seriousness, world lit strikes me as being pretty inaccessible at the high school level, but I would be interested in knowing others' experiences. I just can't imagine the average high school doing much in the way of exposing students to world lit.

Also, outside of a handful of books, a lot of what is assumed to be accessible on the non-British Euro lit front doesn't strike me as being any more accessible than a lot of the world lit.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by cherenkov » Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:32 am

I feel as though the point of quiz bowl is to at least come in contact with various topics, to facilitate a further understanding in college or just in your life in general. I personally enjoy social science and have read texts that have come up in social science questions because it interests me, and I want a deeper understanding of the world. So, quiz bowl has brought about this desire in me to read social science texts.

As for distribution, NAQT has a 0.7/0.7 per packet Social Science Distribution, and World Lit: 0.3/0.3
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Sun Nov 14, 2010 11:11 am

Eric, your basic message is one people should take to heart, which is that lots of things people assume are easy in lots of categories are not so easy, but I still think you're missing my point, which is that even if things like The Rite of Spring are not going to be gotten by a lot of teams, there are actual players on teams of all skill levels who actually do encounter those things outside of quizbowl. To specifically respond to your music point, I came into quizbowl with nearly as fully formed a knowledge of music history as I have now. I got there because I was, at the time, motivated to become a professional musician. I also had the experience of actively searching out books that were considered culturally important to read beginning in 6th grade, so I had encountered lots of titles of major works of American and British lit throughout middle school. Because of that, even though I wasn't very good on a lot of other categories to begin with, I was still able to get basically every music question and not be useless on a lot of the lit that came my way. If you are a person who is training as a musician, there is a very strong likelihood that you will be able to get a lot of buzzes because you played something important in orchestra or in lessons. Similarly, there are actual practitioners of lots of religions like Jainism that play quizbowl, or people who learn about art history from somewhere (AP Art history is taught some places, I happened to learn about Cezanne in a 5th grade art class), or all kinds of other examples of people playing high school quizbowl actually knowing lots of topics from outside of the game. Will a lot of teams get those questions right through "fake" knowledge? Of course, but the difference between those and the social science questions I decry are that they actually have a strong chance of rewarding some players for real knowledge too.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Andrew's a Freshman » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:12 pm

Jeremy Gibbs Freesy Does It wrote:Eric, your basic message is one people should take to heart, which is that lots of things people assume are easy in lots of categories are not so easy, but I still think you're missing my point, which is that even if things like The Rite of Spring are not going to be gotten by a lot of teams, there are actual players on teams of all skill levels who actually do encounter those things outside of quizbowl. To specifically respond to your music point, I came into quizbowl with nearly as fully formed a knowledge of music history as I have now. I got there because I was, at the time, motivated to become a professional musician. I also had the experience of actively searching out books that were considered culturally important to read beginning in 6th grade, so I had encountered lots of titles of major works of American and British lit throughout middle school. Because of that, even though I wasn't very good on a lot of other categories to begin with, I was still able to get basically every music question and not be useless on a lot of the lit that came my way. If you are a person who is training as a musician, there is a very strong likelihood that you will be able to get a lot of buzzes because you played something important in orchestra or in lessons. Similarly, there are actual practitioners of lots of religions like Jainism that play quizbowl, or people who learn about art history from somewhere (AP Art history is taught some places, I happened to learn about Cezanne in a 5th grade art class), or all kinds of other examples of people playing high school quizbowl actually knowing lots of topics from outside of the game. Will a lot of teams get those questions right through "fake" knowledge? Of course, but the difference between those and the social science questions I decry are that they actually have a strong chance of rewarding some players for real knowledge too.
There is a certain degree of cultural understanding that quiz bowl should expect from its players in my opinion. Fine arts classes are taken by the majority of students at my school who are not solely intent on becoming professional sports stars. The rest are taking technology and computer science classes, for the most part. In addition, world literature, visual art, world religion, classical music, perhaps philosophy, certain mythologies, and other quiz bowl subjects are often references in foreign language classes, world literature classes (which aren't that uncommon, are they?), and world history classes. The exceptions to this, in my experience and opinion, are opera and sociology. A freshman of a year back came onto our quiz bowl team having already read The Tale of Genji. Similarly, I'm required to read Things Fall Apart and Their Eyes Were Watching God after already reading The Stranger and Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Garcia Marquez and Achebe have been common subjects over the last few years at the AP and IB levels, at least at my school. While expecting high schoolers to know more than 2 or 3 Japanese authors without studying quiz bowl is a stretch, expecting them to know The Art of War and Romance of the Three Kingdoms is not. I think there is enough World Literature to go around. A player on our team, who I can tell you does not "study quiz bowl," would be devastated if visual art and world religions were to drop too low in the distribution. He, as do other high schoolers around the nation, has a general interest in Art and Religion, as another of my teammates has a general interest in Geography and Current (World) Events. The only two subjects I find that are exclusively out of reach for most high school players are certain social sciences (excluding economics, government, and some philosophy) and opera.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:23 pm

