inclusion of state/local history

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inclusion of state/local history

Post by Awehrman » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:20 pm

(This was split from the discussion of IHSA Sectionals Results and State in the Illinois forum--srf)

As I have stated before, I see no problem with the inclusion of state and local history. Illinois has plenty of history. Are students in Illinois not required to take Illinois history at some point? Are teachers not required to take it in college? I had to take take courses in both Arkansas history and Arkansas politics in order to get my teaching certification there. Surely Illinois has as many or more askable topics in its history than Arkansas has. Illinois's history is dominated by Chicago and Lincoln, but there's a lot more to be asked about. Off the top of my head you've got a rich history of Plains Indians in the state, Illini confederation, French settlement and exploration, George Rogers Clark, the Preemption Acts, Black Hawk War, Illinois and Michigan Canal, barbed wire (Glidden), Illinois Central Railroad, John Deere, East St. Louis race riots to name a few. Illinois politics has a rich history from Lincoln to William Jennings Bryan at the 1896 Democratic national convention, Carol Mosely Braun, George Ryan, Blagojevich. And as people have noted whole tournaments of questions could be written from Chicago history. The aversion to studying local history is troubling to me. State and local history do not fit with computational math, vocabulary and spelling questions. It is legitimate knowledge, and like other worthy subjects, it can be written well and be beneficial to students.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by jonah » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:26 pm

I now have a terrible, terrible fear of an interdisciplinary industrial arts/Illinois history question with answer "barbed wire".
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Awehrman » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:37 pm

This is probably where you get cries of elitism. Why would such a question have to be terrible? You come from "the Prairie State"! It seems like the history of your state embarrasses some of you. Barbed wire, invented and processed in Illinois (De Kalb), played a crucial role in the enclosure movement of the western United States. It shaped the geography both physical and human of vast portions of the country. It enclosed Native American groups onto reservations and was used to create the trench warfare conditions of WWI. It changed the way Americans live, work, and eat. Why is that not important? I would recommend to all Illinoisans Alan Krell's book "The Devil's Rope: A Cultural History of Barbed Wire".
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by dtaylor4 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:41 pm

Awehrman wrote:This is probably where you get cries of elitism. Why would such a question have to be terrible? You come from "the Prairie State"! It seems like the history of your state embarrasses some of you. Barbed wire, invented and processed in Illinois (De Kalb), played a crucial role in the enclosure movement of the western United States. It shaped the geography both physical and human of vast portions of the country. It enclosed Native American groups onto reservations and was used to create the trench warfare conditions of WWI. It changed the way Americans live, work, and eat. Why is that not important? I would recommend to all Illinoisans Alan Krell's book "The Devil's Rope: A Cultural History of Barbed Wire".
OK. I hold that it would be extremely difficult for such a pyramidal question to be written at this level with appropriate difficulty. Last I checked, high school students didn't read Alan Krell's book, so such clues would be pointless.

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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:42 pm

Awehrman wrote:This is probably where you get cries of elitism.
"Elitism" being defined in a quizbowl context as "the belief that the team who knows more about academic subjects should win the game"....
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Awehrman » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:57 pm

Most high school students haven't read War and Peace either, so I don't think that argument holds water. Students have not read many of the sources from which questions are written. I mentioned the book because I thought people in Illinois might like to read it. I didn't expect them to write questions on it (although they certainly could write them from it). I'm not sure I understand why a barbed wire question couldn't be written pyramidally. It's probably be done before. The other information about how it shaped particular areas, its military role, as well as local arguments and laws regarding its use could certainly be used for a pyramidal question. There's also plenty of material to write a bonus on (barbed wire, Glidden, De Kalb, enclosure). As mentioned before, any good Illinois history textbook should discuss the role of barbed wire. Heck, any good American history textbook should mention it.

Seeing Matt's point, I was referring to the kind of elitism levied against the teams from downstate Illinois against those from the Chicago area. The fight against these sorts of questions seems more cultural than academic. There's no doubt that local history is a legitimate form of academic study. If national history is important, why isn't state or municipal history? Written well, it wouldn't have to advantage any particular locale.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by dtaylor4 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 5:04 pm

Awehrman wrote:Most high school students haven't read War and Peace either, so I don't think that argument holds water. Students have not read many of the sources from which questions are written. I mentioned the book because I thought people in Illinois might like to read it. I didn't expect them to write questions on it (although they certainly could write them from it). I'm not sure I understand why a barbed wire question couldn't be written pyramidally. It's probably be done before. The other information about how it shaped particular areas, its military role, as well as local arguments and laws regarding its use could certainly be used for a pyramidal question. There's also plenty of material to write a bonus on (barbed wire, Glidden, De Kalb, enclosure). As mentioned before, any good Illinois history textbook should discuss the role of barbed wire. Heck, any good American history textbook should mention it.

Seeing Matt's point, I was referring to the kind of elitism levied against the teams from downstate Illinois against those from the Chicago area. The fight against these sorts of questions seems more cultural than academic. There's no doubt that local history is a legitimate form of academic study. If national history is important, why isn't state or municipal history? Written well, it wouldn't have to advantage any particular locale.
I'm not saying it couldn't be done. My point is, such a tossup at this level would see very low conversion before "Glidden."

Also, watch your geography. Charges of elitism have also been levelled against good teams this side of I-80.

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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Dresden_The_BIG_JERK » Mon Mar 16, 2009 5:15 pm

Awehrman wrote:Are students in Illinois not required to take Illinois history at some point? Are teachers not required to take it in college? I had to take take courses in both Arkansas history and Arkansas politics in order to get my teaching certification there.

In high school-no. We had a "Government" class that covered primarily federal laws, but also required us to pass the Illinois Constitution Test. However, that test is primarily dominated by things such as minimum age for a state sentator and the state fossil (Tulley Monster!).

