Magister Ludi wrote: setht wrote: Magister Ludi wrote: setht wrote: Last year's ACF distribution
called for 1/1 geography in the first 20/20. As far as I can tell, this put it on par with all of American literature, all of physics, all other social sciences, etc. For low-level events I can understand the allure of a question category that more novices are likely to know and to be capable of writing competent questions in.
This bit is Seth's first mistake because he has set up a straw man. It is incorrect (and a little insulting) to reduce the allure of geography questions to the fact that novices are likely to know geography and can write on it. This sentiment assumes that everyone would rather hear another humanities question rather than a geography question. Several players attending CO apparently do enjoy listening to geography questions because just in this thread Brendan Byrne, Mike Cheyne, Andy Watkins, Jeff Hoppes, and myself have said they enjoy hearing geography questions at higher level tournaments.
I'm not sure how you got "Seth thinks that geography questions only appeal to low-level players who don't know better" out of what I wrote there. I obviously know that that's not the case; I've played on national-level teams with Jeff Hoppes and Peter Austin, after all. What I meant is that I think there are arguments for keeping geography as a significant component of the distribution for lower-level events that don't hold for higher-level events. Whether there are other valid arguments for keeping geography as a required part of the distribution for high-level events is a separate issue that I tried to address later in that post. My later argument doesn't hinge on the obviously false assumption that every person at every high-level tournament will always prefer to hear some non-geography question to a geography question. I happen to believe that a large majority of the high-level-tournament-playing population would, in fact, be happier with less than 1 geography question per round, but if I'm wrong about that and we adopt my suggested amendment to the distribution I assume the result would be that we'd have nearly 1 geography question per packet, since lots of teams would opt to write geography for their minor social science question.
In the second half of your post you make a two-pronged claim. First you make the (unsubstantiated) claim that the large majority of upper level tournament would prefer to hear one less geography question per round. Then you move on to argue that this unpopularity therefore merits the reduction of geography. Besides the fact that this popularity argument is a dubious way to change the distribution as Eric pointed out in a previous post, this rationale is different from the standard of "quizbowl appropriateness" and "academic importance" you establish in a later section of your post. Do you actually believe in this popularity argument? If so why didn't you include it in your later standard for changing the distribution?
You're right, I did put forward an unsubstantiated claim; I noted that it was unsubstantiated at the time. I don't see anywhere where I "move[d] on to argue that this unpopularity therefore merits the reduction of geography"--unless you're interpreting my suggestion of using "a large majority popular opinion on academic importance and quizbowl-appropriateness of categories" as a logical continuation of my unpopularity comment. It's not: my unsubstantiated claim is that lots of people at high-level tournaments would be happier with less than 1 geography question per round. My proposal is that we poll people on their sense of the academic importance of geography. I assume there's some correlation between people's interest in hearing a question and their rating of its academic importance, but as one example of a discrepancy between the two I'll cite Charlie Dees, who says he doesn't enjoy hearing science questions but would presumably not claim that science's academic importance is low enough to merit a reduction in its part of the distribution. I didn't include basic popularity of geography (as opposed to perceived academic importance) in my standard because I think we're more likely to get honest, thoughtful evaluations from people if we ask about the latter, and I think academic merit trumps popularity when it comes to determining the distribution for high-level academic tournaments. I do think popularity should be given some weight, but if that's the only thing against geography (e.g., if lots of people believe its academic merit is such that it does deserve a reserved spot in the distribution) then I don't think that's enough by itself to merit a large change. Does that make sense?
Magister Ludi wrote:
setht wrote:I don't think we can justify every detail of the current distribution by arguing solely from real-world academic importance. Having said that, do you have some objection to arguing from real-world academic importance in proposing relatively small shifts in the distribution? Do you have some other suggestion for deciding which changes to the distribution are worthy of discussion and which are not? I assume you're not of the opinion that the current distribution is perfect in all ways and should never be touched; is that a correct assumption?
Jeff already pointed out that there are sensible differences in disciplines; it doesn't make sense to say that any arguments about geography's place in the distribution should apply in an exactly analogous fashion to "humanities" or "Estonian mythology." I think it's reasonable to take the current distribution as a starting point and let people propose areas that they think ought to expand/contract/appear/disappear, then discuss from there. I am not suggesting that all decisions regarding the distribution should be decided solely by me, Matt, or anyone other person, nor am I suggesting that people should trust my feel or Matt's feel or anyone else's feel for what the subdistribution ought to be. Instead, I am suggesting that a large majority popular opinion on academic importance and quizbowl-appropriateness* of categories seems like a reasonable basis for deciding which proposals are acted on. I'm trusting that people will actually make use of some sense of relative academic importance beyond "I do/don't like this particular topic." If you honestly feel that music should expand at the cost of history, or anything like that, I encourage you to bring it up. In the meantime, I'll say that I applied my logic to geography and not to other disciplines because geography is the category that I think has the largest difference in representation vs. relative importance in the distribution. Actually, I did apply my logic a bit to other disciplines: I think social science and RMP are both a bit short-changed at high-level events, and I suggested beefing up one or both of them at the expense of geography.
