Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

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Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Jun 04, 2017 3:12 pm

I wanted to make a brief post about recent questions, particularly in social science, that attempt to go "real" by asking about various contemporary academics. I would identify two major issues with many of these types of questions:

1) They often end up focusing on works that are really obscure, and which few people in the field are likely to have engaged with.
2) These questions can easily lend themselves to "list-style" tossups of a bunch of people who wrote studies, or the studies themselves. This issue is much less important, in my estimation, than 1) because it's inevitable in quizbowl at some point, but having a zillion questions that are lists of names of "people who studied X thing" is Bad and Boring.

I'm going to spend the rest of this post focusing on 1), since 2) is fairly self-explanatory. Here are some examples:

(EDIT: I retroactively concede that these examples are poorly chosen - but the analysis may bear looking at anyways)
Penn Bowl 2015, Packet 1 wrote:15. A transcendent form of this phenomenon is directed towards other human beings in an anthropological theory of it by Juan Perez Lopez. It’s not color vision, but Solomon has developed a theory of it in which it arises by pairs of opposing emotions, called opponent-processes. A personality characterized by an unwavering amount of this is measured in a 12-point scale developed by Duckworth. This thing and hygiene factors are two components of job satisfaction in one theory. It’s not learning, but Spence and Hull suggested that it arises in an attempt to reduce (*) drives. Clayton Alderfer’s E-R-G theory and Frederick Herzberg’s two-factor theory are reworkings of another model which claims that this quality is caused by the human desire to fulfill a hierarchy of needs. People with “grit” tend to maintain it in the face of adversity. For 10 points, name this term for an impetus for behavior.
ANSWER: motivation [or drive until mention; or “grit” until mention; accept addiction due to that one clue]
So, as someone who's far from a psychology expert, this question seems to me good in many ways because information on how some theories of motivation were created with their authors, and gives the player some useful learning context. However, when you actually look up some of these people, you find that many of them aren't the best-known folks in the field - for example, the fourth line of this question mentions Angela Duckworth, a Penn professor best known for popular science work on motivation. She seems to be best known for a TED talk on "The Power of Perseverance" (which admittedly has 10 million views), a book released in 2016 on "grit", and a 2011 paper with 180 citations - not insubstantial, but we should keep in mind that this is the fourth line of a regular-difficulty question, not ACF Nationals or CO. Overloading on obscure clues like these, just because they are "real", contributes just as much to the social science distribution being very intimidating to new players as a focus on dead theorists that nobody learns about in classes.
ACF Nationals 2017, Michigan packet wrote:10. This book argues that mothers in the Alto de Cruzeiro identify which of their children have a gosto , “taste,” or jeito
(JAY-toe), “knack,” for life. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this Nancy Scheper-Hughes ethnography of impoverished mothers in northeast Brazil who allocate their
love and food to children based on their ability to thrive.
ANSWER: Death Without Weeping
[10] Death Without Weeping cites this critic’s idea of the “culture of silence.” This Marxist’s major work rejects the
“banking model” for one in which the pupil is a co-creator of knowledge.
ANSWER: Paulo Freire (FRAIR-ee, though "FRAIR" is also acceptable) [or Paulo Reglus Neves Freire ]
[10] Death Without Weeping contrasts Freire’s ideas with those of this theorist of colonialism, who advocated violent
liberation of oppressed peoples in The Wretched of the Earth .
ANSWER: Frantz Fanon [or Frantz Omar Fanon ]
Aside from the fact that this bonus is just freaking brutal (Paulo Freire as a middle part without titles? I guess you're supposed to infer that it's a Brazilian from part 1, but that's not stated explicitly; seems like you're gonna mainly get this from learning "banking model" in old questions) - the hard part of this bonus has only 14 citations, despite being over 25 years old! It seems to have a decent number of reviews on Goodreads, but it seems to be a pretty dense ethnography that's over 600 pages long. It's good that we are finding things in medical anthropology to ask about besides Mountains Beyond Mountains and The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down (though those are both fantastic) but this strikes me as just as bad of an example of an "arms race" in "real" social science as questions on obscure Aztec deities, Norse mythological objects with a single mention, etc.

Tl;dr - if you want to write a "real" social science question, either use an intro textbook or (probably more efficient) do some quick googling to make sure that the stuff you're asking about is something people are likely to encounter, keeping the difficulty level in mind and everything. As with everything in quizbowl, having a diversity of approaches and question types is good, and having too many of these "real" questions that just list influential authors isn't great. And finally, as Ike Jose suggested in his 2016 quizbowl podcast, check how many citations something has before you decide to write about it, especially if you're using it as a middle clue!
Last edited by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea on Mon Jun 05, 2017 3:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Cheynem » Sun Jun 04, 2017 3:31 pm

