Decency Requirement in Quizbowl Questions

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Decency Requirement in Quizbowl Questions

Post by DumbJaques »

I'd be very interested in getting everyone's views on what the "rating" of the questions in a tournament should be. Are there (un)written rules for questions in terms of langauge, context, etc.? Let's face it, there are some sketchy facts about just about everything, no matter how academic it is (unless you're an organic chemistry major, I guess then things wouldn't get much better than hot, dipole on dipole attraction). But really, really bad jokes aside, what does everyone think? I have been accused (extremely deservedly) of creating packets which were about as close to the line as you could go. And clearly, a bonus on "name that profane word!" is excessive, but what falls just this side of decent? Example: My coach was somewhat dubious of an osiris tossup which described the misplacement of his phallus. I personally felt this to be a valid and entertaining part of the Osiris myth, and really can't see how it would offend anyone. But that was hardly the worst question in that packet.

Anyway, I'd be interested to hear what you think. And no, this post is not related to Walter Johnson's decision to run its first player-written tournament this fall.[/i]
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Post by dtaylor4 »

Of course profanity should be used in the correct context , but the bonus on "name that profane word" would suit some, but offend others, obviously. Questions about genitalia should remain under the anatomy/physiology or health areas, imo. Also, the phrasing of questions about history, especially about politicians, NEVER should indicate any bias of the question writer.
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Post by bigtrain »

DumbJacques wrote:And no, this post is not related to Walter Johnson's decision to run its first player-written tournament this fall.
HA HA HA Chris...Our coach has already denied my request to add a question on Rasputin's giant member and its residency in a Russian museum among other topics considered "inappropriate." Be prepared though, unbeknownst to our coach, we are considering adding a visual question on a harlequin fetus.
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Post by jrbarry »

My players who have written questions for our tournaments always try to get some innuendo into the Brookwood tournaments questions. I try to avoid it.
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Post by quizbowllee »

This is actually a subject that I was already thinking about posting...

A tournament we played in earlier had a tossup where the Andy Warhol film "Blowjob" came up as a clue (the answer being "Andy Warhol"). There were a few people who said that that was inappropriate... But it certainly didn't bother me.

While playing in college, I heard questions ranging from "Debbie Does Dallas" to more than one very obscene bonus involving specifics of both male and female sex organs. I don't think that those should be asked in high school, but it was funny in college.

That being said, I also don't think that a bonus on genitalia should be excluded from a high school tournament if it is written maturely and isn't vulgar.

As a coach, I would not have a problem with a student writing about - say - Priapus being a mythological being with a large phallus. However, I would edit it and chastise a student if he/she used more vulgar terms (ie - for 10 points identify this mythological being with an enormous...)...
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Post by First Chairman »

That's an interesting question. In college, we like to include a bit of a "shock" factor :shock: to lighten up the game at times. In trash, heck yeah, we probably are much more risque (honest, that's a direct quote from the movie!).

Among those of us who deal with HS-level ACADEMIC information, I do think we should be sensitive in our language when we do write questions. You don't ever want to put in insensitive language.

As for topics that might offend, .... okay there's no way one can "bleep" out a Freud question that would discuss the phallic stage. (Uses of FUBAR come to mind as well.) But one doesn't need to be obscene or graphic about it. Reproduction and scatology are part of the biology curriculum, and sexually transmitted diseases are taught under this context or sex-ed classes. Sorry... it happens. So if high school kids are expected to know this from a class or in an academic setting, it's fair game. Just don't be too cavalier or graphic.
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Post by Tegan »

I have only rarely encountered a question that I thought was out of line. Certainly context is important, as is pertinence to academia (the use of a phallus was instrumental in some Greek plays). And the use of proper anatomical terms should not be grounds for a coach to throw a fit.

I would have a problem with doing a "quotes from Pulp Fiction" bonus for those who are not legally allowed to see the film, or those who have only seen the highly edited version (yeah, I'm not naive, I know most of us have seen Pulp Fiction, and its one of the best written films I have ever seen). I think that has to be left for the college ranks.

