Quizbowl and the curriculum

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Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by Matt Weiner » Sun Jun 14, 2009 10:34 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:I think the argument that high school quizbowl needs to be solidly grounded in the high school curriculum is both logical and correct; however, I would characterize board consensus as this: "There are lots of skills in the high school curriculum that are not tested by quizbowl. Computational math is easier to convert into quizbowl or a quizbowl-like entity than, say, studio art or English composition. However, computation tossups are still likely to be bad quizbowl for the reasons outlined in all the other threads about this topic."
Aside from the math calculation issue, I disagree with the premise.

It's always seemed to me that a major point of quizbowl is to offer interested students a way to access material that is not taught in most curricula. Very few schools, for example, will offer classes on the history of art, music, or literature, yet those three subjects combined are 20% of the NAQT distribution and something like 35% of ACF-inspired distributions. Also, nearly everything in the first half of a tossup or the hard part of a bonus is extracurricular. Limiting ourselves to what even the best high school programs teach would produce a very, very narrow canon and very constricted game for most quizbowl teams, and I'd suggest that we not waste the time and expense necessary to actually play such tournaments and instead just compare report cards.

The fact that gym does not comprise an eighth of the distribution, the fact that we all agree driver's ed questions are bad, the fact that we ask about European history beyond "the French Revolution was a thing that happened true/false"--all of these are evidence that no high school quizbowl tournament in history has ever really believed that high school quizbowl should be tied to the high school curriculum.
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by Important Bird Area » Sun Jun 14, 2009 10:39 pm

Yeah, I didn't mean "tied to the curriculum" in the sense that would produce absurd stuff like gym tossups. I just meant that for regular-season high school events, most "extra-curricular" material should be in the leadins and the hard parts of bonuses. (Because asking "too much" material that your field can't be expected to know, for whatever values of both "too much" and "your field," produces tons of dead tossups and bonuses that no team at a tournament can earn more than 10 points on; and those outcomes are bad quizbowl because they produce games that are unpleasant to play and produce erratic results.)
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by BuzzerZen » Sun Jun 14, 2009 10:49 pm

I think an important footnote to the above is that "what high school curricula cover" can indeed be used as a partial metric for difficulty in some areas. Every 9th or 10th grader taking high school chemistry is going to learn what Avogadro's number is. Quizbowl favorites like the Diels-Alder reaction, not so much. Topics specified on AP curricula are also somewhat more likely to be broadly known than the average randomly-selected college-level answer-line.

The distinction is that curricula (in the few instances where you can somewhat count on a widely-applicable commonality) are useful to determine what is easy rather than what should be asked about at all. And for all of this, I would guess that high school quizbowl is probably somewhat more in sync with high school curricula now than it was 4 or 5 years ago, when the high school canon was less well-established than it is now and there was a widespread tendency amongst the producers of house-written high school sets (such as the ones I was responsible for) to write questions on pretty much whatever.
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by Matt Weiner » Sun Jun 14, 2009 10:53 pm

BuzzerZen wrote:The distinction is that curricula (in the few instances where you can somewhat count on a widely-applicable commonality) are useful to determine what is easy rather than what should be asked about at all.
This is true.

Jeff, my point is that, while we can use the "extracurricular material goes in the hard part of the question" guideline to some extent for something like history or science, since everyone takes history and science classes, we have to go completely outside to ask, for example, a music question or a literature question. Almost no one takes a class on the history of music in high school, and while people read a few things (a miniscule sample of things, by quizbowl standards) in their "English" classes, no one takes a survey of the history of literature either. We assume that reasonably intelligent people have a reason to know who Robert Schumann and Carson McCullers are even if they aren't required to do so for a class, because evidence has shown that this is a reasonable assumption to make, and because without it, we couldn't fill 15 packets for even one tournament a year.
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by theMoMA » Sun Jun 14, 2009 11:33 pm

I think this actually ties in nicely with the thread about science textbooks that's going on in the collegiate system. Basically, like textbooks in college, high school curriculum can give you an idea of what is important and could be asked about. But we have to separate curriculum as a useful reference from curriculum as the basis of quizbowl, because questions that reward learning things from a certain source, in a certain progression, etc. are not what quizbowl is about.
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by Important Bird Area » Mon Jun 15, 2009 12:03 am

