Biography

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theMoMA
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Biography

Post by theMoMA »

Why is science biography taboo yet lit and art bio is the norm, especially for leadins?

I'd like to see more questions in a works-based format, especially artist tossups that describe details from (not just list) more than one painting.
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Post by rchschem »

I had no idea science biography was taboo. We have a fair amount of it in our tournament, and I recall hearing such questions at various other sites. Am I missing something?

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Post by BuzzerZen »

In your average science class, the lives and personal histories of Isaac Newton, Ernest Rutherford, and Francis Crick get a lot less coverage than gravitation, atomic physics, and DNA. Science biography does not necessarily reward people for knowing anything about science. On the other hand, art and lit bio work because they are usually more along the lines of "artist/author from works" than a biography. Personally, I think bio questions in general should be greatly outnumbered by questions on scientific principles, artworks, and books.
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Post by rchschem »

I see this as narrowing the "canon" too much.

Are we to limit what is asked only to what is to be nominally expected of an average high school teacher in a typical class? Doesn't this create an inherent disadvantage for students who come from schools with lame teachers? Is there not to be any incentive for students to go out and learn more than what they hear in class? I know TJ doesn't use this as a guideline for question writing.

You are certainly right in suggesting that biographies are overused when there are plenty of good concept/movement/technique questions out there untapped. But I would say that this is inverted in science. Many more questions are currently asked about concepts/techniques/discoveries but little about the people involved, which many would argue is as important to the progress of science as the environment of discovery. Certainly where someone is born is usually useless or too easy a clue ("physicist from New Zealand', eg.) or otherwise requires no knowledge of science, but there are lots of other juicy aspects of the character that could be addressed.

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Post by DumbJaques »

For an artist, where he/she studied, under whom that studying occurred, and certain details from their lives are incredibly significant to their work. And, not that this should inherently correspond to askability, but such details are usually heavily covered in classes. Likewise, most authors have formative life experiences and influences that can go in "lit bio" tossups. I would argue that this is more like asking a question about Gibbs by describing his contributions to various fields rather than what date he was born, where he went to school, etc. It's the relevance of the facts you put in the question, not the inherent nature of the question itself as "biography." I actually dislike the growing movement away from lit biography in mACF style, although the current model for writing author questions does lend itself to pyramidality quite well. I would imagine though that anyone whose life merits asking about in quizbowl has some "biographical details" that are quite significant and could be placed in a quizbowl question.
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Post by Tegan »

DumbJaques wrote:For an artist, where he/she studied, under whom that studying occurred, and certain details from their lives are incredibly significant to their work.
Thica can also be the case with scientists, but I would agree not to the extent of artists, composers, and writers.

I don't have so much of a problem with biographies here, but, like with anything else, not to excess. I would have a problem if 3/4 lit quesitons or 2/3 art questions were "Name the artist/writer" when there are so many other topics.
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Post by Stained Diviner »

For most questions about scientists, writers, and artists, I prefer to have questions that focus on their accomplishments. For scientists, it is also appropriate to refer to stuff that is named after them. Occasional biographical references to other things are OK, but it makes for a better round if such references are rare (better as in more academic).

If certain biographical facts of an artist or writer had a direct impact on their works, then it is better to make the link explicit in the question than to just give the biographical facts.
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Post by theMoMA »

I'd much rather hear an art TU that describes multiple paintings, then goes on to name them as opposed to hearing biographical info with Gassed and Madame X thrown in without any description.

Similarly, I feel like a TU on Fitzgerald rewards knowledge of him much better if it starts out with "He described the struggle of laundry business owner Dexter Green to choose between Irene Scheerer and the beautiful Judy Jones in a short story about Dexter's dashed Winter Dreams," than "He married the daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court judge who was, in his own words, the "top girl" of the Montgomery social circle."

There's nothing wrong with some biographical information, and I don't want to suggest writers should never use it. But it seems that the majority of artist and writer TUs use biographical leadins, which places undue emphasis on biographical clues and places biographical knowledge wrongly over knowledge of works.

I should note that this criticism was sparked from reading old ACF Fall packets, not the Cvijanovic/novice tournament packets.
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Post by Strongside »

Speaking of the percieved lack of science biography questions in some formats, I looked over the packets I played at ACF Regionals at Chicago this year and I failed to find a single tossups where the answer was a scientist.

I am only taking into account the 11 packets I played and I didn't look through the 6 or so packets I didn't play carefully enough to see if there were tossups about a scientist.
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Post by MLWMathStar »

theMoMA wrote:Similarly, I feel like a TU on Fitzgerald rewards knowledge of him much better if it starts out with [blah] than "He married the daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court judge who was, in his own words, the "top girl" of the Montgomery social circle."
Someone who knows a lot about Fitzgerald can connect the second clue to Daisy Buchanan in the Great Gatsby, a character inspired by his wife, so I think it is fairly legitimate. I know if I heard that clue I'd be thinking of him.
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Post by theMoMA »

MLWMathStar wrote:
theMoMA wrote:Similarly, I feel like a TU on Fitzgerald rewards knowledge of him much better if it starts out with [blah] than "He married the daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court judge who was, in his own words, the "top girl" of the Montgomery social circle."
Someone who knows a lot about Fitzgerald can connect the second clue to Daisy Buchanan in the Great Gatsby, a character inspired by his wife, so I think it is fairly legitimate. I know if I heard that clue I'd be thinking of him.
But what do we want to be rewarding with the leadin...knowledge of works or lateral thinking on biographical clues? I much prefer the former.
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Post by Matt Weiner »

I think the point is that if it's a part of the author's background that informed his writing, it's not biography-in-a-vacuum at all, but rather the type of thing that one would, in fact, learn in an in-depth study of the book.

By the same token I should point out that such clues are not what usually appear in weaker, bio-oriented tossups on authors and, like "applied science" bonus parts, these clues should be used sparingly and only by more experienced writers, because there aren't a lot of them that are very good.
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