As to college, I can't speak for Illinois, but I had many Educ. major friends at my school in Indiana, and I'm almost certain that their curriculum never encompassed state history.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Mar 16, 2009 5:16 pm

This is a dumb argument. If something in a state's history is important enough to be asked about in quizbowl, it should be coming up already as a natural part of the history distribution, and should not be forced into a mandated state specific distribution, which will undoubtedly lead to a mix of important things and things that are pretty worthless in the scheme of things coming up unless it's tiny.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by mlaird » Mon Mar 16, 2009 5:33 pm

Awehrman wrote:Are students in Illinois not required to take Illinois history at some point? Are teachers not required to take it in college? I had to take take courses in both Arkansas history and Arkansas politics in order to get my teaching certification there.
As a recent earner of a B.S. in Secondary Education from an IL college, I can tell you that, no, there is no such requirement. As BJ said, the only required IL knowledge that high schoolers have to know is the constitution test.

The fact of the matter here is that the answer selection for these specific Illinois-centric questions was very contrived, and quite a few of them leaned toward being geographically biased. The question on "Charles Mound" probably went dead in every
Regional except the one with Galena H.S. in it. There was also a notable tendency to work in Illinois-centric clues every where they could, such as leading off a "Speaker of the House" question with information about noted IL Representative Joseph Cannon (He's actually kind of important, though, I guess).

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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by jonah » Mon Mar 16, 2009 5:48 pm

Did other people's constitution tests cover the state constitution? I'm almost certain mine didn't.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Captain Sinico » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:02 pm

Awehrman wrote:I'm not sure I understand why a barbed wire question couldn't be written pyramidally. It's probably be done before.
This argument (and the many analogues of it that you and many other people have posited) is what doesn't hold water here. The implicit premise is wrong even on its face: it's simply not true that one can take any topic (or even any topic that someone's written a book you liked on, etc.) and write good pyramidal question on it: you have to consider the fitness of an answer as quizbowl, in addition to your perceived view of its import in its field. To wit, I don't see good, pyramidal questions on "barbed wire" (or "townships" or "Charles Mound" whatever other zany topics) coming any time soon. The reason is simple: there just aren't enough important clues that enough people know (or are about to learn) about those things.
You hand-wave this by saying people haven't read War and Peace, yet it comes up. That's a very poor argument. Players know things, often a lot of important things, about War and Peace or Platonic dialogues or many other things that come up but that many people don't or haven't read. I don't think anything like that could be argued about "barbed wire" or "townships."
Now, you may counter-argue that it's possible that a good question on "barbed wire" could be written somehow; that I've drastically underestimated the number of substantive, important "barbed wire" clues, etc. Laying that to one side for a moment, what you cannot argue, if you're reasonable, is that the average "barbed wire" tosssup is going to be as sound as the average tossup on a more conventional topic (even just due to the unconventionality of the topic.) In the real world, that question's going to suck almost every time, if not precisely every time, as I argued.
In fact, if you want to shift the focus of my earlier argument, you can read is as me saying that I don't think I'm capable of producing a good question on that topic (and I don't know who is.) We're dealing here with a circuit that struggles to produce satisfactory questions on even conventional topics and that has massive disparity in talent levels. Calling for odd, cannon-expanding topics in that situation is at very least ill-advised: what Illinois needs is a sound, conventional distribution and writers who turn out quality canonical questions.
So, to re-state things in brief, I agree with Charlie here: I don't think we should set out to write a local history distribution. If we must, we should take extra care to write on important, canonical topics. A number of important elements of Illinois history already do come up as tossup answers. I'm willing to acknowledge that there could be many more that are capable of supporting pyramidal questions but don't come up now, though I don't think "barbed wire" and its ilk are among those.

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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by cornfused » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:03 pm

Awehrman wrote:Are students in Illinois not required to take Illinois history at some point?
I wasn't.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Awehrman » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:12 pm

Interesting. It's a shame that Indiana and Illinois don't require state history. It's not all that surprising, though, with teacher shortages, many states have stopped requiring history teachers to take even a minimal amount of history so long as they make up the hours elsewhere. This may be part of the reason why Illinois was given an F in a survey a few years ago by in a national report of US history standards. I've helped run a workshop for AP teachers in Illinois and usually emphasize that teachers should not forget local history despite its absence on standardized an AP tests. I've run against these arguments before. There's normally not much substance to them. The "If it were really important, it would already be taught!" cry is horribly flawed. It's a slippery slope from "your history is unimportant" to "you are unimportant." I suspect that is why state history remains a volatile issue in state legislatures as well as quizbowl discussions. Local history fosters a greater appreciation for the people and culture of a particular region, and I have yet to hear an argument that can claim local history to be "fake knowledge" or any of the other epithets that describe the sorts of illegitimate knowledge found in bad quizbowl. Just as in other subjects, it seems like the onus should be on the writers to write better local history questions rather than arbitrarily cursing them or eliminating them.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:16 pm

Humorously, I, an attendant of your very alma mater North Kansas City, never took one class that discussed the history of Missouri beyond ultra important things that were already important enought o be mentioned on a national scale (Senator Benton or Quantrill, for instance).
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Captain Sinico » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:18 pm

Okay. Let's take a second here and think. Nobody's saying local history is unimportant as history; indeed, perhaps one could argue that all history is local. That's not germane here. What I'm saying (and what I read everyone else as saying) is that there aren't a lot of local history topics that are fit tossup answers and that the stuff that gets thrown in there now tends to be of the unfit type. My argument is that saying "just write better questions" is a red herring of the highest order because there are just a lot of things one can't write good questions on (or, at least, that one can't expect the average question on to be any good.) I hope you'll respond to that rather than ignoring or arguing past it.

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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Awehrman » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:30 pm

I still don't understand why people are so against this topic. No, NKC did not require local history. Missouri does require Missouri history for social studies teachers, however (unless they've changed the requirements in the last couple years). The state's curriculum requires it in 5th grade. Social studies advocates have been arguing for a long while that if it's a topic worthy of teaching 5th graders that it should be at least presented as an elective to high schoolers (and also if it's important for teachers to know it, why is it not important for students to know it?). Most people who study history or have jobs in history study it locally.

Look let's get to the point. State tournaments, like them or not, are the best attended quizbowl tournaments anywhere in the country. One of the goals, as I see it, of quizbowl is to encourage students to be more inquisitive and appreciative of the world around them. Local history fits with this goal and encourages students from perhaps underprivileged or rural backgrounds especially to realize that academic knowledge is not all foreign.