Opera is not out of reach to high schoolers at all, given that I knew a lot about opera coming into quizbowl. If you are interested in classical music, you are going to encounter opera. That's a kind of absurd claim you make.

Similarly, there is in fact not enough world lit to fill 1/1 in every tournament without being forced to repeatedly mine topics that are completely out of reach for most teams. This in my experience working with HSAPQ, where we constantly struggled with the world literature being too large a distribution, and reading for tons of tournaments in a developing circuit, is empirically the case. Also, The Stranger is European literature and Their Eyes Were Watching God is American literature, so I'm not sure what relevance they have to your point. Achebe and Garcia Marquez are being more widely taught, but I cannot name another world author I would feel comfortable describing as someone you can rely on a large number of high schools teaching in a literature class.

Lastly, you go to an IB school. IB is incredibly rare, and its even rarer to have its middle years program, which your district does. It's an excellent program for motivated students, but I took it and it couldn't be more disparate from the educational experience the vast majority of quizbowlers have. Do not assume your experience is representative.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Andrew's a Freshman » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:39 pm

Jeremy Gibbs Freesy Does It wrote:Opera is not out of reach to high schoolers at all, given that I knew a lot about opera coming into quizbowl. If you are interested in classical music, you are going to encounter opera. That's a kind of absurd claim you make.

Similarly, there is in fact not enough world lit to fill 1/1 in every tournament without being forced to repeatedly mine topics that are completely out of reach for most teams. This in my experience working with HSAPQ, where we constantly struggled with the world literature being too large a distribution, and reading for tons of tournaments in a developing circuit, is empirically the case. Also, The Stranger is European literature and Their Eyes Were Watching God is American literature, so I'm not sure what relevance they have to your point. Achebe and Garcia Marquez are being more widely taught, but I cannot name another world author I would feel comfortable describing as someone you can rely on a large number of high schools teaching in a literature class.

Lastly, you go to an IB school. IB is incredibly rare, and its even rarer to have it from middle school onward, which your district does. It's an excellent program for motivated students, but I took it and it couldn't be more disparate from the educational experience the vast majority of quizbowlers have. Do not assume your experience is representative.
Being that I have never written a full set of questions, I can't say what is required of writing 1/1 World Lit for 12-15 rounds of a tournament. I have never realized that European and World Lit have exclusive distributions (and also said Their Eyes Were Watching God instead of Cry, the Beloved Country, which I will not be reading later this year). And, while my experience is not representative of most high schools, I only mean to say that most subjects that I have come across in the World Literature distribution I am familiar as a result of world history, various literature classes, or cultural interest, with plenty of exceptions. Maybe the comment on opera was personal, but for the most part I do agree with what you've had to say.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:01 pm

Maybe we can't expect the degree of cultural understanding that we have been expecting--that is, a degree to the tune of 1/1 philosophy, 1/1 world lit, and so on--but one of the points of playing quizbowl is to expand one's cultural understanding. A one-to-one correspondence between quizbowl cultural understanding and high school-acquired cultural understanding, if one could even call it that, would be downright boring. Recall Matt's post about trash: We don't come to this merely to show off what we already know, but to add to what we already know. (And keep in mind that schools that just plain don't offer chemistry are probably as rare as schools that offer a course in organic chem.)