I have known moderators who withdrew questions that they considered vulgar or politically slanted, but in those cases I think they cut too much. I like Dr. Chuck's idea: if it is taught in the high school classroom, its legal.
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Post by Howard »

bigtrain wrote:HA HA HA Chris...Our coach has already denied my request to add a question on [upcoming tournament material] among other topics considered "inappropriate." Be prepared though, unbeknownst to our coach, we are considering adding a visual question on a [more upcoming tournament material].
You should not be discussing your tournament questions and their topics here until after the tournament has occurred for obvious reasons.

Second, your coach may very well know now. If one of my students were to pull this stunt with me there'd be serious repercussions.

And lastly, more on topic, I'd want to fulfill two parameters. First, the question material must be reasonably academic and phrased academically. There'd be no use of profanity unless quoting or some similar obvious reason. Second, I'd want to consider the teams attending and whether they'd be offended. Not all teams share the same beliefs. It's important to consider the beliefs of others (as long as they're reasonable, and that, you must decide).
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Post by iamsam »

Howard wrote:You should not be discussing your tournament questions and their topics here until after the tournament has occurred for obvious reasons.

Second, your coach may very well know now. If one of my students were to pull this stunt with me there'd be serious repercussions.
I believe he was joking, and seeing as it is a "player-written tournament" I believe he has the intelligence to not post topics that he is going to write questions on.
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Post by cdbarker »

Hello,

I rarely post opinions on this forum, but this topic is one that I have given a great deal of thought to, and since it has come up, here's my take.

I have always learned towards the notion of erring on the side of caution. It may not be popular, but I would rather make sure that I did not think anyone would be offended by my choices in my packet. As my old high school quiz bowl coach used to always remind us, there are limits to good taste, but there's no limit to bad taste.

Now, does this mean a Puritanical/G-rated approach to the game? Absolutely not. Dr. Chuck's suggestion of things that come up in a classroom setting in high school seems like a reasonable place to start. I will also suggest that asking the advice of several people if you're not sure is also prudent. Similarly, the notion of not asking about R-rated movies in a high school tournament setting until there is a form of said movie that can be watched in its edited form is a sound principle.

A lot of these things are in phrasing, both in the leaning away from the vulgar, but also leaning away from things that might be misconstrued. Just one more thing to consider as one re-reads their questions before sending them off.

All of that said, no system is perfect. I always end up being surprised over what people get upset by, so I use that experience to help me make better choices in the future. In the end, that's how I ended up feeling this way in the first place.
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Post by bigtrain »

Howard wrote:bigtrain wrote:
HA HA HA Chris...Our coach has already denied my request to add a question on [upcoming tournament material] among other topics considered "inappropriate." Be prepared though, unbeknownst to our coach, we are considering adding a visual question on a [more upcoming tournament material].


You should not be discussing your tournament questions and their topics here until after the tournament has occurred for obvious reasons.

Second, your coach may very well know now. If one of my students were to pull this stunt with me there'd be serious repercussions.
First of all, I do not intend to add any sort of visual questions to our tournament. Second, a picture of a harlequin fetus is more than enough to make me feel sick, and is far, far beyond any threshhold for decency of question content. Third, I would never ever reveal any content of the questions for the tournament we shall be running. Finally, if my coach disallowed me to include a question, I definately would not try to slip it past him knowing he'd end up seeing it during the game. I'm sorry my sarcasm wasn't evident in my original post.

I just wanted to add that we were playing a collegiate level packet in practice that featured a rather inappropriate tossup on "Boogy Nights." Luckily we were able to get it early enough to spare the younger players uncorrupted ears.
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Post by Howard »

bigtrain wrote:I'm sorry my sarcasm wasn't evident in my original post.
This is probably equally my fault for being too literal to figure it out. Sorry for misunderstanding.
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Post by Stained Diviner »

So far, we there have been mentions of a few gray areas--porno movies, which I personally would not want to see mentioned (though it would be OK to say that a certain nickname in the news lately came from a porno movie, and this is the only way I would consider it legit) and deity phalluses, which I would say is OK even though these things are usually left out when taught to pre-college students.

What about beer and/or cigarette brands, such as identify the commercial? What about identify the mixed drink? What about Wilt Chamberlain's off the court exploits? What about Allen Ginsberg's bisexuality? Ellen DeGeneres's lesbianness (if that is a word)? Is it OK to point out that some very successful people dropped out of high school or college? Rumors of JFK and Marilyn Monroe? Alice Walker had an abortion?

