San Diego Academic League Dissected

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Eddie
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San Diego Academic League Dissected

Post by Eddie »

Alternate title: The Tenth Avatar of Lord Chipbeallshnu Incarnate

Cross-posted (if that exists here) from the Southern California Discussion 2012-2013 thread, Chris Chiego and I are writing a series of posts on SoCalQuizbowl.org detailing the various aspects of bad quizbowl via a case study of the ever-resilient bureaucracy of elderly men that is the San Diego Academic League. This series includes an introduction to the differences between good and bad quizbowl and a question-by-question analysis and commentary of several Academic League matches with video.

The first post details the aspects of bad quizbowl exemplified by the San Diego Academic League and how they can be fixed.
The second post is a question-by-question analysis and commentary of a match between Torrey Pines HS (T-21 at the 2012 HSNCT) and Canyon Crest Academy (T-21 at the 2012 HSNCT).
The third post is a question-by-question analysis and commentary of a match between San Dieguito Academy (an incipient quizbowl team as of April 2012) and La Costa Canyon HS (unaffiliated with quizbowl).
The fourth post is a question-by-question analysis and commentary of a match between Francis Parker HS (a team that has dabbled in good quizbowl) and Cathedral Catholic HS (a team that has dabbled very slightly in good quizbowl) and will be posted just as soon as YouTube finishes uploading my video and we do some edits.

Commentary, constructive criticism, and pointing others to this series as an explanation of good v. bad quizbowl is much appreciated. If you just want to watch games of hilariously bad quizbowl, that's fine, too.
Eddie Kim
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conquerer7
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Re: San Diego Academic League Dissected

Post by conquerer7 »

These questions are indeed terrible and your post is a good thing, and I agree with everything in the 1st post. I'm going to throw out some constructive criticism, though.

You might want to be careful... from my perspective, sometimes it seemed you tried a bit too hard to find something wrong with a question. There's something wrong with almost all of them -- but some of the stuff you pointed out as flaws aren't really, well, legitimate flaws, or also appear in "good quizbowl". I can well imagine people inside this system, the writers and the loyal teams, looking at some of the things you wrote and saying "what kind of complaint is that? he's just saying things."

For example, you complain about a question associating Zoroastrianism with Persia, because the date range is wide. I'm pretty sure nobody would say "the civilization that was in that area in the 60th century B.C.", unless they wanted to make a scene. You do that a few times, calling a question "extremely vague" when nobody would ever say your alternate answer unless they were being purposely dense.

Several times, you complain about math bonuses being too easy (e.g. bonus 4, post 3; bonus 33, post 3), when they're as hard as a standard NAQT math bonus. You also complain about things that are "insignificant trivia" being used as clues; if I had a nickel for every time I heard a science tossup with stuff just as insignificant in it... (also you complain about trash at one point as 'not academic', though it seems that the trash distro in this thing is actually less than that of an IS set)
Bonus 42: “Answer the following questions about the literary work A Separate Peace. First, who is the author? Second, name the athletic hero. Third, name the narrator. And fourth, what was the nature of the accident which crippled one of the characters?”
Answer: John Knowles, Finny or Phineas, Gene Forrester, falling from a tree
Again, there is no difficulty gradient.
This has the exact same kind of difficulty gradient you'd see in a normal quizbowl bonus. Author, main character, major character, plot detail.

Finally, you complain about a lot of math questions as just involving "memorizing formulas". I think this is an attitude that pervades good quizbowl a bit too much. You can do pretty well, in quizbowl, by memorizing the names of various generalizations and special cases of a formula, without ever knowing what the formula is. That's a bad thing, not a good thing, because instead of having people memorizing formulas, we now have people that don't know them at all. If our coach, a math teacher, read this a few years ago (before he was introduced to pyramidal), I'm sure he would have scoffed every time you made that comment, with something like "these people don't like actually doing math!"