I'll just say that the "banking model" of Freire is something you would easily encounter outside of old questions. I read an excerpt by Freire on the model in a freshman "intro to liberal education" class in college.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by jasongg17 » Sun Jun 04, 2017 3:43 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: However, when you actually look up some of these people, you find that many of them aren't the best-known folks in the field
This really is the cardinal screw-up of these sorts of questions (Duckworth is actually kind of a bad example, because she's taught in psych 101 classes a lot nowadays, but the point holds). I see this in philosophy questions as well, though not quite as frequently, and it becomes particularly common when people try to do poli sci (I really should try to come up with an example of this but I can't off the top of my head for some reason).
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by vinteuil » Sun Jun 04, 2017 3:56 pm

I agree with this, and I've definitely noticed it in history questions. In general, when I'm actively trying to write a "this is what history people learn" question, I start with a well-known secondary work and build the question around that, not the other way around.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by The Stately Rhododendron » Sun Jun 04, 2017 4:11 pm

Will, I think you messed up your search for citations somehow for Death Without Weeping. Scheper-Hughes is probably the second-most famous Medical Anthropologist out there behind Farmer and Death w/o Weeping is very important. When I looked it up on Google Scholar it had 3451! citations.
But yeah, I agree with the main idea of your post.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Jun 04, 2017 4:12 pm

My bad if some of these things are more widely known than I implied; still, I wanted to call out this trend (which I have been guilty of myself). That is a serious screw up on my search, and I apologize for that; asking for something with over 3000 citations is more than fine and I would even commend the editors/writers for asking it!
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Corry » Sun Jun 04, 2017 4:21 pm

This is only tangentially related, but I think a really good way to avoid this pitfall when writing tossups is to start from the clues, rather than the answer line. Something I've noticed is that many people prefer to start writing questions with a particular answer line in mind, and then they search for clues to fit this answer line. I suspect this is the main reason why you end up with a bunch of obscure nonsense in lead-ins; the writers simply couldn't find any better known clues, but they had already committed to the answer line, so they just filled the question with random stuff from Wikipedia or whatnot.

In my opinion, it's a lot easier to write good questions when you start with a particular clue. When I took history classes at Amherst, every time I learned about an interesting fact/author/work in class, I wrote it down in a text file on my Dropbox. At the end of every week or so, I'd look at all of the clues that I had compiled, and then write questions based on those clues. Usually, those clues would constitute the first or second lines of my tossups. By starting with the clues themselves, it's more likely that the clues are actually relevant and important (why would they be taught in class otherwise?).

As a side note, I would've also been fine with that clue on Angela Duckworth-- it came up on my Freakonomics podcast last month, so clearly some people know about her!
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Cheynem » Sun Jun 04, 2017 4:27 pm

(why would they be taught in class otherwise?).
I mean, as someone who taught for four years, a lot of classroom lectures, while focused on important, relevant things also tend to contain things that you the instructor is personally interested in.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Jun 04, 2017 4:45 pm

Re: Duckworth - clearly she has some importance, but as the fourth line of a regular difficulty question? First or second clue seems justifiable, but at regular difficulty you probably need to advance faster to better known clues? Especially considering that Duckworth didn't have any published books when this tossup was written.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Corry » Sun Jun 04, 2017 4:46 pm

Cheynem wrote:
(why would they be taught in class otherwise?).
I mean, as someone who taught for four years, a lot of classroom lectures, while focused on important, relevant things also tend to contain things that you the instructor is personally interested in.
Very true. I suppose what I meant to say is that you have higher odds of a thing being important when it comes from a literal classroom, rather than from other miscellaneous sources.

Re:re:Duckworth: Yeah sure, I can agree with that.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Sun Jun 04, 2017 4:49 pm

Cheynem wrote:I'll just say that the "banking model" of Freire is something you would easily encounter outside of old questions. I read an excerpt by Freire on the model in a freshman "intro to liberal education" class in college.
Also, even if you don't immediately recognize the term but are paying attention to the question, it's not that hard to get "Marxist who wrote about education" and work from there.

In general, though, I certainly agree that you should make sure the clues you choose are indeed important.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Sun Jun 04, 2017 6:23 pm

I wonder--drawing from personal experience--if part of the problem is trying to write questions on subjects you think are cool, but haven't ever actually learned about in the classroom or elsewhere, so that you end up with little clue as to what information surrounding that subject is actually "famous."

For example, I'm writing my CO packet right now, but naturally have to write on subjects I'm not completely competent in, so that as I'm writing my question on [redacted, obviously] I'm stuck doing countless Google Scholar searches* to see how many citations things have to make sure this useful reference is actually "notable" and not just a throwaway mention in a separate summary. Likewise with how I do this at lower levels of difficulty by searching old questions to make sure this has come up before and might be something people more knowledgeable than me actually recognize and care about it.

So problematically, I want to write on new things so I can learn about them, but then by definition, I don't understand enough about the topic to write a question as well as someone who really understands the "field context" that people with academic experience have. So should I write on only things I know about? But then that becomes boring, or runs out quickly, especially at higher levels of difficulty. Consequently, and a little pessimistically, I'd assert this might be an unavoidable problem, except to the extent that a writer (me, you, etc.) research a topic long enough so that they do become pseudo-knowledgeable in the field...though even then, you can't really be "sure" about "famousness" the way someone really enmeshed in the subject is.