Also, it seems that my list of examples prompted by Mr. Riley has been reduced to "barbed wire." Although I stand by that as a very important invention in American history and a legitimate subject for a tossup or bonus, do you have problems with other bits of local history that I mentioned?
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Tegan » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:54 pm

rjaguar3 wrote:
A.F. wrote:
Tegan wrote:I wouldn't have a problem, but the IHSA has a big problem with round robins
Could you elaborate on this some? I'm curious as to what the arguments against a round robin tournament would be.
"No other sport has a round robin."
Greg has just about summed it up.

From time immemorial, and this includes today, the IHSA has as a core principle, that their state tournaments only have the responsibility to crown the best single team. The rest is just basically window dressing. There may be times that the 8 teams that make the finals are the best 8 teams (OK, not really ... it has never to my knowledge ever been that way), and on rare occasion, the teams that finish 2-4 are indeed 2-4 in the state. It does permit teams to imagine they are better than they are and to feel special (a few years ago a really poor team made it down state out of a terrible sectional, and was described in the newspaper as "one of the 8 best teams in the state", despite being, realistically, not in the top 50 and likely not even in the top 75. That is the illusion the IHSA provides. Sadly, even if your team does place and truly deserved it, it becomes somewhat empty when you look at some of the undeserving teams who have done what you did ... it cheapens the accomplishment.

In keeping with this, round robins contribute to better singling out the better teams. In other words: in single elimination (randomly determined), there can always be wonderous things (the best team's star gets hurt, their bus breaks down, the worse team gets lucky on a night the better team has a bad night) that lead to memorable upsets by the less deserving team. It is another core principle that the teams downstate be geographically representative. Attempts to permit for separating better teams has been resisted by the membership at every turn.

The limited round robin we currently have was based on the following:
1. Why should teams make a (sometimes) 3 hour drive to the sectional to play one match (several teams were starting to forfeit again, and we offered the round robin as an alternative that would make sectionals more enticing to attend.
2. Since the single elimination format was already in place, and took 3 rounds (the IHSA had advanced each regional winner and runner up to sectional, but was getting ready to eliminate that), this would be a cost neutral move.
3. When "this will give a better opportunity to avoid upsets in single matches, and more properly crown the rightful champion", that was not accepted as a reason to move to a round robin.

Fortunately, reasons 1 & 2 were compelling enough.

What irks me to an extent is that in other activities (like debate, chess), the IHSA more closely follows the national models in place. This is because there is a national federation which governs those events and stays the IHSA's hand. Looking at national models in quizbowl has fallen on deaf ears.

About three years ago, there was a concern brought up that scholastic bowl was using a round robin format in the sectionals and state when no other activity/sport does this. There was a brief discussion about eliminating it. It never did go, but it was a reminder that there are those in power who view round robins with disdain, because it works against creating that roll of the dice that gives the representative of sector X a chance to place every few years.

So to answer your question, I am not sure there is a logical argument .....

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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Tegan » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:07 pm

Awehrman wrote:Interesting. It's a shame that Indiana and Illinois don't require state history.
There are certainly some things that happened in Illinois that are wholly appropriate to ask in quizbowl ..... but in a state so radically divided like Illinois, it is difficult to work it in without cries of disadvantaging someone. Ask a question about a Springfield event/person when a Springfield area team is playing a Chicago area team, and the moaning is loud, and vice versa. I have tried to restrict myself from writing any Illinois tossups, and to spread bonus questions around so that no more than 3 out of 4 parts represent the Chicago area (about 3/4 of the people in Illinios live in the Chicagoland area).

I don't think that anyone is saying never write an Illinois question .... just that care needs to be taken to avoid asking too much about one region in a particular tournament, asking questions that are not high school appropriate, and to weigh its relative weight against the rest of the social studies cannon. After the Regionals, I can see the argument that Illinois as a topic appeared to be a little over done.

When I note appropriateness, there are a lot of trivial things about Illinois that I remember learning in fourth grade. I am not sure that this is wholly appropriate for high school. I think a lot of people are more convinced it is not.

edit: grammar may not be a big topic in quizbowl outside Illinois for good reasons, but subject-verb agreement shouldn't be sacrificed in writing. No sir!
Last edited by Tegan on Tue Mar 17, 2009 9:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Geringer » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:00 pm

Oh dearie me, ladies and gents, I seem to have forgotten some things!

4. I really enjoy the intuitive and dynamic bonus format of the IHSA. I've played ACF bonuses before (I thought ACF stood for American-Canadian Federation or the Alien Chemistry Format, but I was sadly mistaken), but to be honest, I really enjoy Illinois-style bonuses. First of all, before I even address format, I would like to point out that teamwork in such bonuses allows for a physical element. I like to stand up and stretch my legs, trot down to the other end of my team, tell a dirty joke, and run back when time is called. I mean, it's not like anyone cares about opera or art or classical music enough to actually attempt to answer those questions. Players who cannot stand up and become "active players" cannot hope to achieve a high level of teamwork. Also, I love the variations in the amount of bonus parts. Quite frankly, it gets old answering four questions all the time. I personally like three-part bonuses. It's like an intense double-or-nothing free-for-all with a bad temper. Instead of just getting five points for any old answer, IT'S LIKE A CHAIN REACTION OF AWESOMENESS. You only get six points for the first answer, but if you answer another one, YOU GET SEVEN POINTS. I mean, when I pull something that epic off, it is if our lord and savior Ken Jennings himself has caressed my face. Getting twenty points for only three questions is akin to breaking into someone's house, failing to steal anything good, suing the family for not having anything in their house worth stealing, and winning the civil suit! Plus, ACF bonuses totally favor quick thinkers. The last time I checked, scholastic bowl was about careful analysis and enlongated periods of pondering, not some rash judgment when the question is only half-read.

5. Alright, so I'm going to go out on a limb here. The whole notion of a three-way tie just gets my buzzers in a knot. I propose, to further accentuate the physical aspect of our beloved sport, we institute a new form of tiebreaker. This new tiebreaker, concocted by me after many careful hours of deliberation, is scholastic brawl. Yes, if any of you have ever seen the riveting Triple Threat matches in professional wrestling, you will agree that a no-holds-barred deathmatch is the best way to solve this "tiebreaker" issue. The term "tiebreaker" will actually be renamed to "soulbreaker" in accordance with the new rule. Instead of complaining about "question difficulty" and "circles of death," you will lament the fact that I was quicker to grab the steel chair. Scholastic brawl, not ACF bonuses or pyramidal questions, is the future of our sport. However, if you'd like to include pyramidal questions, I would be more than happy to jump off of one into a spectacular aerial move causing sure and inevitable destruction, not to mention bodily harm, to my foes. I would even conjecture that my team would fare better, as would many "real" scholastic bowl teams, with this new provision.