Matt Weiner wrote:we have to go completely outside to ask, for example, a music question or a literature question. Almost no one takes a class on the history of music in high school, and while people read a few things (a miniscule sample of things, by quizbowl standards) in their "English" classes, no one takes a survey of the history of literature either.
So, what should this mean for discussion about high school distribution? It seems logical to argue from the above, for instance, that many high school players will spend as much class time studying literature as studying history or science; but that their knowledge will occur in a different pattern as a result. (Because the history or science course is a survey imparting basic knowledge across a number of subfields; while the English class instead focuses on close study of a limited number of specific works, and furthermore the quizbowl canon may do an imperfect job of identifying and testing those works.) Is it reasonable to therefore claim that literature should have a lesser share of the high school distribution than literature or science?
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by theMoMA » Mon Jun 15, 2009 12:10 am

Quizbowl rightly makes the assumption that it is testing for things that have some abstract value of academic importance. It's certainly possible to reinforce curriculum taught in class through quizbowl, but basing importance on whether things come up in the average English class is not what quizbowl strives to do.
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Re: Georgia 2009-2010

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Mon Jun 15, 2009 12:26 am

jrbarry wrote:And all high school quiz bowl should start, content-wise, with what is typically taught in high schools in the US.
What about PE?

EDIT: Mods, could you please move this? I did not see the separate thread.
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Jun 15, 2009 12:27 am

Yeah; I think there's a point where you must concede that high school quizbowl will be more difficult in some subjects than others when presented for the first time to a freshman with zero intellectual curiosity--one who doesn't do anything outside the curriculum and so has read each of the six books he has been asked to read every year in middle school, plus taken three history and science courses (for example). We don't suppose that the high school novice canon is eighteen books, and not just because they're eighteen different books for everyone. Instead, we concede that high school novices might each get fewer lit tossups, but the subject is no more inherently inaccessible than any other to someone with some intellectual curiosity. And since only people with that curiosity will stick with or enjoy the game, it's little skin off our backs, right?
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by Deviant Insider » Mon Jun 15, 2009 7:52 am

I don't think that lit and fine arts is more difficult only for freshmen with no intellectual curiosity--it's more difficult for the majority (though not all) of people new to the game at any age. Even for experienced teams, lit specialists are often in demand.

Also, there already is some difference in the distribution. States that try to tie the distribution to time spent in class make Social Studies (including History, Geography, Politics, Economics, Social Science, and a few other things) a category given equal weight with Literature and Science. Those states are becoming a minority--giving History the same weight as Literature and Science actually gives more weight to Social Studies over the other two.

There also is a big difference in the canon size. If you are writing questions at IS level or easier, then you have to be very careful about which authors and artists you ask about--the two categories combined probably have about 500 potential academic tossup answers that are going to surpass 75% conversion rates among regular teams. With history, the canon is bigger because we expect students to have a decent knowledge of the subject even if they learned pretty much all they know from sitting in class and reading their textbooks.

The problem with changing the distribution is that when you de-emphasize subjects, then you don't encourage students to study them. I think Fine Arts is already at that level in the NAQT distribution, so you'll rarely hear a student leaving an NAQT tournament thinking that it's time to learn more about famous artists and composers. The reason NAQT gives for its distribution has some validity--in that category, you tend to repeat a lot of the same answers at each tournament and still get lower conversion--but there is a downside to it.
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by First Chairman » Mon Jun 15, 2009 8:09 am

My opinions: I'll agree that the shift is drastic in that previous to the 2000's, I think we were of the mindset (and to an extent I like to still think I align with the opinion) that you did have to limit yourself to the AP curricular topics as a ceiling, knowing that many high schoolers do NOT have AP/IB curricula. On the other hand, I also see that there are many players for which this ceiling is very limiting in terms of literature. For a national championship though, the limits don't need to be there so much.

The concern I have is that there are more schools that have very little access or guidance (by coaches or librarians or whoever) to knowing where to start when it comes to going beyond what is in the high school curriculum. I say that from Decathlon experience, which develops a yearly curriculum for its competitions. Granted, I'd never advocate a detailed curricular guide for quiz bowl because the "research" part of Decathlon was minimized. I see that what is going to happen is that the complaints will change from "the questions are too long" to "the answers are too obscure." And I absolutely agree that when they basically relegated science into their Super Quiz section, it really minimized any interest in studying anything related to science (pure or applied) in my opinion.
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Mon Jun 15, 2009 12:34 pm

At the same time that quizbowl shouldn't be bound specifically to the amount of time spent per subject in a given high-school curriculum, it's important to note that the high school canon has to be limited in some way - basically, to what intellectually curious high-schoolers might know from classes in academic subjects or from interested, real knowledge on the outside. Obviously, leadins and third-parts (and by extension, second clues and second parts when appropriate) can be mostly or entirely extracurricular if they are to determine the high-schooler with the best knowledge of a given subject, but that doesn't mean answer selection should be based in anything other than what high-schoolers are likely to have learned. Classes and curricula should be neither discounted outright nor given more weight than the amount they deserve.