That being said, sure, we could do a better job of easing into the game teams whose students don't have extensive access and history of access to quizbowl. We could incorporate civics instead of delving deeper into the already limited high school anthropology canon, for instance. But incorporating extant high school educational materials to the exclusion (or near-exclusion) of important and interesting figures in world literature, anthropology, psychology and economics would be a mistake, even at a basic level.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Nick » Sun Nov 14, 2010 5:06 pm

Charlie, I agree very strongly with this. Specifically your point about answer spaces that are answered almost exclusively by teams/players who have read college packets. And I want to reiterate what others have said about this being true for a large portion of the philosophy answers.

I would probably agree that high school students would likely be more familiar with classical music and opera than sociologists and anthropologists but the idea that "I really liked classical music and that led me to know a lot about opera independent of quizbowl" seems like an argument you could make about any of these subjects.

Lastly- how much Literary Criticism is acceptable in a high school packet? I'd posit zero, but maybe I'm out of the loop on this one.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by jonah » Sun Nov 14, 2010 7:28 pm

Nick wrote:Lastly- how much Literary Criticism is acceptable in a high school packet? I'd posit zero, but maybe I'm out of the loop on this one.
We certainly read a few critical essays in my high school classes—off the top of my head, "On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth" and Achebe's essay on Heart of Darkness (whose title, just like at EFT, I can't remember). I wouldn't say zero, but certainly very close.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by kayli » Sun Nov 14, 2010 7:42 pm

Zero to literary criticism. Say what you want about the importance of certain papers dealing with literary criticism, but there's no reason it should be tossed up on the high school level. For one, not that many schools require people to read literary criticism even at the AP/IB level (and even if students do read them, they're mainly read as supplements to the novel or poem the students are actually reading). Secondly, most literary criticism isn't that meaningful within its own context. Thirdly, it's not something that can be readily or easily studied even by interested students. You're better off writing a question on a book or poem x using a literary criticism y as a clue.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Auroni » Sun Nov 14, 2010 7:45 pm

We read a few bits of criticism by authors that I can't remember, but there was nothing there that's so widely read by high schoolers as to merit anything more than an occasional hard part of a bonus or as a leadin clue from time to time.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:01 pm

I'd say almost zero lit crit; if you really want to, you can use, say, T.S. Eliot's essays as a lead-in or something, but it just seems very unnecessary, especially since it falls squarely in the "things people know because they come up in college" category.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by jonah » Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:03 pm

Arsonists Get All the Girls wrote:You're better off writing a question on a book or poem x using a literary criticism y as a clue.
every time i refresh i have a new name wrote:[criticism shouldn't come up as] anything more than an occasional hard part of a bonus or as a leadin clue from time to time.
This is what I had in mind; sorry for not making that clear. I agree that answer lines on criticism topics are not right for high school.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:36 pm

What are people's opinions on asking grammar questions at the high school level?
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by kayli » Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:38 pm

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:What are people's opinions on asking grammar questions at the high school level?
Hard if not impossible to write both meaningfully and pyrimidally.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by AlphaQuizBowler » Sun Nov 14, 2010 9:44 pm

Cernel Joson wrote:I'd say almost zero lit crit; if you really want to, you can use, say, T.S. Eliot's essays as a lead-in or something, but it just seems very unnecessary, especially since it falls squarely in the "things people know because they come up in college" category.
Or maybe some people have an interest in poetry? I did a project last year on the use of meter in modern poetry, and in my research I did encounter Tradition and the Individual Talent.

I'm not making this point just to say "I'm so cool that I read lit crit in my spare time," but rather to warn against writing off whole categories as "stuff people only encounter by reading college packets."

I agree that the large amount of Anthro in the high school Social Sciences distribution basically rewards top teams memorizing stuff from college packets, but the problem isn't that high schoolers don't read Margaret Mead independently, it's that nobody really reads Margaret Mead anymore (as evidenced by the discussion of Anthropology in the College Section). As mentioned earlier in this thread, high schoolers do learn about psychology, economics, and political science, so I don't think that Social Sciences should be dismissed as "too hard" in general. I tend to think that the expansion of those three categories and the decrease of anthropology could allow Social Sciences to maintain 1/1 in a regular difficulty set, but that's for the writers of regular difficulty sets to work out.