I'm very happy you all agree with me. It's comforting to know that I'm not some over-competitive, impeccably dressed psychopath with a taste for hyperbole. Any complaints should be directed to the IHSA, as I speak for them and I know that they'd agree with everything I have written here. It's all here, clear as crystal. You stole fizzy lifting drinks, you bumped into the ceiling which now has to be washed and sterilized, so you get nothing. YOU LOSE. Good day sirs.

(I'm glad I made you all laugh. Thank you.)
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Charley Pride » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:19 pm

SaveComputationalMath wrote:Sick Willie Wonka reference
Where oh where have you been all these years, Mr. Geringer?

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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by mark vigil » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:30 pm

if there were a Scholastic brawl at the WWS sectional, Wheaton Warrenville South, with its seven varsity athletes, would have ripped it up

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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:54 pm

Awehrman wrote:Interesting. It's a shame that Indiana and Illinois don't require state history. It's not all that surprising, though, with teacher shortages, many states have stopped requiring history teachers to take even a minimal amount of history so long as they make up the hours elsewhere. This may be part of the reason why Illinois was given an F in a survey a few years ago by in a national report of US history standards. I've helped run a workshop for AP teachers in Illinois and usually emphasize that teachers should not forget local history despite its absence on standardized an AP tests. I've run against these arguments before. There's normally not much substance to them. The "If it were really important, it would already be taught!" cry is horribly flawed. It's a slippery slope from "your history is unimportant" to "you are unimportant." I suspect that is why state history remains a volatile issue in state legislatures as well as quizbowl discussions. Local history fosters a greater appreciation for the people and culture of a particular region, and I have yet to hear an argument that can claim local history to be "fake knowledge" or any of the other epithets that describe the sorts of illegitimate knowledge found in bad quizbowl. Just as in other subjects, it seems like the onus should be on the writers to write better local history questions rather than arbitrarily cursing them or eliminating them.
I know nothing about Illinois history and I have no formal training in how state and local history have, throughout history, been marginalized in order to oppress people (though I do appreciate the slippery slope you invoke). I'll grant you, then, that state history may be of overwhelming importance. But if players do not know it, it doesn't matter how important it is. Every tossup that goes dead is a bonus you might as well never have written. Every bonus with an impossible third part only sorts teams into three groups instead of four (well, IHSA format is different, but you know). I think inorganic polymers exhibit beautiful chemistry, and they're important as anything: I'm reading a book about them. I'm not going to write a tossup on polysiloxanes, and if I need to explain why, I can't help you.

So okay, let's even say that you can write a tossup on barbed wire with a gettable giveaway. If two thirds of that tossup is unbuzzable, then you have done a bad thing. This is a game meant to be played, and you learn things from the game and that's great (that's most of the point, for me), but you can't sacrifice the integrity of the game in order to write about what ought to be considered important. It's certainly good that you're not falling into the "it's not taught in schools, therefore it's not quizbowl-worthy" trap, but you're falling into the more dangerous "I believe this is important and for the moment don't care if it will play well" trap.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Awehrman » Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:58 pm

So, we've moved beyond abolishing one clue questions, horrible hoses, spelling, or what-have-you to say that if no one gets a question two-thirds of the way through it that author has made a horrible grave mistake deserving of scornful bold-face type? I don't think any of the answers above (or back a page or whatever) would elicit that sort of response. We know that small schools and weak quizbowl schools don't answer many art and literature questions, yet if they wanted to do away them because no one can answer them until 2/3 of the question is complete, the people on this board would (rightly) tell them to study up: that those things have academic importance, and precisely because they are not studied enough in schools is why quizbowl needs to ask about them. I think playability certainly comes second to academic knowledge. I think quizbowl goes wrong when it fails to adapt game-play to academia and when people try to make the game itself more important than its objectives.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Important Bird Area » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:13 pm

I understood that two-thirds standard to apply to entire tournament fields, which seems reasonable enough. And besides, we're talking American history; there are plenty of plausible answers accessible to teams at any level. So argument from analogy with "lower-level high school team cannot identify any philosophers, therefore we should abolish philosophy" doesn't follow.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by cdcarter » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:15 pm

Awehrman wrote:So, we've moved beyond abolishing one clue questions, horrible hoses, spelling, or what-have-you to say that if no one gets a question two-thirds of the way through it that author has made a horrible grave mistake deserving of scornful bold-face type? I don't think any of the answers above (or back a page or whatever) would elicit that sort of response. We know that small schools and weak quizbowl schools don't answer many art and literature questions, yet if they wanted to do away them because no one can answer them until 2/3 of the question is complete, the people on this board would (rightly) tell them to study up: that those things have academic importance, and precisely because they are not studied enough in schools is why quizbowl needs to ask about them. I think playability certainly comes second to academic knowledge. I think quizbowl goes wrong when it fails to adapt game-play to academia and when people try to make the game itself more important than its objectives.
The point is that if a clue wasn't ever buzzed on in a field, it was a useless clue. If a question does not get converted until 2/3 of the tossup is done in any room, those clues were bad. If nobody converts the question, the question should not have been there.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:17 pm

Awehrman wrote:We know that small schools and weak quizbowl schools don't answer many art and literature questions, yet if they wanted to do away them because no one can answer them until 2/3 of the question is complete, the people on this board would (rightly) tell them to study up: that those things have academic importance, and precisely because they are not studied enough in schools is why quizbowl needs to ask about them.
There's nothing about being a "small school" that makes this the case; that's simply you latching onto a terrible anti-quizbowl talking point to advance your bizarre attachment to tossups on "barbed wire."
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by the return of AHAN » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:25 pm