In this way, someone who didn't read "The Jungle" in class can still buzz when there's a tossup on it if they've heard of it from outside experience, someone who has read "The Jungle" can first-line it against another person who's read "The Jungle" but didn't read as closely, and someone else who would otherwise never get to read "The Jungle" can look it up, thinking "Hey, this is kind of important! I think I should learn about it, and maybe read it sometime." Which, I think, is pretty close to the kind of game that good writers have aimed towards for a while now.
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by at your pleasure » Mon Jun 15, 2009 7:31 pm

The biggest problem with curriculum-centric quizbowl is not even the relationship between "taught in high school" and "academic importance"; it is the fact that even if we institute a 5/5 "social studies", 5/5 intro science, 5/5 mathcomp, and 5/5 foreign language distribution we'd still run out of things to ask about by the third or fourth tournament, if not sooner.
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by Sir Thopas » Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:44 pm

Shcool wrote:I don't think that lit and fine arts is more difficult only for freshmen with no intellectual curiosity--it's more difficult for the majority (though not all) of people new to the game at any age. Even for experienced teams, lit specialists are often in demand.
What does that mean? Anything specialists are always in demand; science specialists far more so than lit, and students in high school learn a lot of science.
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by Deviant Insider » Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:43 pm

I guess my latter sentence is a bit iffy, because you are correct that different specialists are in demand.

As to my first sentence, if you take a look at the first couple of HSAPQ packets, just as an example, I see tossup answers like Paz, Goya, Haydn, and Taming of the Shrew that all quizbowlers know but that somebody new to quizbowl likely does not. The science tossup answers are all things that students should learn just by staying awake in their 7th and 8th grade science classes.

I know that none of the answers is close to obscure. If you play in an orchestra for a few years, then you're probably going to get some exposure to Haydn, though it is hit-or-miss whether you will perform one of the symphonies mentioned in the question. Taming of the Shrew is performed often and has influenced lots of other works. However, a lot of bright people know nothing at all about these subjects. People read books about a lot of different things, and they often never learn anything about Mexican poets, even a very significant Mexican poet.
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by Kouign Amann » Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:47 pm

If you stay awake in the modern world, chock full of culture as it is, you're bound to learn about Paz, Goya, Haydn, and Taming of the Shrew.
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by evilmonkey » Tue Jun 16, 2009 3:47 pm

Prof.Whoopie wrote:If you stay awake in the modern world, chock full of culture as it is, you're bound to learn about Paz, Goya, Haydn, and Taming of the Shrew.
I disagree - my parents stressed education and cultural awareness, and I went to one of the top academic schools in Indiana, and I am reasonably intelligent, and yet I would not have learned about Paz or Goya in high school without quizbowl. This isn't to say that Paz and Goya shouldn't be asked; I'm merely pointing out that your conception of cultural awareness is above that of certain regions of the country; those same regions are those that, as Dr. Chuck pointed, tend to be unaware how to broaden their horizons (or, in poorer areas, lack the resources to adequately do so). My point, therefore, is that defining the canon as "things you should know if you stay awake" is insufficient for certain regions.
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Re: Quizbowl and the curriculum

Post by Kouign Amann » Tue Jun 16, 2009 5:02 pm

evilmonkey wrote:
Prof.Whoopie wrote:If you stay awake in the modern world, chock full of culture as it is, you're bound to learn about Paz, Goya, Haydn, and Taming of the Shrew.
My point, therefore, is that defining the canon as "things you should know if you stay awake" is insufficient for certain regions.
Of course. I'm just pointing out that really, who's to say what's harder for someone outside quizbowl to know? "Staying awake" constitutes different things for different people. These different regions of the country all have different standards. That's why the quizbowl canon isn't completely curriculum-based. If it were, there would be great disparities country-wide. This is why we have these discussions in a central location - to standardize quizbowl in an attempt at giving everyone a shot, regardless of the vagaries of the education system. Not everyone can go to a different school or take different classes; however, anyone can pull up the packet archive and learn the canon.
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