(I guess this is one good thing about having friends, in that you can borrow their knowledge and ask them "Is this a "real thing," but you run out of friends as well ;_;)

*which often sucks as well, because like--is 200 citations good if everything else in the field has only 60? Does 1000 citations on one paper make the author famous, if everything else has like 100? Is 2000 good no matter what, or is this an outdated paper? etc.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows » Sun Jun 04, 2017 7:32 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: 1) They often end up focusing on works that are really obscure, and which few people in the field are likely to have engaged with.
I don't think this is fair criticism of the back-to-the-classroom movement. Both of the examples you cited happen to be really important in their respective fields. I learned about Angela Duckworth, for example, in high school from my mom, a psychologist, who was annoyed by the grit craze. Whoever wrote these questions clearly did their homework and found salient under-explored material. Does the back-to-the-classroom movement occasionally lead to some tossups that are problematic in the way you've described? Sure. However, it doesn't seem like a particularly pernicious problem. Furthermore, a fuck-the-classroom approach often leads to tossups that on material that is more obscure and which fewer people in the field have engaged with (e.g., that goofy tossup at ACF Nats on "primal scream therapy").
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Jun 04, 2017 7:40 pm

Steph Curry-Dwight Howard Isomorphism wrote:
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: 1) They often end up focusing on works that are really obscure, and which few people in the field are likely to have engaged with.
I don't think this is fair criticism of the back-to-the-classroom movement. Both of the examples you cited happen to be really important in their respective fields. I learned about Angela Duckworth, for example, in high school from my mom, a psychologist, who was annoyed by the grit craze. Whoever wrote these questions clearly did their homework and found salient under-explored material. Does the back-to-the-classroom movement occasionally lead to some tossups that are problematic in the way you've described? Sure. However, it doesn't seem like a particularly pernicious problem. Furthermore, a fuck-the-classroom approach often leads to tossups that on material that is more obscure and which fewer people in the field have engaged with (e.g., that goofy tossup at ACF Nats on "primal scream therapy").
Once again, I'll concede that my ignorance and failure to use Google correctly led me to choose poor examples. Mea culpa.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by hydrocephalitic listlessness » Mon Jun 05, 2017 9:42 am

Steph Curry-Dwight Howard Isomorphism wrote:...A fuck-the-classroom approach often leads to tossups that on material that is more obscure and which fewer people in the field have engaged with (e.g., that goofy tossup at ACF Nats on "primal scream therapy").
I'm not familiar with the specific tossup, but I don't think that social science writers should shy away from asking about ideas that used to be influential within a particular field, but no longer are (such as primal scream therapy, which was huge in the 70s). There's room for both "classroom"-type and history-oriented questions within social science/philosophy, and drawing on both types makes the categories accessible to a wider range of players.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows » Mon Jun 05, 2017 10:49 am

hydrocephalitic listlessness wrote:
Steph Curry-Dwight Howard Isomorphism wrote:...A fuck-the-classroom approach often leads to tossups that on material that is more obscure and which fewer people in the field have engaged with (e.g., that goofy tossup at ACF Nats on "primal scream therapy").
I'm not familiar with the specific tossup, but I don't think that social science writers should shy away from asking about ideas that used to be influential within a particular field, but no longer are (such as primal scream therapy, which was huge in the 70s). There's room for both "classroom"-type and history-oriented questions within social science/philosophy, and drawing on both types makes the categories accessible to a wider range of players.
I kind of share this sentiment. However, I don't like that tossup because primal scream therapy was widely discredited by the mid-70's and never really exerted much influence in mainstream academia. Therefore, if you are an actual psychologist you've probably only encountered the subject in passing, if at all. In contrast, there are a lot of historical approaches, like, say, behaviorism, which were widely accepted by mainstream academia and subsequently debunked that continue to shape contemporary thought and are widely taught. I think those sorts of topics are fair game.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Jun 05, 2017 11:51 am

Steph Curry-Dwight Howard Isomorphism wrote:
hydrocephalitic listlessness wrote:
Steph Curry-Dwight Howard Isomorphism wrote:...A fuck-the-classroom approach often leads to tossups that on material that is more obscure and which fewer people in the field have engaged with (e.g., that goofy tossup at ACF Nats on "primal scream therapy").
I'm not familiar with the specific tossup, but I don't think that social science writers should shy away from asking about ideas that used to be influential within a particular field, but no longer are (such as primal scream therapy, which was huge in the 70s). There's room for both "classroom"-type and history-oriented questions within social science/philosophy, and drawing on both types makes the categories accessible to a wider range of players.[/quote
I kind of share this sentiment. However, I don't like that tossup because primal scream therapy was widely discredited by the mid-70's and never really exerted much influence in mainstream academia. Therefore, if you are an actual psychologist you've probably only encountered the subject in passing, if at all. In contrast, there are a lot of historical approaches, like, say, behaviorism, which were widely accepted by mainstream academia and subsequently debunked that continue to shape contemporary thought and are widely taught. I think those sorts of topics are fair game.
I think this sort of attitude is the kernel of issue behind the "strong" form of the "back to the classroom" movement, if you will. The idea that "if an Actual Psychologist doesn't do this or isn't likely to learn it, then it's not worth asking" is a bad criteria for ruling out material because you're devaluing knowledge that lots of people may have, and which moreover is worth knowing - one reason we learn from the past is not to repeat it, after all! In some cases, people are probably a lot more likely to have interacted with "dated" but historically important material in a given field than contemporary material - effectively defeating the purpose of the "back to the classroom" movement whose entire point was to focus on material that people actually might learn.