(my $.02)
Is it possible that some of the IHSA State Series writers have had exposure to the IESA canon? I ask because Joseph Glidden=barbed wire is canon in IESA ScoBowl, as are about 50 (OK, arbitrary number thrown out there by me. I can't back that up) other inventors, some found in the Stanford Guide and others not. I bet this didn't go as dead in areas (read: central IL) where most middle schools play *IESA scholastic bowl. Not saying that makes the question better or worse, but I'm sensing that downstate writers may have unwittingly found a way to exploit weaknesses in the "stronger" schools from the Chicago suburbs if they choose to recycle the IESA canon. Chew on that. :aaa:

*(for non-Illinoisans, IESA scobowl is the exception in Chicago area middle schools, as evidenced by only 1/4 of the Class AA tournament field being from the Chicago suburbs, instead of the 3/4 it should be, if we follow Egan's numbers.)
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:48 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:
Awehrman wrote:We know that small schools and weak quizbowl schools don't answer many art and literature questions, yet if they wanted to do away them because no one can answer them until 2/3 of the question is complete, the people on this board would (rightly) tell them to study up: that those things have academic importance, and precisely because they are not studied enough in schools is why quizbowl needs to ask about them.
There's nothing about being a "small school" that makes this the case; that's simply you latching onto a terrible anti-quizbowl talking point to advance your bizarre attachment to tossups on "barbed wire."
Well, you are, granted, eliding part of his argument that is in some respects valid. Some schools (and he didn't just say small schools, of course; I'll say weak quizbowl programs) lack knowledge, his premise goes, and we're comfortable saying that they should learn art and literature. However, we're not comfortable saying that some schools (here, both good and bad) should learn local history.

I say that maybe we ought to be saying it (and that that's a separate debate). It's possible that every state should cultivate its local history. i have two responses, one of which echoes Sorice's.

1. Until disproven, I will believe that it is harder to write a good question on part of local history that gets teams buzzing at lots of points in the tossup. Even if it's possible to do so, and even if it's better to let tossups go dead and tell people "just get better at this stuff," it's better still to improve the tossups that exist (which are, apparently, unacceptably poor on mundane topics, and would be improved by writing more on mundane topics) than it is to institute the hypothetical ideal distribution and pray.
2. Every tossup that is on a topic in local history is one that's not on a topic with more national (or, indeed, global) appeal. I accept that local history is important; is it important enough to discourage students from studying European history, or the history of other states? (Things that are regularly skimmed over in classrooms include world history. Things that have a big enough high school answer space include world history. Why not use quizbowl for feasible academic evangelism?)
3. Local questions excessively benefit some teams. I remember feeling dirty freshman year at HSNCT when I powered a tossup on Pittsburgh. I think the leadin was on the Cathedral of Learning, which I know about because I have looked out my window. In retrospect, there's little to feel dirty about, because you can't help but ask questions about big cities that people happen to live in, because lots of stuff has happened there (similarly for legitimate Pittsburgh history, I guess). But when you get past the level of people getting tossups because they lived in Zurich for a month and get to the point where the team from Banana County gets the tossup on Ben McFake, R-Banana County, who may indeed have played some part in Banana County history but they know him because he's their representative--that's an avoidable situation.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:04 pm

So, we've moved beyond abolishing one clue questions, horrible hoses, spelling, or what-have-you to say that if no one gets a question two-thirds of the way through it that author has made a horrible grave mistake deserving of scornful bold-face type?
All of it sucks.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Important Bird Area » Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:07 pm

Awehrman wrote:to say that if no one gets a question two-thirds of the way through it that author has made a horrible grave mistake deserving of scornful bold-face type?
I think this varies depending on difficulty level, too. At very difficult open tournaments, it's easier to justify a question like this with the argument that the self-selected audience cares about learning leadin clues even if they aren't able to buzz. Whereas this thread began by talking about regular-season high school questions.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by David Riley » Tue Mar 17, 2009 8:08 am

Since I started all of this, I can also tell you that, in my home state of Kentucky, we had one unit of state history in the seventh grade, and that was it.

I wouldn't argue against the inclusion of a state history question ccasioonally, but I think one of the reasons some of us are against them is that they --and other aspects of our distribution--are beign asked at the expense of canonical topics. Admittedly, whose canon? It's part of the cultural rift between north and south (Illinois) that's been discussed in these forums before.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Tegan » Tue Mar 17, 2009 9:33 am

To just illustrate a perspective, allow me to loosely borrow from an AdCo discussion:

Me: Driver's Ed should be eliminated.
Rep: No, Driver's Ed is important.

Me: It is not academic, and questions come from one source only.
Rep: Art is not academic, and some schools have limited resources.

Me: Non sequitor. Students have access to numerous sources of art.
Rep: Driver's Ed is a subject that all students must take. Not all students take art.

Me: False. Virtually no private schools teach drivers ed. Some schools play frosh-soph players at the varsity, and even in public schools, they have no access to the class.
Rep: But even private school students eventually take drivers ed. These frosh-soph players can read the "Rules of the Road" book.

Me: So, there would be no objection to offering questions in foreign language, since this is also taught at all schools, and is considered an increasingly important academic subject. (not really supporting this, but offering a counterpoint).
Rep: No. It is not taught at all schools. Some schools do not offer foreign language.
Me: Some schools do not offer drivers ed.
Rep: We should keep drivers ed.


This gets to the heart of what David Riley is talking about: there has become a self-imposed gulf between schools who really don't want to work towards improvement, and those that do. The steps to counter this have been both to make sure that there are steps taken that favor these "non-working" schools, and to through road spikes in the way of those schools wanting to work hard to improve. I agree with Matt in that this is not a "small vs. big" school debate. It is a much more philosophic one.

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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Awehrman » Tue Mar 17, 2009 10:52 am

Wow, I'm sort of intrigued and appalled at the way this conversation turned out. I meant my original comment as a light jab at some earlier comments against local history topics and against a trope that seemed to say that Illinois history is not significant or important. I expected some mild resistance since my point of view is a bit against the grain of the Illinois (and it seems the national) mainstream, but the vehement responses are really weird to me.

Did I miss a memo somewhere that says that good quizbowl must stamp out all local content? Would it be offensive to find that the Alabama state tournament shaded more toward southern topics than the Maine state tournament? Would it be surprising if Texas emphasized Texas history more than say Minnesota? Is it a problem that question writers in Washington might rather ask about Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce than Osceola and the Seminole? Is it a problem that Great Plains states might ask about agricultural or frontier history?