*I say quizbowl-appropriateness because there are academic disciplines that just don't translate into good quizbowl questions. Perhaps we should also consider prevalence of study among quizbowl players; perhaps we should consider some other factors as well. I'm open to discussion on what factors should influence distribution-related decisions.
I think I've established that I'm a proponent of distributional conservatism and want you to state a definitive standard for changing the distribution rather than the vague appeal to relative academic importance you made in your latest post. In this post you have proposed that changes to the distribution should be brought about by examining the importance and quizbowl appropriateness of a category. I think we've established in recent posts the "quizbowl appropriateness" of geography especially considering the recent comments about good geography clues. As for the second part of Seth's criterion, I think I've stated before that academic importance is too ill-defined to be used as a clearcut standard to justify any exact part of the distribution. Seth, can you explain why geography is inherently less deserving as an academic category than music. According to Dartmouth's Department of Geography, "[Geography] studies the material and symbolic transformation of the earth in relationship to both human and natural processes. . . Theories of space, scale, location, place, region, mobility and displacement allow geographers to critically analyze change in both human and physical environments." Considering that description how is this academic practice less inherently important than music or other categories that have 1/1 reserved for them in the current distribution? I think it is nigh impossible to justify distinct distributional changes through an appeal to academic importance and I wish Seth would stop retreating to it as one of his foundation arguments. For any argument you make based on academic importance I can make just as valid a counter-argument. This constant appeal to academic importance forces the argument to center on unprovable semantics. Essentially Seth's judgment on geography is based on his gut feeling rather than any objective, logical standard. Frankly all of these arguments against geography boil down to someone's gut feeling, and I for one am tentative about handing over the distributions to gut feeling. There has to be some objective standards other than Seth's gut feeling about the relative academic importance of a subject.
You certainly have established your distributional conservative bona fides with me. I'm just sorry you weren't up in arms about this stuff as recently as June 2008, when geography jumped up to 1/1 required in the first 20/20; prior to that it seems to me that geography didn't have a fixed spot in the distribution, with some tournaments requiring 1/1 geography, some tournaments lumping it into a 2/2 SS/geography category, and some tournaments lumping it into a 2/2 your choice category. I don't think any of these tournaments made any promises about how much geography was going to appear in the first 20/20.
Ted, I agree that evaluating relative academic importance is tricky and almost certainly doomed to being a subjective measure. It so happens that I don't have an argument on hand for why geography is inherently less important than music, but I think that has more to do with my relative ignorance of music than with the impossibility of finding such an argument. If you asked me to compare geography and physics, or geography and chemistry, I'd be much better equipped to respond. As an aside, Ted's quote from the Dartmouth department of geography reminded me that I wanted to point out that we're not talking about the worth/academic merit/whatever of geography as it's studied in the academy: we're talking about a somewhat specialized subset of academic geography, since we're apparently throwing out the entirety of physical geography (presumably because we already have an earth science category which could cover the material that appears in physical geography classes). Perhaps I'm wrong about that: Ted, if geography gets 1 question required per round and I write a question on paleoclimatology are you going to be cool with that? Assuming I'm not wrong about that and we are, in effect, ignoring large swathes of the geography curriculum, it seems to me that that could be the basis for an argument that "quizbowl geography" is less academically important than "quizbowl music" or various other categories where we don't exclude large swathes of the academic curriculum.
Moving off that, I would like to join Mike Sorice in asking Ted to give an example an objective standard for changing the distribution that he finds acceptable. I can understand if Ted is content with the 2008-2009 distribution and doesn't want to see it change, but if he can't think of an acceptable procedure for making a change to the distribution then I'm prepared to write him off as a vote against any change in the distribution and concentrate my efforts on convincing other people that a change should be made.
Magister Ludi wrote:
setht wrote:What a hilarious misreading of my post! Should I go ahead and accuse you of the same silly idea of allowing teams to skip writing chemistry and music questions because you support allowing people to choose whether or not they will write questions on Beethoven or on Sikhism? As Jeff said before, not all categories are equal--for instance, using just the text you quoted, it should be clear that "this option" (of not writing on a topic) does not only exist for geography--it also exists for archaeology and linguistics and law questions. That's a reality of quizbowl: not every possible named category (or even just every named category typically associated with an independent department at a university, so we don't need to deal with stuff like "Estonian mythology") can have a part of the distribution reserved for it.