Insofar that questions on "old theorists" are dumb, it's that they focus(ed) on things like The American Beaver that neither people with a casual interest nor academics generally care that much about (other than "lol he wrote a study of beavers"). This is totally different from Lewis Henry Morgan's role as an important early figure in anthropology.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows » Mon Jun 05, 2017 12:57 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: The idea that "if an Actual Psychologist doesn't do this or isn't likely to learn it, then it's not worth asking" is a bad criteria for ruling out material because you're devaluing knowledge that lots of people may have, and which moreover is worth knowing - one reason we learn from the past is not to repeat it, after all!
If you write a psychology tossup that isn't convertable by a psychologist, you've fucked up. Period. Sure that test will devalue knowledge lots of people have, knowledge that may even be worth knowing. However, the mere fact that something is widely known or worth knowing is not a sufficient condition for determining if that topic has a place in the quizbowl canon. Many people enjoy Stephen King and John Grisham and even consider reading their books worthwhile, but I seriously doubt either merit inclusion in the lit canon.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jun 05, 2017 1:19 pm

As a historian, there's a lot of history tossups I can't convert...I think we have to be somewhat more specific here.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Jun 05, 2017 1:39 pm

Steph Curry-Dwight Howard Isomorphism wrote:
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: The idea that "if an Actual Psychologist doesn't do this or isn't likely to learn it, then it's not worth asking" is a bad criteria for ruling out material because you're devaluing knowledge that lots of people may have, and which moreover is worth knowing - one reason we learn from the past is not to repeat it, after all!
If you write a psychology tossup that isn't convertable by a psychologist, you've fucked up. Period. Sure that test will devalue knowledge lots of people have, knowledge that may even be worth knowing. However, the mere fact that something is widely known or worth knowing is not a sufficient condition for determining if that topic has a place in the quizbowl canon. Many people enjoy Stephen King and John Grisham and even consider reading their books worthwhile, but I seriously doubt either merit inclusion in the lit canon.
As Mike correctly points out, this argument is stupid for obvious reasons. Also, it's conflating the question of "is this material academic" with "how much do I think people know about this academic material."
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Jun 05, 2017 1:46 pm

Cheynem wrote:As a historian, there's a lot of history tossups I can't convert...I think we have to be somewhat more specific here.
I would go so far as to say that if you plucked a tenured academic historian out of his or her ivory tower and forced them to play an all-history packet against a slightly above average high school team, they would get DESTROYED. Why? Simply because academics have probably specialized in one narrow area or period, while the high schoolers are not yet specialized and are still curious and learning about the entirety of human history.

I am an avowed enemy of the "Back to School" movement and I've probably posted this a million times in the last decade, but I think Back to School is based on a flawed model of how people learn things. Classroom learning and formal academic activities are responsible for only a small portion of our knowledge base. Most of us are not just automatons who learn what is taught in class and nothing more: most of us are intellectually curious beings who are constantly learning. We learn from our classes in school, we learn from reading books in our spare time, we learn from listening to podcasts, we learn from conversations with similarly intellectually curious friends, we learn from traveling, we learn from going to museums, etc. If quizbowl is about rewarding intellectual curiosity, it should be conscious of all the ways that people learn things.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows » Mon Jun 05, 2017 1:57 pm

Cheynem wrote:As a historian, there's a lot of history tossups I can't convert...I think we have to be somewhat more specific here.
Yeah the way I originally articulated my point was bad. Obviously, no one can know everything about a given field (this is especially true in fields like history which tend to be highly specialized). However, in general, if a tossup isn't answerable by a substantial number of people with graduate degrees in that field I think that's bad for the game.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jun 05, 2017 2:41 pm

Hmm, I think we have a fundamental difference in terms of what the game is meant to reward. For example, in psychology, is quizbowl meant to [completely] reward knowledge of what people who are psychologists or who have studied psychology on a formal basis know? I don't necessarily think so. Obviously, it should, and probably for the most part do so, but not completely. In terms of literature, you're right we don't reward knowledge of John Grisham, but we do ask questions on any number of fringey literature topics that are probably not being studied by many academics--again, we don't ask a LOT about them nor should we.

I think of history. I have a history degree and have taught American history for several years at college. I think most of quizbowl's American history questions should be about stuff you'd expect to see in an American history textbook or course lecture. But not all. For example, aside from perhaps a few footnotes in 1970's history or criminologists, I don't think you're going to see too much scholarship on the Zodiac killer. And I wouldn't want the Zodiac killer to come up in every tournament (well, I would, but that's just me). But a tossup here and there on the Zodiac killer seems to me to reward intellectual knowledge--somebody taking the time to read a book/article (or I guess see the film, but whatever) on a historically interesting if not totally significant event.