I'm going to repeat that your post is a good thing, I agree with the vast majority of it, and, before people start replying angrily, I'm not claiming these questions are any good. But the point isn't preaching to the choir...
Kevin Zhou
High Technology High School '13 (Co-Captain)

Eddie
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Re: San Diego Academic League Dissected

Post by Eddie »

conquerer7 wrote:You might want to be careful... from my perspective, sometimes it seemed you tried a bit too hard to find something wrong with a question. There's something wrong with almost all of them -- but some of the stuff you pointed out as flaws aren't really, well, legitimate flaws, or also appear in "good quizbowl". I can well imagine people inside this system, the writers and the loyal teams, looking at some of the things you wrote and saying "what kind of complaint is that? he's just saying things."
That's certainly true. I suppose part of it stems from my not wanting to leave empty space beneath questions, and a lot of the time being extremely nitpicky is just a form of catharsis from exposure to Academic League's format for several years. But you definitely bring up a good point, and highlighting the extremely minor and insignificant things devalues some of the bigger errors. I'll go through when I have time and work on emphasizing some of the really big issues with their questions.
conquerer7 wrote:I'm pretty sure nobody would say "the civilization that was in that area in the 60th century B.C.", unless they wanted to make a scene. You do that a few times, calling a question "extremely vague" when nobody would ever say your alternate answer unless they were being purposely dense.
Heh, again, years of pent-up rage will do that to you.
conquerer7 wrote:Several times, you complain about math bonuses being too easy (e.g. bonus 4, post 3; bonus 33, post 3), when they're as hard as a standard NAQT math bonus.
I don't have any experience with NAQT's math distribution, as we generally skip computation, so my metric of judging computation difficulty is probably screwed up, but I still think it's ridiculous for a varsity-level (high-school juniors and seniors!) competition to have two bonus parts on determining whether A, B, C, 1, 3, and 5 are even numbers, and then being able to count to eight.

Looking at Bonus 33 (inflection point - acceleration - asymptote), I didn't say anything about it being too easy, but at the time I felt that all three parts where in the medium-to-hard difficulty range. Looking back, though, the question seems fine. I'll go and edit that.
conqueror7 wrote:You also complain about things that are "insignificant trivia" being used as clues; if I had a nickel for every time I heard a science tossup with stuff just as insignificant in it... (also you complain about trash at one point as 'not academic', though it seems that the trash distro in this thing is actually less than that of an IS set)
I'm personally against trash of any kind in regular quizbowl tournaments, but that's a different issue altogether, and the Academic League distribution is really hard to judge because it honestly varies wildly from match to match. As for the "insignificant trivia" bit, I disagree completely. The Eric Blair clue really is insignificant and it doesn't have anything to do with the merit of Orwell's works. I don't think I've seen anything like that in a science tossup, but if you have examples, I'd love to compare them.
conquerer7 wrote:
Bonus 42: “Answer the following questions about the literary work A Separate Peace. First, who is the author? Second, name the athletic hero. Third, name the narrator. And fourth, what was the nature of the accident which crippled one of the characters?”
Answer: John Knowles, Finny or Phineas, Gene Forrester, falling from a tree
Again, there is no difficulty gradient.
This has the exact same kind of difficulty gradient you'd see in a normal quizbowl bonus. Author, main character, major character, plot detail.
Quizbowl bonuses in my experience don't all tend to focus on a single work and its details, requiring players to have expert knowledge of the work to get even a single part. From a random ACF Fall packet from last year:
2012 ACF Fall - Buffalo - Bonus 5 wrote: 5. This character’s wife, Serena Joy, secretly suspects he is sterile. For 10 points each:
[10] Identify this character, a high-ranking official who illegally plays Scrabble with Offred.
ANSWER: the Commander [prompt on “Fred”]
[10] The Commander and Offred are characters in this dystopian novel set in the Republic of Gilead.
ANSWER: The Handmaid’s Tale
[10] This female Canadian author of The Handmaid’s Tale has also written Oryx and Crake and The Blind Assassin.
ANSWER: Margaret Atwood
Okay, now that I look over this bonus, I guess they kind of do. I suppose you could get the first part of the AL bonus from association/memorization/whatever, but you would need to have read the work to get the other three, and in this bonus, you would need to have read the work or at least be familiar with it to get the first 20 points.
Eddie Kim
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local lad, no major affiliations

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