From what you wrote it sounds like you feel geography is on par with chemistry and music in terms of relative importance. From what I wrote before, it should be clear that I disagree with that evaluation, and that I rank geography approximately equally with various social sciences. Given my evaluation, is there really anything so unbelievable about my proposals? Is my evaluation unbelievable?
My post was trying to point out the inconsistency of your logic. Let me try to explain my rationale more clearly now that I've recovered from the initial shock of reading this bit for the first time. You argued that if geography was grouped with other social sciences this would be beneficial because people who did not feel they could write good geography questions could opt out and write on something they feel more comfortable writing. The reason I think the rationale of this post displays inconsistent logic is because one could just as easily apply this argument for the reduction of chemistry. I could say we should group science as a loose 4/4 where someone can write 2/2 misc science rather than chemistry if they felt more comfortable writing misc science. Or one could use this argument for writing 2/2 misc arts at the expense of 1/1 music. I want to point out that you invoke this desire to promote ease of writing SS questions but don't feel the need to apply this same standard to science because your "gut feeling" about chemistry's relative academic importance merits that it should be given 1/1 per packet. To respond to your question of whether I think geography is on par with chem and music in terms of relative importance, I would say that I don't want to start arguing about relative academic importance because it is impossible to define and is not how I want to evaluate the distribution.
Okay, if you reduce what I said to "we should lump geography in with social science for the convenience of people who don't like writing geography" then you are correct in saying the same logic could be applied to chemistry in the context of the science distribution. If instead you consider the context of the post in which I advocated putting geography and social science together, I think it should be clear that since I don't feel geography is more important than economics or psychology or sociology or anthropology, and since geography is in fact commonly classified as a social science, I see no problem with lumping it in with social science and then giving people the option of not writing any geography, as we currently do with economics or psychology or sociology or anthropology. Now, try to apply this to chemistry: it's a science, so it's fine to lump it in with the other sciences. Does chemistry deserve a reserved spot in the science distribution ahead of astronomy/astrophysics, computer science, earth science, and mathematics? I would argue that it does: in my experience chemistry is a "foundational science," directly relevant to several areas of astronomy/astrophysics and earth science. Good luck getting anywhere with understanding the Earth's atmosphere, stellar atmospheres, mineralogy, the ISM, and a host of other topics without referring to chemistry. Outside my experience, it seems clear that chemistry is also central to understanding a good deal of biology. At the same time, there is plenty of "pure chemistry" that doesn't refer to astrochemistry or geochemistry or biochemistry (just as there's plenty of physics outside of astrophysics or geophysics or biophysics). I think there are more indicators of chemistry's academic importance (e.g. "chemical engineering is an important and closely allied discipline" or "some universities have independent colleges of chemistry, suggesting that chemistry is considered more important than various subjects that only appear at the department level"), but let's leave that aside and just focus on evidence from course material. I think the analogous statements for geography would be something on the order of "geography is centrally important to understanding large swathes of economics, psychology, anthropology, and sociology, but there's plenty of pure geography that doesn't refer to those disciplines, therefore geography deserves a privileged position within the social sciences." I'll admit that I don't have much direct experience with social science courses; my experience is limited to two psychology classes, neither of which made any reference to geography. My suspicion is that economics and psychology are almost entirely independent of geography, that sociology may be largely independent of geography, and that anthropology is more closely allied with geography than most other social sciences. I also suspect that academic geography is largely dependent on other social sciences (and earth science, in the case of physical geography). If someone with more experience of taking geography and social science classes wants to weigh in on this I'd be interested in hearing what they have to say.
Moving on to your final sentence: Ted, how do you want to evaluate the distribution?
Magister Ludi wrote:
setht wrote: Ted, you've criticized anti-geography arguments of the forms "many people don't enjoy these questions" and "many people don't think this category is academically more important than certain other categories." As far as I can tell, your arguments in favor of keeping geography as a required part of the distribution are pretty much "some people do enjoy these questions," "some people do think this category is academically important relative to other categories," and "geography has been part of the distribution since the Stone Age."
This bit shows a clear misunderstanding of my position. As you will notice I have very deliberately put forward no arguments for geography's inclusion in the canon, but simply have responded to the misguided arguments put put forward by opponents of geography. I am not so much a proponent of geography as a critic of the anti-geography partisans.
Fair enough, and my apologies for assuming that your impassioned defense must arise from a love for geography questions. I'm not (yet) convinced that every argument put forward by myself and my fellow anti-geography partisans is misguided. Can you put forward an argument that you would find acceptable for making some change to the current distribution? I don't care whether it refers to geography, or whether your argument advocates an increase or a decrease; I just want to see what sort of argument you're prepared to accept for changing the distribution.