I look at the primal scream therapy in the same way. Yes, this is not something people who study psychology on a formal basis will encounter. But it's something from the "history of psychology" that an intellectually curious person might encounter (or someone whose psychological studies delve more into historical theories rather than current practice). I'm personally fine with quizbowl rewarding this knowledge--after all, there's a big jump from someone who has John Grisham knowledge to someone who has primal scream therapy knowledge.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Mon Jun 05, 2017 2:42 pm

Penn Bowl 2015, Packet 1 wrote:15. A transcendent form of this phenomenon is directed towards other human beings in an anthropological theory of it by Juan Perez Lopez. It’s not color vision, but Solomon has developed a theory of it in which it arises by pairs of opposing emotions, called opponent-processes. A personality characterized by an unwavering amount of this is measured in a 12-point scale developed by Duckworth. This thing and hygiene factors are two components of job satisfaction in one theory. It’s not learning, but Spence and Hull suggested that it arises in an attempt to reduce (*) drives. Clayton Alderfer’s E-R-G theory and Frederick Herzberg’s two-factor theory are reworkings of another model which claims that this quality is caused by the human desire to fulfill a hierarchy of needs. People with “grit” tend to maintain it in the face of adversity. For 10 points, name this term for an impetus for behavior.
ANSWER: motivation [or drive until mention; or “grit” until mention; accept addiction due to that one clue]
FWIW, I read this to my wife, who is an Actual Psychologist (who knows enough about quiz bowl to write psych questions on occasion; stay tuned for her psych packet) who's taken classes specifically about motivation and has a good friend who worked with Angela Duckworth. Response: "This question strikes me as being a little too name-droppy and insufficiently conceptual. Would it be weird for a Physics question to have a Biology leadin? Very very few psychologists would know the anthro stuff. I would have made the answerline "Goal" rather than motivation because "goal" is easier to define psychologically than motivation."
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Mon Jun 05, 2017 2:43 pm

Cheynem wrote:I'll just say that the "banking model" of Freire is something you would easily encounter outside of old questions. I read an excerpt by Freire on the model in a freshman "intro to liberal education" class in college.
Also this is very true. I'm pretty sure Freire is talked about pretty widely in teacher prep programs, which a not-small number of quiz bowl people are in.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Progcon » Mon Jun 05, 2017 2:56 pm

Steph Curry-Dwight Howard Isomorphism wrote:
Cheynem wrote:As a historian, there's a lot of history tossups I can't convert...I think we have to be somewhat more specific here.
Yeah the way I originally articulated my point was bad. Obviously, no one can know everything about a given field (this is especially true in fields like history which tend to be highly specialized). However, in general, if a tossup isn't answerable by a substantial number of people with graduate degrees in that field I think that's bad for the game.
That is an extremely specific subset of players however. To pick a social science like sociology for example: how many quiz bowl players have sociology PhDs? I'd wager less than a dozen. This small sample of players--who may or may not be even elite level players--should not determine how appropriate a particular answerline or subject is.

Despite all the nitpicking on his specific examples, Will Alston is entirely right here. The "Back to the Classroom" movement is misguided in that it claims to reward classroom learning in quizbowl but as Bruce says, the majority of quiz bowl knowledge that every single player I have ever met has accumulated happened outside of the classroom. Writing 8 line regular difficulty questions where a large chunk of them are written out of your class notes on some historian who has never come up before are a great way for those clues to not get buzzed on in a majority of rooms. If you want to write filler clues, the "Back to the Classroom" movement will give you plenty of great content.

The movement also ignores the simple fact that colleges differ massively in who or what is taught in a class. I am a social science major and I haven't heard of a almost any of the social scientists who come up in quizbowl in class because I haven't taken every social science class at MSU. Even if I somehow took all the Psych 400 classes, I still wouldn't know a lot of the psych that comes up in quizbowl. I have asked a psych major friend about some of the psychologists like Vygotsky and she doesn't know them at all. Does that mean Vygotsky shouldn't be asked about? No. I learn most about these important theorists from reading old questions and looking them up on Wikipedia, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, etc. "He came up in my class" is almost always a poor justification for clue inclusion at any level below CO.

Quizbowl can not possibly reward "what people actually study" exclusively. Economics is a category that illustrates this well. Most economists are either econometricians and basically use applied statistics to look at economic questions or are applied theorists who use hard math to make coherent theories about the economy. Neither of these two topics could cover the entire spectrum of econ questions in a specific tournament. There can only be at most one tossup on "regression" or "partial equilibrium" (which to my knowledge was bigger in the 1980s) per tournament. A tossup written straight out of a graduate econometrics book would probably not play well in a normal academic tournament. These two facts mean you probably have to ask about less "classroom" answerlines such as on a specific economists or on a concept such as "trade", "money", etc.