I'm actually really confused as to why you single out World Lit as a category that can't be written at 1/1. A lot of high schoolers take foreign language classes (though French- and German-language works, for the most part, fall under European), and part of those classes is reading works by authors in the language. We read Cortazar and Neruda in my last Spanish class, and we did research projects on famous writers from various Latin American countries. Somebody even researched Ruben Dario. And why do you assume that intellectually curious high schoolers will, for some reason, confine themselves to American and British literature? I know at least one other quiz bowler besides me who reads Borges for fun, I have a non-quiz bowl friend who loves Neruda, and (to get away from all the Spanish-language literature) I read The Satanic Verses in my free time. I think a lot of high schoolers who enjoy literature probably have similar experiences.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:17 pm

AlphaQuizBowler wrote:
Cernel Joson wrote:I'd say almost zero lit crit; if you really want to, you can use, say, T.S. Eliot's essays as a lead-in or something, but it just seems very unnecessary, especially since it falls squarely in the "things people know because they come up in college" category.
Or maybe some people have an interest in poetry? I did a project last year on the use of meter in modern poetry, and in my research I did encounter Tradition and the Individual Talent.

I'm not making this point just to say "I'm so cool that I read lit crit in my spare time," but rather to warn against writing off whole categories as "stuff people only encounter by reading college packets."

I agree that the large amount of Anthro in the high school Social Sciences distribution basically rewards top teams memorizing stuff from college packets, but the problem isn't that high schoolers don't read Margaret Mead independently, it's that nobody really reads Margaret Mead anymore (as evidenced by the discussion of Anthropology in the College Section). As mentioned earlier in this thread, high schoolers do learn about psychology, economics, and political science, so I don't think that Social Sciences should be dismissed as "too hard" in general. I tend to think that the expansion of those three categories and the decrease of anthropology could allow Social Sciences to maintain 1/1 in a regular difficulty set, but that's for the writers of regular difficulty sets to work out.

I'm actually really confused as to why you single out World Lit as a category that can't be written at 1/1. A lot of high schoolers take foreign language classes (though French- and German-language works, for the most part, fall under European), and part of those classes is reading works by authors in the language. We read Cortazar and Neruda in my last Spanish class, and we did research projects on famous writers from various Latin American countries. Somebody even researched Ruben Dario. And why do you assume that intellectually curious high schoolers will, for some reason, confine themselves to American and British literature? I know at least one other quiz bowler besides me who reads Borges for fun, I have a non-quiz bowl friend who loves Neruda, and (to get away from all the Spanish-language literature) I read The Satanic Verses in my free time. I think a lot of high schoolers who enjoy literature probably have similar experiences.
If you have an interest in T.S. Eliot's poetry, you'll probably have read the "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," or the Four Quartets, or any number of his poems. I would personally rather use descriptions of those works as lead-ins instead of those essays. Like I said, though, the T.S. Eliot essays are potentially OK uses of lit crit, so it's the question writer's decision.

If you're genuinely confused about why World Lit is harder, it's because there isn't really much of it that's truly easy, and you get to some relatively hard stuff pretty soon. Sure, there are people who like Neruda, and he's one of the more appropriate world authors to ask about. But he's probably among the five most famous world authors, and he's not truly easy. I'd be fine with tossing him up in a high school set, but he's no "Oscar Wilde" or "William Faulkner." Once you get into someone like Cortazar, well, there are probably a bunch of high schoolers who have learned about him outside of qb, but not a very high percentage. Tossing up Cortazar at a high school tournament would probably be a bad idea, especially when there are a whole lot of works of American and British literature that are more accessible. If you have 1/1 World Lit in your set, you're going to be writing a bunch of tossups on Gordimer, Coetzee, Fuentes, and other authors who, while certainly noteworthy, aren't going to be answered by many high school teams.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:21 pm

AlphaQuizBowler wrote: I'm actually really confused as to why you single out World Lit as a category that can't be written at 1/1. A lot of high schoolers take foreign language classes (though French- and German-language works, for the most part, fall under European), and part of those classes is reading works by authors in the language. We read Cortazar and Neruda in my last Spanish class, and we did research projects on famous writers from various Latin American countries. Somebody even researched Ruben Dario. And why do you assume that intellectually curious high schoolers will, for some reason, confine themselves to American and British literature? I know at least one other quiz bowler besides me who reads Borges for fun, I have a non-quiz bowl friend who loves Neruda, and (to get away from all the Spanish-language literature) I read The Satanic Verses in my free time. I think a lot of high schoolers who enjoy literature probably have similar experiences.
Most high schools I'm familiar with only offer two to three years of a given a foreign language, and I don't think all that many foreign language students are advanced enough in high school to read a work in the original Spanish or German or whatever.