There are a lot of gray areas, and as a writer it is easy to avoid them if you want to. Do we want to? Is there some good to be gained by bringing these things up? If it's bad, then how bad is it?
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Post by Marcel Duchamp »

Every qb player I know is pretty dirty already, so I say the more profane the merrier.
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Post by NoahMinkCHS »

ReinsteinD wrote:What about beer and/or cigarette brands, such as identify the commercial? What about identify the mixed drink? What about Wilt Chamberlain's off the court exploits? What about Allen Ginsberg's bisexuality? Ellen DeGeneres's lesbianness (if that is a word)? Is it OK to point out that some very successful people dropped out of high school or college? Rumors of JFK and Marilyn Monroe? Alice Walker had an abortion?

There are a lot of gray areas, and as a writer it is easy to avoid them if you want to. Do we want to? Is there some good to be gained by bringing these things up? If it's bad, then how bad is it?
Sure, there are gray areas. But I think we can establish some sort of "line", and I think your examples provide a great way to mark it.

For example, the beer/cig brands and the mixed drink questions, to me, are obviously out of bounds for HS -- the question is about a topic that's illegal for most of the players (their knowledge of said topics is irrelevant). Even asking about the commercial should still be off-limits. (An analogy: Many schools' only restriction on student dress is clothes that promotes alcohol and tobacco.)

On the other hand, you have questions like the issue of a person's sexual orientation (or whatever the term is now). I think those are perfectly fair game, as long as a) the question isn't primarily about that (not as a matter of decency, just of... what a crappy question that would be.) and b) the question doesn't suffer for its inclusion. For example, for Ellen, Ginsburg, and Wilt (to a lesser degree), their sexuality is a major fact about their life. But don't overdo it or be gratuitous. And I think it shouldn't even be an issue if it's NOT something important for that person -- the mere fact that an actor is gay doesn't make it relevant, and again, this is an issue of bad questions, not indecent ones.

The same can be said of rumors -- would you include a non-sexual rumor in a question? I think many would, if they noted it as such, and I think the standard holds.

As for dropping out of school -- I don't think that's a problem at all. If someone were to criticize a Dave Thomas or Bill Gates question because it was a bad influence or something... they just need to get a life.

So here's my line: If the material in question is being used as part of a question on another topic, but is an important part of that topic, and doesn't take away from the question, include it (and have a good defense ready). If questionable material is THE answer or question, or is the ONLY significant part, or isn't significant at all and is being put in out of desire to shock or something otherwise not-quizbowl related... don't use it, or save it for college. :lol:
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Post by Chris Frankel »

Marcel Duchamp wrote:Every qb player I know is pretty dirty already, so I say the more profane the merrier.
I like your way of thinking, sir.
"They sometimes get fooled by the direction a question is going to take, and that's intentional," said Reid. "The players on these teams are so good that 90 percent of the time they could interrupt the question and give the correct answer if the questions didn't take those kinds of turns. That wouldn't be fun to watch, so every now and then as I design these suckers, I say to myself, 'Watch this!' and wait 'til we're on camera. I got a lot of dirty looks this last tournament."
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Post by Stained Diviner »

I agree with Noah. I guess that means that NAQT should avoid Heterosexual, Homosexual, Both, or Neither bonuses.

Some other gray areas: Poker and Birth Control

Here are some R Rated movies probably appropriate for HSQB: Ali, American Werewolf in Paris, Amistad, Beloved, Billy Elliot, Black Hawk Down, Blues Brothers, Braveheart, Catch 22, Chinatown, Conan The Barbarian, Die Hard, Dirty Harry, Enter The Dragon, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, ...
I have heard many of these come up in questions and have not thought twice about them.
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Post by Captain Sinico »

There are a couple points that need to be made here:

First of all, there's no legal reason that anyone can't see an R-rated movie. The ratings are seriously just suggestions that are voluntarily participated in by theaters. Realistically, they're not even strictly enforced at that level... so this is a baseless point. Please keep this in mind and don't act like younger people can't see R-rated movies; that's simply not the case.