I took a class on game theory last semester. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to write a question in which all the clues were about proving some of the Folk Theorems even though that is a topic a game theorist would encounter. This doesn't mean you can't use clues learned from class but it's silly to give really technical clues throughout an entire tossup even if they are more "real".
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows » Mon Jun 05, 2017 3:15 pm

Cheynem wrote:Hmm, I think we have a fundamental difference in terms of what the game is meant to reward. For example, in psychology, is quizbowl meant to [completely] reward knowledge of what people who are psychologists or who have studied psychology on a formal basis know? I don't necessarily think so. Obviously, it should, and probably for the most part do so, but not completely. In terms of literature, you're right we don't reward knowledge of John Grisham, but we do ask questions on any number of fringey literature topics that are probably not being studied by many academics--again, we don't ask a LOT about them nor should we.

I think of history. I have a history degree and have taught American history for several years at college. I think most of quizbowl's American history questions should be about stuff you'd expect to see in an American history textbook or course lecture. But not all. For example, aside from perhaps a few footnotes in 1970's history or criminologists, I don't think you're going to see too much scholarship on the Zodiac killer. And I wouldn't want the Zodiac killer to come up in every tournament (well, I would, but that's just me). But a tossup here and there on the Zodiac killer seems to me to reward intellectual knowledge--somebody taking the time to read a book/article (or I guess see the film, but whatever) on a historically interesting if not totally significant event.

I look at the primal scream therapy in the same way. Yes, this is not something people who study psychology on a formal basis will encounter. But it's something from the "history of psychology" that an intellectually curious person might encounter (or someone whose psychological studies delve more into historical theories rather than current practice). I'm personally fine with quizbowl rewarding this knowledge--after all, there's a big jump from someone who has John Grisham knowledge to someone who has primal scream therapy knowledge.
I'm not sure I agree with you entirely but your Zodiac killer example is making me rethink my original position. I agree that the Zodiac killer, though not academically significant, seems historically significant. If I were editing a tournament, I would be fine with including an occasional tossup of this sort. However, from the point of view of a player with specialist knowledge in a category, it sucks when you're primed for a tossup in your category and then that tossup is on something fringe-y.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jun 05, 2017 4:44 pm

I understand the complaint about fringe-y. One of the reasons, I think, it seems less egregious in the history and literature categories is that there are a number of history and lit questions in a tournament and even in a packet, but there are not many psychology questions.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:19 pm

Progcon wrote: That is an extremely specific subset of players however. To pick a social science like sociology for example: how many quiz bowl players have sociology PhDs? I'd wager less than a dozen. This small sample of players--who may or may not be even elite level players--should not determine how appropriate a particular answerline or subject is.
None, by ACF eligibility standards. Then again, I can speak anecdotally about social science majors who were turned away from qb because the social science was really bad or that their area of study never came up. I think revamping social science to be more "learned-about-in-classroom-thing-centric" than "old theorist-centric" might attract more people to the game who would produce better questions.
Progcon wrote:the majority of quiz bowl knowledge that every single player I have ever met has accumulated happened outside of the classroom.
Uhh... citation needed I guess? I know that's not true for me and one Bruce Arthur does not a trend make. Sure, I've read a lot of books and learned a lot of theorems outside of class, but I know for sure that I'll get stuff related to Don Giovanni, because I spent about six weeks on it in a class and would have never touched it otherwise. Also, what I learned in the classroom gave me the foundations for understanding things I've learned about on my own.
Progcon wrote: The movement also ignores the simple fact that colleges differ massively in who or what is taught in a class. I am a social science major and I haven't heard of a almost any of the social scientists who come up in quizbowl in class because I haven't taken every social science class at MSU. Even if I somehow took all the Psych 400 classes, I still wouldn't know a lot of the psych that comes up in quizbowl. I have asked a psych major friend about some of the psychologists like Vygotsky and she doesn't know them at all. Does that mean Vygotsky shouldn't be asked about? No. I learn most about these important theorists from reading old questions and looking them up on Wikipedia, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, etc. "He came up in my class" is almost always a poor justification for clue inclusion at any level below CO.
So what?
I'm not sure there's a point here in the very vague language. Let's assume your friend is right, that you can get through a substantial portion of a psychology undergrad degree without running across the work of Lev Vygotsky. Actually, I very much doubt this is the case for most psych majors, especially anyone who has an interest in developmental psych. He's mentioned 18+times in the index of the "Intro to Developmental Psych" textbook on the shelf behind me. Does that mean Vygotsky shouldn't be asked about? No, but does that mean Vygotsky shouldn't be asked about as "Psychology?" If it's the case that people who devote their academic career to the study of psychology have never heard or run across a person (again, I don't think this applies to Vygotsky specifically), I think there's an argument to be made for kicking him out into some other part of the distribution, perhaps "Other Thought".