I also disagree with the assessment that because intellectually curious high schoolers read books in their spare time, those books can be asked about. While the first part of this is certainly true (I also read The Satanic Verses in high school), the problem is that to ask about a given work, a non-negligible portion of a given tournament field must be familiar with that work. When you ask about Rushdie or Hopscotch, there will certainly be a few kids who get really excited about that book they just read last month coming up, but other "intellectually curious" high schoolers who perhaps read another fairly obscure novel will be left dumbfounded at something they've never heard of. What I'm trying to say is that in order to be an answer choice (or at least a tossup answer), a work must be at least somewhat familiar to a larger audience. If a tossup on Cortazar at a tournament yields 4 powers with no 10s or negs in sixteen rooms, then that tossup is probably too obscure. Sure, it rewards knowledge, but when a good chunk of the field has never even heard of the answer line, its "accessibility" becomes an issue.

EDIT: I was pretty much just beaten to my point.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:46 pm

Cernel Joson wrote:If you're genuinely confused about why World Lit is harder, it's because there isn't really much of it that's truly easy, and you get to some relatively hard stuff pretty soon.
While I do agree that world lit is converted less frequently (and then ought probably to be called "harder"), I think it's important to point out that the above sort of reasoning is both a bit tautological and prevalent in quizbowl reasoning.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:52 pm

Habitat_Against_Humanity wrote:Most high schools I'm familiar with only offer two to three years of a given a foreign language, and I don't think all that many foreign language students are advanced enough in high school to read a work in the original Spanish or German or whatever.

I also disagree with the assessment that because intellectually curious high schoolers read books in their spare time, those books can be asked about. While the first part of this is certainly true (I also read The Satanic Verses in high school), the problem is that to ask about a given work, a non-negligible portion of a given tournament field must be familiar with that work. When you ask about Rushdie or Hopscotch, there will certainly be a few kids who get really excited about that book they just read last month coming up, but other "intellectually curious" high schoolers who perhaps read another fairly obscure novel will be left dumbfounded at something they've never heard of. What I'm trying to say is that in order to be an answer choice (or at least a tossup answer), a work must be at least somewhat familiar to a larger audience. If a tossup on Cortazar at a tournament yields 4 powers with no 10s or negs in sixteen rooms, then that tossup is probably too obscure. Sure, it rewards knowledge, but when a good chunk of the field has never even heard of the answer line, its "accessibility" becomes an issue.

EDIT: I was pretty much just beaten to my point.
Minor nitpick: Rushdie is in fact one of the very few world lit authors who probably can successfully be tossed up at the regular high school level. The Satanic Verses is real-world famous in a way that few works of literature are, if only because of the whole fatwa brouhaha when it came out.

The general thrust of this post is spot-on, of course.
Last edited by Theory Of The Leisure Flask on Sun Nov 14, 2010 11:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:55 pm

Arsonists Get All the Girls wrote:
Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:What are people's opinions on asking grammar questions at the high school level?
Hard if not impossible to write both meaningfully and pyrimidally.
Okay, then:

1) If someone can write grammar questions meaningfully and pyramidally, is there any downside to doing so?
2) What about including that material in bonuses?

I agree it's hard to do; I suspect it may be worth trying anyway.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by AlphaQuizBowler » Sun Nov 14, 2010 11:08 pm

Habitat_Against_Humanity wrote:
AlphaQuizBowler wrote: I'm actually really confused as to why you single out World Lit as a category that can't be written at 1/1. A lot of high schoolers take foreign language classes (though French- and German-language works, for the most part, fall under European), and part of those classes is reading works by authors in the language. We read Cortazar and Neruda in my last Spanish class, and we did research projects on famous writers from various Latin American countries. Somebody even researched Ruben Dario. And why do you assume that intellectually curious high schoolers will, for some reason, confine themselves to American and British literature? I know at least one other quiz bowler besides me who reads Borges for fun, I have a non-quiz bowl friend who loves Neruda, and (to get away from all the Spanish-language literature) I read The Satanic Verses in my free time. I think a lot of high schoolers who enjoy literature probably have similar experiences.
Most high schools I'm familiar with only offer two to three years of a given a foreign language, and I don't think all that many foreign language students are advanced enough in high school to read a work in the original Spanish or German or whatever.