Secondly, the following argument
NoahMinkCHS wrote:For example, the beer/cig brands and the mixed drink questions, to me, are obviously out of bounds for HS -- the question is about a topic that's illegal for most of the players (their knowledge of said topics is irrelevant). Even asking about the commercial should still be off-limits. (An analogy: Many schools' only restriction on student dress is clothes that promotes alcohol and tobacco.)
applies equally to pretty much any sex-based topic in at least the case of many high schoolers in many states (i.e. they cannot legally have sex due to various laws) yet sex is taught about in class. Of course, the argument also applies to a large number of other things that are acceptable topics. The key point is that there is nothing in any of these questions that necessitates having primary knowledge about the question subjects, and it should not be assumed otherwise. Therefore, I don't find this a compelling argument against such questions.

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Post by NoahMinkCHS »

Yeah, and students are also taught alcohol and drug awareness. But having the DARE program does not make questions about bongs acceptable.

Students are, at least in my experience, taught the biology of sex. So a question about genitalia should be fine, if done right -- it's biology, and shouldn't face any (or at least not much) more scrutiny than a question on pistils and stamens. But a question about ... well, no examples, but "certain practices", or even a sensational detail about someone's sexuality, would be unacceptable.

Perhaps the t-shirt point was a weak method of proof, but I was trying to show that school systems -- which generally sponsor HS quiz bowl teams -- have shown a disapproval of some topics, and -- if for no other reason than to prevent a backlash/loss of funding after a parent or administrator comes to a tournament -- we, too, should tread lightly there, when there's no plausible academic defense to fall back on.

For example, a question on the chemicals in alcohol or even THC should be fine (again, if done right). A question asking for the player to identify a cosmopolitan from ingredients isn't. (Though what if the drink was only one of many clues, including "women's magazine" and "adjective that means sophisticated"? Any thoughts?)
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Post by jewtemplar »

It kind of depends how puritanical a school system you are dealing with. I certainly don't think quiz bowl questions need to be a reflection of whatever societal norms are in effect, but if it means a loss of participation or funding it's just foolish to include potentially inflammatory content. I don't think illegality of an activity should bar content regarding it from quiz bowl questions. There are a lot of things in quiz bowl that people have no reason to know, and such taboo topics as already mentioned are not always the most suspect.
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Post by TheImpaler »

Marcel Duchamp wrote:Every qb player I know is pretty dirty already, so I say the more profane the merrier.
Agreed.

Then again, our shirts this year say "Too Sexy" in block print across the front, so I'm not exactly an unbiased voice.
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Post by winklerd »

I'm a little late on this thread, but I think you can talk about almost anything as long as you are able to do so in a professional and academic manner. There was a question at the NSC this past weekend while I was moderating htat dealt with a mythological character cutting open their phallus. There was also a question on Kleinfelter's syndrome, of which one of the big symptoms is smaller genitalia. (no pun intended, but it's funny, isn't it?) Sex is taught about as early as elementary school and again at multiple places in secondary education, and as much as devout puritanical-type people will try and deny it, it is a completely natural and essential part of life.

Obviously there are taboo subjects, but those are generally the ones you would be hard-pressed to find a way to talk about academically and/or professionally.
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Post by fluffy4102 »

E.T. Chuck wrote:That's an interesting question. In college, we like to include a bit of a "shock" factor :shock: to lighten up the game at times. In trash, heck yeah, we probably are much more risque (honest, that's a direct quote from the movie!).

Among those of us who deal with HS-level ACADEMIC information, I do think we should be sensitive in our language when we do write questions. You don't ever want to put in insensitive language.

As for topics that might offend, .... okay there's no way one can "bleep" out a Freud question that would discuss the phallic stage. (Uses of FUBAR come to mind as well.) But one doesn't need to be obscene or graphic about it. Reproduction and scatology are part of the biology curriculum, and sexually transmitted diseases are taught under this context or sex-ed classes. Sorry... it happens. So if high school kids are expected to know this from a class or in an academic setting, it's fair game. Just don't be too cavalier or graphic.
there's nothing wrong with the Freudian term "Penis Envy". Also there's nothing wrong about questions involving the male and female sex organs in a scientific context. However, if the reference is unecessary like as to point out some obscure reference to Rasputin's member or some mention of the female genitalia in a reference to the vestal virgins, such use would be pointless. It serves no ppurpose if such writing would occur. Quiz bowl isn't about genitalia or sexual innuendo, it's about knowledge and skill.
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