I can't say that I have been made to understand why local history does not belong nor why it can't be written well. If you can write a question about a person, event, or thing that has national importance, what makes something with regional importance more difficult? For instance, those of you who railed against barbed wire, what makes that question any harder to write than a tossup on the cotton gin? The cotton gin transformed the plantation South and barbed wire transformed the ranch lands of the West. Similar clues about the inventor, the discovery of, the changes in productivity and logistics, etc. could be asked of both. Each is more or less important depending on your regional perspective. Both are found in history textbooks. I would have thought people might have objected more to some of the other things that I listed. I could have given you an argument in support of any of them, though. I have no odd obsession with barbed wire, I just like history and want it to be asked well. On the scale of the obscure things historians study, that stuff is downright mainstream. I'm speaking on a panel next month at the American Association for the History of Medicine with one guy whose paper is about the Dixie Cup and another writing about the history of milk advertising. I don't think quizbowl's ready for that stuff (or the much weirder stuff). I'm not arguing for an equal gender representation in history questions as some of my colleagues might, for instance.

Someone else asked if I thought local history should take the place of world history or some other subdistribution. First, local history is already in the distribution, so it wouldn't have to take away anything. I would argue that it should take the place of other agriculture and industrial arts type questions, since I think good history questions on those subjects would negate the need for them. Alternatively they should take the place of US history questions.

On the argument that local history excessively benefits some teams, I'll grant that there is something to that. I don't think any of the question topics I mentioned would egregiously do that, however. I think if you wound up playing against a team that had intimate local knowledge of the question (as in the Pittsburgh example) that means that most every other game being played at the same time would not have that problem. I'm not sure that that scenario is any worse than having the bad luck to play against a Catholic school on a Bible question, or a team with a student who just read the poem being asked, or happens to have a father who is a biologist.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Mar 17, 2009 11:24 am

Awehrman wrote:I still don't understand why people are so against this topic.
Okay; I think I've delineated why I'm against a prominence of local history in quizbowl (you seem to be tilting at windmills of opposition to local history as history; I'll again stress that that doesn't seem to me to exist and, at any rate, isn't important since we're here talking about quizbowl, not about setting somebody's curriculum.) For a second time, I'll ask you to stop talking past what I'm saying. To reiterate: I think that, by-and-large, demanding local history questions is going to result in bad questions because there aren't a lot of local history topics that a lot of players know a lot of relevant, interesting clues about. This is exacerbated by the fact that Illinois writers struggle to produce good questions even on conventional topics and I have every reason to believe that they will struggle more writing on unconventional topics, which would be necessitated by an increase in local history questions; indeed, is seems to be necessary given even the currently mandated amount.

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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Cheynem » Tue Mar 17, 2009 11:26 am

Truly important local/regional history is also of a national importance and should/could be asked about (I have no idea why it should be asked about MORE depending on where a school is located--why should Northwest schools get more questions on Chief Seattle rather than the Seminoles?). Also, local history questions do benefit some teams more than others in a far more causative way than you're suggesting with your example of "father is a biologist": if I ask a question about School A's home city, it benefits them as opposed to School B. Now, this happens on occasion in collegiate quiz bowl and in high school quiz bowl, but by requiring regional history, you are in effect assuring it will happen almost every packet.

For the record, I love local history and have written several papers/presented at conferences about my state (Michigan)'s history.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Mar 17, 2009 11:34 am

Awehrman wrote:Would it be offensive to find that the Alabama state tournament shaded more toward southern topics than the Maine state tournament? etc.
It seems to me you have here cast a question of extent as one of existence. I'd say that most history should be on things of global and national importance, but would be okay with some local history. You evidently disagree on the side of local history; others seemingly disagree on the other side. If your claim is (as it seemingly is) that "tournaments from the south are going to ask about stuff from the south, obviously!" my counter-argument is that a change of venue doesn't change anything material. I still think there can be some local history, but most history ought to be of global/national import. I similarly expect the staggering revelation that the south and northeast exist will fail to change the view of anyone else.
But, I mean, so what? Let's talk about why we think what we think. That we think different things was obvious enough.
Awehrman wrote:I can't say that I have been made to understand why local history does not belong nor why it can't be written well. If you can write a question about a person, event, or thing that has national importance, what makes something with regional importance more difficult? For instance, those of you who railed against barbed wire, what makes that question any harder to write than a tossup on the cotton gin?
It would probably be very hard to write a pyramidal question on the cotton gin. I mean, what are you going to use as clues that people know but that don't give the question away? I challenge you to write such a question that I don't find severely wanting.
Again, all your arguments for things to come up are along this lines of "This is very important in its field!" I'll stress again (with bold and underline this time!) that you have to consider a topic's fitness as quizbowl in addition to its import in its field when arguing that it should come up. The two are not necessarily related for a variety of reasons. My experience is that the number of local history topics that people know enough about so that they can support a good tossup is small and local history must therefore be kept small in proportion.
To be more general, it seems to me that your issue with everyone here is that you're trying to say "This is downright mainstream in my field; it's in textbooks; ipso facto it can support a good question/it should come up." This is a fallacy of the highest order. Please either demonstrate that that statement is wrong, or stop arguing past it.

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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Mar 17, 2009 12:14 pm

