Moving up the difficulty ladder

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Gautam
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Moving up the difficulty ladder

Post by Gautam » Sun Mar 09, 2008 1:53 am

I played the Carleton Undergraduate Tournament today, with Trevor Davis, a team-mate of mine when we were at Eden Prairie High School. It was a fine tournament, and I had fun playing it. We had some great games, some close games, and some not so close games... but, that's what happens in quiz bowl. You know a bunch of the questions in some of the rounds, whereas you know very little of the stuff that comes up in the other rounds. I just wanted to re-live some HS memories at this tournament, and I thought it was fun to remember each other's playing quirks, see how we've improved/regressed as players, etc.

As I was playing this tournament, I found it necessary to reflect on my career so far. While playing in high school,I played several IS sets and some DII SCT sets. Over the summer, I played some ACF Fall and Illinois Novice questions. However, over the last six months I have also started playing more difficult sets like SCT/ICT sets, Penn Bowls, ACF Regionals, MLKs, Auspicious Incident, JS Mill, etc., which, though slightly more difficult, are equally fun to play on. Furthermore, over the past few months, I have also started to write questions for my team, both for packet submission events that we've attended, and for other tournaments we've/will be hosted/ing. I've been blessed to be on a good team where the folks are committed and are constantly trying to do their best for the club. There have also been some great tournaments I went to this year, and EFT and ACF Regionals were my favourite ones among them. It has been fun moving up the difficulty ladder, as it introduces one to exciting topics such as the works Giacomo Ball or the Zone of Proximal development, neither of which I'd ever heard of before January 2008.

What I did feel while playing today, though, was very different from how I've usually felt playing quiz bowl. CUT was played on IS-76 questions, and whatever you might call them, they're high school questions. I don't care who wrote the questions, or whether they were well written, but they are, and will remain to be high school questions. I mean, high school teams across the country will be playing this state for their "State Championships" or whatever, just as it happens with every other IS set. At best these questions are geared for people who are playing their very first games in collegiate QB, and even then, people should start moving up from this level quickly.

Let me elaborate on what I mean by "high school questions". I remember several instances where some really canonical literary work (at the collegiate level, may be not so canonical at the high school level) was mentioned in the very first line on a tossup on some author, which resulted in several buzzer races. Then there were some bonuses which were automatic 30s if you were awake. And heck, it's not like we weren't helped by these random ppg boosters. I also heard some of the teams that played this tournament complain about the questions. But even though these people complained, the general reply ended up being "remember the difficulty!" or "high school questions!" which really really bothered me. I probably said it myself out of sheer frustration sometimes, but it was really not fun. First of all, if said people keep ridiculing the difficulty in such a manner, do they even deserve to play at the tournament? I really don't think so. And second of all I just want to ask people out there who continue to play on what I call "high school questions": How do you find these questions any fun to play on or rewarding?

I really did not deserve to play at this tournament, and I really did not find it a rewarding experience. Thus, I have decided that it is the right time for me to move on from playing High School-level tournaments, and hereby announce my retirement from said tournaments. It really has nothing to do with my experiences today that has prompted me to contemplate this move; I had planned to make it my last HS-level tournament a long time ago. I will definitely live up to this plan. And, at the same time, I am making a general request to people out there - move on from playing high school stuff. There is something out there for whatever difficulty your are comfortable with that are NOT HIGH SCHOOL QUESTIONS! If you are one of those who has been thinking about this for some time, please do so now! If you haven't thought about it, think about it, and do tell us what you have to say. If you don't agree with me, well, whatever. I guess it's just a problem with the circuit that collegiate tournaments continue to be hosted on high school questions, and that there are really no ways of making sure only those who absolutely need an introduction to quiz bowl play on these questions.

I guess this can be extended to a gentlemen's agreement on not playing novice collegiate sets either, but I don't want to venture into that territory as of now. Feel free to discuss about it, though. Please discuss/comment/crib/criticize. It's not like I'm going to change my decision now anyway, but I wouldn't mind changing some of my thoughts if I see good reasons/justifications.

Thanks,
Gautam
Gautam - ACF
Currently tending to the 'quizbowl hobo' persuasion.

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cvdwightw
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Re: Moving up the difficulty ladder

Post by cvdwightw » Sun Mar 09, 2008 3:08 pm

What people need to remember is the idea of "multiple canons". The middle school canon contains the least stuff, followed by the high school "novice" canon, the high school canon, the collegiate "novice" canon/high school "national" canon, the collegiate canon, and the collegiate "national" canon. Each of these separate canons is a subset of the canon above it. Once you feel you've more-or-less mastered the canon at a certain difficulty level, you should stop playing those level tournaments unless there is a compelling reason to do so. For instance, several of the best high school players have mastered the high school canon, but they're still in high school, so they shouldn't be forced to play college sets. Similarly, the "gentlemen's agreement" about ACF Fall is quite different between the Northeast (where there are well more than enough novice and undergraduate teams to provide an adequate sized field) and the West Coast (where due to field size and transportation issues a field without grad students is practically impossible). Gautam, it seems like you feel that you've mastered the high school canon and are ready to move on, and I applaud that decision.

I am not advocating the elimination of NAQT IS sets at collegiate tournaments. However, I think there needs to be a clear idea of who is allowed to play. Teams that are coming over from CBI or players who are trying to make the adjustment from some terrible high school format need to be introduced to "good" questions without feeling overwhelmed by the difficulty; in addition, because the high school circuit is still expanding, some players at the college level may have only had maybe a year of "good" quizbowl and haven't been sufficiently acquainted with the high school canon. Players who have shown that they can perform well on the high school level should probably play at most one tournament in the first few months of their freshman year on IS questions. I mean, let's face it, even the easiest of college "novice" tournaments still employ the college "novice" canon, which is bigger than the high school canon.

And for what it's worth, I've always felt that the "State Championship" set has been slightly harder than regular IS-sets, although this difficulty has become less pronounced since I played in high school.

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