I also disagree with the assessment that because intellectually curious high schoolers read books in their spare time, those books can be asked about. While the first part of this is certainly true (I also read The Satanic Verses in high school), the problem is that to ask about a given work, a non-negligible portion of a given tournament field must be familiar with that work. When you ask about Rushdie or Hopscotch, there will certainly be a few kids who get really excited about that book they just read last month coming up, but other "intellectually curious" high schoolers who perhaps read another fairly obscure novel will be left dumbfounded at something they've never heard of. What I'm trying to say is that in order to be an answer choice (or at least a tossup answer), a work must be at least somewhat familiar to a larger audience. If a tossup on Cortazar at a tournament yields 4 powers with no 10s or negs in sixteen rooms, then that tossup is probably too obscure. Sure, it rewards knowledge, but when a good chunk of the field has never even heard of the answer line, its "accessibility" becomes an issue.

EDIT: I was pretty much just beaten to my point.
Maybe I should've quoted the point of Charlie's I was referring to, but here it is, for clarity's sake:
Setting at 1/1 the amount of social science and world literature is a bad idea, since they are topics that good teams are disproportionately good at not because they have a breadth of askable topics and inherent importance in the lives of high schoolers that obviously justifies them being asked about at the same rate as painting or american history, but rather because they study them solely for quizbowl.
I was trying to refute the idea that top teams are good at world lit because they "study [it] solely for quizbowl," and I think you seem to agree with me on that point.

This discussion has made me think: is there really such thing as "regular difficulty" at the high school level? It seems like, in the past, there was a larger spectrum of difficulties at the high school level, running from NAQT IS-sets on the lower end to HFT 2008 (at least, the regular HFT 08 rounds, not the weird ADV ones) on the higher end. It may be that I played HFT 08 as a sophomore and HFT 10 as a senior, but it seems like that set, along with others like Prison Bowl, have decreased in difficulty (tending toward HSAPQ difficulty level) such that there are no higher-difficulty high school sets before nationals anymore. And sure, you could make the argument that top high school teams should play college tournaments if they want harder questions, but it seems to me there should be at least one tournament a year (before nationals) where the top teams can play on challenging high school questions.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Sun Nov 14, 2010 11:26 pm

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:
Cernel Joson wrote:If you're genuinely confused about why World Lit is harder, it's because there isn't really much of it that's truly easy, and you get to some relatively hard stuff pretty soon.
While I do agree that world lit is converted less frequently (and then ought probably to be called "harder"), I think it's important to point out that the above sort of reasoning is both a bit tautological and prevalent in quizbowl reasoning.
Fair enough; that was pretty poor phrasing on my part.

What I meant: there are certainly some easy works of world literature that you can point out and that people do read, so at first glance, it may not seem like the category is all that hard. However, taking a broader view, there are many more works of British and American literature that can be converted acceptably, while you run out of that kind of author pretty quickly in the world literature category.

Better?
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Cheynem » Sun Nov 14, 2010 11:27 pm

I am not sure as to the utility of a tournament written for the top teams to play each other on before nationals. Is it really that great to write a tournament for like 2-3 teams in attendance? Unless you're imagining some proto pre nationals tournament that is different than the THREE national tournaments already in existence for high school?
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Frater Taciturnus » Sun Nov 14, 2010 11:32 pm

Personally, as both a writer and a moderator, I just don't believe that there are more than 12-16 world literature questions at a time (if even that much) that can be acceptably well-written while maintaining anything resembling acceptable levels of conversion.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Auroni » Sun Nov 14, 2010 11:51 pm

Do the following: For every 1/1 world literature that gets put into housewrites these days, make only 0.25/0.25 or 0.5/0.5 on Non-Western, Non-English-language lit and use the rest of the category to write more Brit Lit/American Lit/Euro Lit/Misc Lit questions.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by David Riley » Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:16 pm

Interesting discussion here. While I accept Charlie's basic premise, I accept many of the other points here because despite the effots of ex-President Bush and President Obama,and (ahem) the State of Texas, high school curricula vary widely throughout the country. Many of us are unaware of the differnces, and I'm only aware of them because a large part of an ed class I took was spent reviewing curricula of different public school districts and private schools across the country.