Awehrman wrote:Did I miss a memo somewhere that says that good quizbowl must stamp out all local content? Would it be offensive to find that the Alabama state tournament shaded more toward southern topics than the Maine state tournament? Would it be surprising if Texas emphasized Texas history more than say Minnesota? Is it a problem that question writers in Washington might rather ask about Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce than Osceola and the Seminole? Is it a problem that Great Plains states might ask about agricultural or frontier history?
See, there's nothing inherently wrong with this, because obviously those topics are all accessible. This isn't quite what's being done here, however, or what I'm made to understand is happening here. Obviously, there are topics in American history that are inherently more region-specific, and it's not terrible for them to shade a little bit towards where you are (and in sets produced by local writers, it's inevitable). But here we're talking about a disproportionate amount of region-specific content, and players are claiming that these questions are too hard to be answered from people not in the region in question (whereas any high schooler worth his salt will answer a tossup on either Chief Joseph or Osceola). There's nothing terrible about the presence of local content so long as that local content does not conflict with more important principles, like the ability of teams to answer the questions and for the questions to be good.
Awehrman wrote:I can't say that I have been made to understand why local history does not belong nor why it can't be written well. If you can write a question about a person, event, or thing that has national importance, what makes something with regional importance more difficult? For instance, those of you who railed against barbed wire, what makes that question any harder to write than a tossup on the cotton gin? The cotton gin transformed the plantation South and barbed wire transformed the ranch lands of the West. Similar clues about the inventor, the discovery of, the changes in productivity and logistics, etc. could be asked of both. Each is more or less important depending on your regional perspective. Both are found in history textbooks. I would have thought people might have objected more to some of the other things that I listed. I could have given you an argument in support of any of them, though. I have no odd obsession with barbed wire, I just like history and want it to be asked well. On the scale of the obscure things historians study, that stuff is downright mainstream.
Perhaps I can concede that barbed wire can be done well. So work barbed wire historiography into a bonus, use it as clues, and then maybe someday it will be askable. The cotton gin is more askable right now merely because it's come up enough before. This doesn't matter as much for middle schoolers who probably did no canon studying prior to their first tournament; this does matter for, say, the IHSA series.
Someone else asked if I thought local history should take the place of world history or some other subdistribution. First, local history is already in the distribution, so it wouldn't have to take away anything. I would argue that it should take the place of other agriculture and industrial arts type questions, since I think good history questions on those subjects would negate the need for them. Alternatively they should take the place of US history questions.
There's a finite number of questions (and a finite proportion are history) in any match, so inherently a local history tossup is not a history tossup on another subject. If you're content to let it consistently detract from US history, then sure, that's fine, because I guess local history is also American. Does anyone have the IHSA's weights on different history topics? I'd imagine that a history other than American is underweighted, if any subdistribution is underweighted. Whatever you do, though, local history questions are in fact detracting from other subdistributions. It'd be great if we could boot out agricultural and industrial arts questions, because I think they're nigh-impossible to do well, and replacing them with local history is fine, because well done local history is more academic, but from what I understand of Illinois, people would be even angrier about the elitist Chicago teams taking away agricultural blah blah blah.
On the argument that local history excessively benefits some teams, I'll grant that there is something to that. I don't think any of the question topics I mentioned would egregiously do that, however. I think if you wound up playing against a team that had intimate local knowledge of the question (as in the Pittsburgh example) that means that most every other game being played at the same time would not have that problem. I'm not sure that that scenario is any worse than having the bad luck to play against a Catholic school on a Bible question, or a team with a student who just read the poem being asked, or happens to have a father who is a biologist.
Difference here is that I'm saying that the real and practical examples of these questions have the problem that almost no one not from the relevant local area is converting them (or converting them early, or whatever--people who actually played this tournament can comment better here, since I'm just summarizing my impression). My Pittsburgh example confused the issue. Like, this would be like a tossup on Wilms's tumor, which would inevitably be converted only by the one kid whose father is a pediatrician deeply interested in kidneys. So most game rooms are affected. Perhaps you can write a tournament's worth of local history that's convertible by everyone, but apparently the IHSA writers can't.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Awehrman » Tue Mar 17, 2009 12:22 pm

Sorry, Mike, I did not at all mean to slight your comments. They were well thought out, and I appreciate them. I just got caught up responding to others, and in some cases I attempted to respond en masse rather than to each individually.

First here's a tossup on the cotton gin that I wrote for the Junior Wildcat tournament. It's intended for middle schoolers, but I think it's age-appropriate and pyramidal. I would write it differently for a high school tournament, of course and would have no trouble furnishing more clues.
7. The inventor of this machine was a recent Yale graduate who moved to Georgia to become a private tutor before going to law school. Using a wire screen and small hooks turned by a hand crank, it could clean 50 pounds of fiber in a day. What was this invention by Eli Whitney that helped change the economy of the south by allowing the mass production of a certain crop?
Answer: Cotton Gin or Cotton Engine
A similar question at the college level would might look like this question from ACF Regionals:
An important study on the economic role of this product was written by David Christy. A national quota for it was set by the 1934 Bankhead Act, and in 1814, Francis Lowell created the first factory for processing it, which helped take dominance of it away from Manchester and Birmingham. Samuel Slater memorized the blueprints for the first mill for it in America. The long staple length of the Mexican kind soon made this product the "King" of the American South. Its ascendancy was helped by the invention of a machine that separated its fiber from seedpods. For 10 points, name this crop, for which Eli Whitney made a namesake gin.
Answer: cotton
I think any of the topics that I mentioned earlier (who's ignoring who here?) are fit for quizbowl and can fit within a regional and often a national perspective. I have not argued for more local history but that it should not be wantonly eliminated along with other less appealing parts of the current IHSA distribution. Its proportion should be small. I'm not sure that I've seen any proof that students know non-local things better than local things. Why should a student necessarily know more about another state's former governor than their own state's former governor? Why should a student from Illinois not know more about Marquette and Joliet, Robert LaSalle, or Jean DuSable than a Missouri team knows about Lewis and Clark or Francois Chouteau?

In regards to your "So what" question that you posed suggesting that you want more global and national history and that I want more (although I never said more) local history is odd too. I would not be opposed to more global and national history. I do happen to know something about history too. I do have advanced degrees in both history and education and have taught history at the middle school, junior high, high school, and college levels. I know the field, and I think I know quizbowl and the students who participate in it pretty well too. I don't expect anyone to automatically defer to me on these issues, but I do think I have more than one leg to stand on here. Part of the reason that I said I was intrigued by the conversation is that so many people seem to have such strong opinions on history; much more than I would have on physics, for instance. I'm not sure why the argument "this is important in its field" and "it is perfectly askable" (as mentioned before much of this stuff is even found in the Illinois middle school distribution) and coming from a relative expert in the field elicits such doubting responses. I would expect people who appreciate the collection of knowledge as much as the people on this board do to be more inclusive rather than exclusive in that regard. I realize that the Illinois writers have been historically bad. I realize that much of history that is taught in schools is bad. Neither of those things should necessarily lead to the conclusion that local subjects need to be excluded, nor that they advantage certain teams, nor that teams don't know the answers, nor that they can't be written well, nor that the number and loudness of groans from students should merit changes in the distribution (an earlier point that I meant to address).