I've tried showing quiz bowl psychology questions to my friends in the field and the consistent objection that comes up to the all too frequently written tossups on Freud and Jung is that "This isn't about psychology." I can't speak for other fields of social science, but in Psychology, the "let's ask about theorists with little current relevance but wider name recognition" paradigm you seem to be in favor of does a real disservice to what Psychology questions can be. If we continue to write the same tossups on "The Interpretation of Dreams" and the like, we're no longer writing Psychology questions and should rename the topic accordingly.
Progcon wrote: Quizbowl can not possibly reward "what people actually study" exclusively.
Agreed.
Progcon wrote: Economics is a category that illustrates this well. Most economists are either econometricians and basically use applied statistics to look at economic questions or are applied theorists who use hard math to make coherent theories about the economy. Neither of these two topics could cover the entire spectrum of econ questions in a specific tournament. There can only be at most one tossup on "regression" or "partial equilibrium" (which to my knowledge was bigger in the 1980s) per tournament. A tossup written straight out of a graduate econometrics book would probably not play well in a normal academic tournament. These two facts mean you probably have to ask about less "classroom" answerlines such as on a specific economists or on a concept such as "trade", "money", etc.
This confuses me. In the last sentence you refer to questions on specific economists as "classroom" answers, but above imply that questions on Vygotsky and specific psychologists and "theorists" are not. Also, are money and trade not discussed and studied in the Econ classroom? Is my sense of reality that out of whack? It's interesting that you bring up regression. I think this is a great example of what could be done for a quantitative social science tossup. Regression is used in virtually every quantitative field and would be something familiar to economists, psychologists, sociologists, etc.
Progcon wrote: I took a class on game theory last semester. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to write a question in which all the clues were about proving some of the Folk Theorems even though that is a topic a game theorist would encounter.
No kidding. That's why no one is suggesting you do this. But you can write a tossup about the Folk theorem using clues about some of its more well-known applications to the realms of political science and others that one might see in the classroom.

Edited to make quote blocks make sense.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Sam » Mon Jun 05, 2017 10:53 pm

Cheynem wrote: I look at the primal scream therapy in the same way. Yes, this is not something people who study psychology on a formal basis will encounter. But it's something from the "history of psychology" that an intellectually curious person might encounter (or someone whose psychological studies delve more into historical theories rather than current practice). I'm personally fine with quizbowl rewarding this knowledge--after all, there's a big jump from someone who has John Grisham knowledge to someone who has primal scream therapy knowledge.
I like to use as a metric "who's more likely to get this?" Not "could a psychology grad student get this?" and certainly not "can I guarantee anyone who isn't a psychology grad student won't get this?," but "would someone who has read a lot about psychology have a better shot of getting this than someone who has not?" Primal scream therapy (probably?) passes that test, The American Beaver (probably?) does not.

Another issue with "Back to School" (which overall I think has actually had a positive influence in getting people to take some of the smaller categories seriously and produce good questions for them) is quiz bowl isn't just an evaluation of pre-existing knowledge, but rather players should be trying to learn more beyond what they are already comfortable with. If you're worried you'll miss out on an economics question because someone has blundered in their answer line choice, you should make sure you know some literature so you can pick off one of those, or science, or some other category.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Muriel Axon » Tue Jun 06, 2017 4:06 pm

Habitat_Against_Humanity wrote:I've tried showing quiz bowl psychology questions to my friends in the field and the consistent objection that comes up to the all too frequently written tossups on Freud and Jung is that "This isn't about psychology." I can't speak for other fields of social science, but in Psychology, the "let's ask about theorists with little current relevance but wider name recognition" paradigm you seem to be in favor of does a real disservice to what Psychology questions can be. If we continue to write the same tossups on "The Interpretation of Dreams" and the like, we're no longer writing Psychology questions and should rename the topic accordingly.
Okay, so I've converted my views since the days I was writing screeds against Primitive Culture and Victor Turner being in the anthropology distribution. (Victor Turner, for what it's worth, does come up in real anthropology literature sometimes, but I actually learned about Death Without Weeping -- my sister read it in class -- well before I heard Turner's name!) I don't think it's good for the entire distribution of a subject in a tournament to comprise things that modern academics don't care about -- but I don't think there's a serious problem with Freud or Jung being in the psychology distribution, even though they weren't scientific psychologists the way the modern academic psychology researcher is. I don't have any delusions that I could convince anyone about this, since it's a matter of values, but if we're going to shunt off all these questions to "other thought," we better expand "other thought" a whole lot -- because those subjects include a lot of what people know, and I don't think it's right not to reward knowledge of them. In 3/4 psychology questions, we should be able to write questions on Karen Horney and CBT and the stereotype content model and have them all happily coexist.

I actually do agree with Caleb to some extent that psychology questions should generally be convertible by psychologists, ecology questions should generally be convertible by ecologists, and so on -- which I think describes the situation right now, so this isn't a critique of the status quo. I don't think that's true of history, because ecology is small and history is big. I think it's reasonable to stipulate that even an ecosystem ecologist who studies decomposition should know about optimal foraging or metapopulation theory. I don't think that's true of all of history.