Here in Illinois, a respected coach used to always advise his team "literature wins matches" because few outside of the top students in this state seem to know literature at all, even fake knowledge (I was aghast when a tossup and a bonus on The Great Gatsby went dead at two tournaments within the last five years). Another coach once told a colleague of mine "We need more academic questions....like vocational education". So I doubt if we will ever reach any consensus on this issue.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:56 pm

The catch though is that, while we can argue about regional differences in curricula, there are none of those regional differences that lead to high schools in some areas regularly teaching something like anthropology. World literature, as well, is not taught a whole lot in any area's curricula (and as noted above, lots of what is taught is wildly variant). We should not be fully beholden to any curriculum, but these topics don't even seem to apply to arguments relating to curriculum because they aren't a standard part of almost any curriculum.

Instead, the reason these topics trickled into quizbowl is pretty obvious. During the last 4 years a lot of players figured out that college quizbowl has a lot of really enjoyable aspects and that by emulating it you will improve a lot more. Also, the NAQT sets being produced at the time were really plagued by some bad writing, and HSAPQ didn't exist, so without a whole lot of guidance on how to proceed, a lot of us decided to go whole hog and emulate everything about college quizbowl. This obviously was in general a good thing, because now the average housewrite is infinitely better than it was in 2004, and it also led to some things like the incredibly swift demise of computation tossups in all but NAQT, not to mention the incredible increase in skill we've seen from teams because of college quizbowl. The problem though was that I think a lot of us didn't know the full implications of fully emulating college quizbowl, as opposed to picking the parts of it that really do work well for high school and then ditching the rest. Bringing in the college sized social science and world literature distributions, which are topics that people have a ton more opportunities to learn about in a real way in college, ended up not working out in my opinion. This is generally the reason some sets are written too hard as well, since people started evaluating clues relative to how they might look in an easy college packet and not relative to how they look to a regular high school field.

There needs to be something of a backlash against pure emulation of college quizbowl, which reducing these distributions is part of. I think somewhere along the line a lot of people lost track of the fact that high school quizbowl is, in certain fundamental ways that don't only have to do with easy answer lines, going to be different than college quizbowl. Fortunately HSAPQ and some other tournament producers are getting it.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by David Riley » Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:59 pm

True, we teach world lit as a separate senior course and some world lit is included in our freshman classes, but I agree few schools seems to do so, and in our examination (we looked at a representative 50 schools) we saw no one that taught anthropology.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Dresden_The_BIG_JERK » Mon Nov 15, 2010 3:44 pm

The issue, as always, is how closely a distribution should adhere to a curriculum. But if we want the two to at least be kinda-sorta friends, perhaps it would be advantageous to compile a sort of cross-section of curricula from across the nation. For example, my high school did have sociology, foreign novels read in foreign language classes, and a semester of O-Chem in Chem 2, but did not have classes in world lit, art history, music history or psychology.
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Re: Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty

Post by Kyle » Mon Nov 15, 2010 4:10 pm

It's worth pointing out, as long as we're talking about world literature not being part of high school curricula, that Chinua Achebe is over-represented precisely because Things Fall Apart is part of lots of high school curricula. Not all high schools, certainly, or even most -- but disproportionately many of them. Things Fall Apart has been deemed by certain educators an African novel accessible to high school students. As a result, when you're creating your curriculum and you need Africa to be represented, that's what you choose. I think it's rather an analogous phenomenon to the idea that Their Eyes Were Watching God is an accessible answer choice in high school quizbowl. Somebody somewhere was figuring out what to assign in a high school American literature course and needed a novel by an African-American female, but the most famous one involved bestiality and the second most famous one involved FGM, whereas Their Eyes Were Watching God was a much safer choice. I am sensitive to this issue in part because the overrepresentation of these two books in American quizbowl has become a running joke among certain teammates who received their secondary education in a country where those books are never assigned (in fact, just last week a Canadian was complaining about the frequency with which Achebe comes up, although I couldn't tell you what is or is not read in Canadian high schools). I mention this because I think it's naive to assume that the literature canon, even the world literature canon, bears little relationship to high school curricula; in many cases, I believe that quizbowl is quite directly influenced by common high school curricula. It's just that those curricula aren't anywhere close to universal.
Kyle Haddad-Fonda
Harvard '09
Oxford '13

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