(Sam -- I'm enjoying the "someone has blundered" in your post.)
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by ErikC » Tue Jun 06, 2017 5:19 pm

I actually do agree with Caleb to some extent that psychology questions should generally be convertible by psychologists, ecology questions should generally be convertible by ecologists, and so on -- which I think describes the situation right now, so this isn't a critique of the status quo. I don't think that's true of history, because ecology is small and history is big. I think it's reasonable to stipulate that even an ecosystem ecologist who studies decomposition should know about optimal foraging or metapopulation theory. I don't think that's true of all of history.
Well ecology is part of the greater field of disciplines that study the environment. So in a way history is "bigger" than ecology, but if you add up the other parts of the "environmental umbrella" it would approach something as big as history. I've always found it odd that many aspects of what people learn about the environment are not really reflected in quizbowl, despite it being accessible and easy to demonstrate the importance of. Also, some disciplines outside the "umbrella" are increasingly incorporating ideas from environmental studies into their material, so questions about environmental topics are not as narrow as they might have been in the past.

I think part of the problem with questions about social science, geography, and other disciplines at the smaller ends of the distribution is that when you write less questions on these topics it doesn't encourage players to learn about these subjects. This then leads to this situation where ecology questions on islands become stale and negatively received. People have heard of things like the water cycle and soil erosion that have extensive history of research, but I don't recall hearing a tossup with either of those answerlines. Likewise, there are some psychological concepts that I have heard about from people in the field that I don't believe have come up that I find fascinating and worthwhile to write about.

To be realistic, most players who want to improve are going to focus on what comes up often. If better questions on psychology are written, people whose education lies outside of social science are going to be more motivated to learn about it, which would lead to better tossups in the future. Perhaps a tournament in the future could give more room for the subjects in its distribution to kickstart an improving of the overall coverage and knowledge of these disciplines.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Tue Jun 06, 2017 5:44 pm

ErikC wrote: Well ecology is part of the greater field of disciplines that study the environment. So in a way history is "bigger" than ecology, but if you add up the other parts of the "environmental umbrella" it would approach something as big as history. I've always found it odd that many aspects of what people learn about the environment are not really reflected in quizbowl, despite it being accessible and easy to demonstrate the importance of. Also, some disciplines outside the "umbrella" are increasingly incorporating ideas from environmental studies into their material, so questions about environmental topics are not as narrow as they might have been in the past.

I think part of the problem with questions about social science, geography, and other disciplines at the smaller ends of the distribution is that when you write less questions on these topics it doesn't encourage players to learn about these subjects. This then leads to this situation where ecology questions on islands become stale and negatively received. People have heard of things like the water cycle and soil erosion that have extensive history of research, but I don't recall hearing a tossup with either of those answerlines. Likewise, there are some psychological concepts that I have heard about from people in the field that I don't believe have come up that I find fascinating and worthwhile to write about.

To be realistic, most players who want to improve are going to focus on what comes up often. If better questions on psychology are written, people whose education lies outside of social science are going to be more motivated to learn about it, which would lead to better tossups in the future. Perhaps a tournament in the future could give more room for the subjects in its distribution to kickstart an improving of the overall coverage and knowledge of these disciplines.
The issue with social science at the college level isn't that there isn't enough of it as much as it is that it's often pretty hard to write meaningful questions on these topics. There are lots of social science papers with hundreds thousands of citations that probably won't get asked much in quizbowl because they focus on things like specifics of research methods, refinements of existing models, etc. to the point that you won't be able to get more out of them than "X person wrote a paper on Y." To make a good quizbowl question, you have to be able to have the following:

1) Uniquely identifying and useful clues (often hard because lots of works say similar stuff)
2) A gradation of clues throughout the question
3) Ability to maintain accessibility to non-experts across a wide range of material (aka why we don't have too many tossups on literary theory, historiography, etc)

I hate to sound like I'm preaching from the ivory tower, but until you've written a well-received set of social science/philosophy questions, it's tougher to grasp the challenge of picking good social science/philosophy clues that aren't namedrops/titles. It's a completely different matter to say "more of X could be written" and to actually do that in a way that plays out well. I hope you get a chance to do this with your modified WAO set, though I would encourage getting some oversight since it can be tricky to pin answers in these categories down to a unique answer.

The issue with geography isn't that there isn't enough - honestly there's a ton, and it lends itself to quizbowl pretty well. Frankly there's room for way more geo/other academic in quizbowl - but rather that within the confines of 20/20, most people don't want to give up space devoted to history, etc. for geography. This is what experimenting with distributions is for, in my opinion - I really like 24/24 distributions ala what Cambridge Open/Missouri Open have done as an alternative, and hope more people experiment with these.
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Re: Limits of the "Back to the Classroom" Movement

Post by ErikC » Tue Jun 06, 2017 8:56 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
There are lots of social science papers with hundreds thousands of citations that probably won't get asked much in quizbowl because they focus on things like specifics of research methods, refinements of existing models, etc. to the point that you won't be able to get more out of them than "X person wrote a paper on Y."
I agree with the rest of your post but I'm interested in this point. I imagine that a recent paper suggesting a refinement of a specific model, for example, could be used as a lead-in clue about the model. Are the majority of papers in social science (which I am mostly unfamiliar with in an acacdemic setting) really so off limits?
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