Are people only offended by local history questions? What about regional science questions? Would a tossup on Fermi labs be out of place? Or regional literature, art or music?

Perhaps I should not have said that certain topics might be asked more in certain areas, but that both the quantity and/or the depth of those questions might be expected to increase in regions more familiar with the topics at hand.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:17 pm

Okay, well, I don't think that "cotton" can be construed as a local topic; that's a topic of national importance that might as well come up in Illinois as anywhere. Even so, I find that "cotton" question wanting (it's pretty transparent) though not outright bad. I do, however, think that it's telling that you won't even take a stab at a cotton gin question appropriate to even high schoolers. Your middle school version is fine and good for middle schoolers, but that's because the standard of what's askable is laxer for middle schoolers, because you don't have to worry about transparency (since we're very often out to test whether they know what we'd be comfortable assuming even a high schooler knows) or finding six lines of good clues (since three will more than do.)
To address your other point, nobody is questioning your credential to tell me or anyone what's up in the academic field of history. I do think you'd have to acknowledge a diversity of perspectives on the relative import of local history even currently and more certainly throughout history, but we can leave all that to one side. For the nth time, what I am saying is: you can't say "This is important in an academic field and therefore should come up." You can't even say: "This is important in an academic field and therefore can be written about well." Both of those assertions will break down in very drastic ways. So, even if I uncritically accept a much stronger version of what you're saying (something like "100% of academic historians worldwide study only local history to the absolute exclusion of anything else") it doesn't make the point for you; rather, it remains the case that quizbowl is an activity not reducible to the trends of the academic fields on which it is built.
To put it another way, I am questioning your credential to tell me and everyone else what's up in quizbowl. It's paramount to consider what players of the game actually know, what they're are interested in, and how they'll play certain questions. I feel my own work in the area of quizbowl is at least the equal of your own and I think I know how certain things will play as a result of that experience. In light of those considerations, I think the number of local history topics that ought to be asked is small at every level.

Let me take up and extend your physics* example in an attempt to adduce what I'm saying. Almost every physics department is dominated at this point in time by string theorists. I could go to any number of string theory conferences, cite any number of string theory texts and experts, etc. All physics most people are likely to know of are in some sense string theoretic, since the appropriate limits of any valid string theory must give quantum mechanics, relativity, thermodynamics, classical electromagnetism, classical mechanics, etc. So I can make the (somewhat strained) claim that even high school students learn some string theory.
However, it is clear to me, who am in essence a physicist and who know something about string theory, that the number of askable properly string theory topics, even at the very highest level of the game, is minuscule. Further, it is clear to me that the game would be infinitely poorer if someone followed the strong version of your arguments and eliminated most of non-string-theory physics to reflect the state of the academic discipline of physics. Rather, when I write physics, I consider what the players know and how the questions will play first and foremost; the historical academic merit of the topics second; and the current prominence of the topics only slightly. That leads to many, many questions on things that very few professional physicists study anymore and that's as it should be.
To extend the analogy, pretty much any high school question on string theory proper (beyond something very basic like a bonus part on "strings") is going to be terrible. That's because, to an extremely high degree of approximation+, nobody in high school knows anything about string theory. But, following your arguments, we should be alright pounding people with string theory question after string theory question and saying "Learn this, idiots; it's what physicists study." I'm not alright with that and I doubt you really are, either. So, your arguments about the character of academic history and the bearing you think it ought to have on the distribution applied to another field lead to an absurdity.

MaS

*In fact, this may seem ridiculous, but there's something like an analogy between string theory and local history. String theory is ideally a type of all-encompassing "local physics" the aggregate and appropriate limits of which must give the "everyday" physics that we can see around us in addition to things like relativity and quantum mechanics. In the same way, someone could view national or global history as given by the aggregate and appropriate limits of local history, which is apparently of paramount interest to current historians.
+Maybe some very few people have read and some fraction of those understood parts of The Elegant Universe or something, I guess.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:49 pm

Also, you wanted me to comment on that list you posted. To me, the answers fall into several categories.

First, there are things that already come up as history and are fine:
Plains Indians in the state, French settlement and exploration, Black Hawk War, Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, 1896 Democratic national convention, Chicago history.

Second, there are things that I don't see come up but that might make okay questions history:
George Rogers Clark, East St. Louis race riots, the Preemption Acts (I admit to not having known the name of these until now.)
I wonder if the biggest part of the reason that these don't come up is that people don't know much about them. Anyway, I think players probably know enough to support okay questions.

Third, there are things that I don't see how anyone's going to write good questions on because I don't think people know enough about them:
Illini confederation.
Obviously this would move into the former category if people knew more about it.

Fourth, there are things that I just don't see how anyone's going to write a good history question on:
Illinois and Michigan Canal, barbed wire (Glidden), Illinois Central Railroad, John Deere.
I don't like these both because people don't know a lot of interesting, important clues about them (and aren't in my estimation likely to learn any time soon) and because of what I'll term "structural issues," by which I mean I just don't think what can be known about these things lends itself to the creation of good clues.

Finally, there are things that I don't think are properly historical topics (or at least aren't yet):
Carol Mosely Braun, George Ryan, Blagojevich.
I'd say that these are all current events topics. Obviously, it's well documented that the line between history and current events is at best a dark one which may lead to a "recent history shadow" in quizbowl. However, that seems to me a separate issue, so I'll leave it to one side for now.

I also contend that these answers should be classified on another axis: "locality," i.e. the extent to which they are properly local history. I see striking differences there. For example, William Jennings Bryan is an important figure who is not to my mind meaningfully more important to Illinois' history than to that of the nation (though he happened to go to college and give an important speech here); while the Preemption Act was a key legislation in the history of many (mainly Midwestern) states and might be understood as regionally important (and consequently nationally important, albeit perhaps less so); and George Ryan is, to my judgment, never likely to be an important historic topic outside of Illinois (though he's an important current events/very recent history topic to be sure, c.f. discussion of recent history above.)

So, I'm not opposed to important local history coming up in measured amounts, nor to things that don't come up now coming up at all; far from it. I do have doubts about the fitness of many of your proposed answers (not just "barbed wire"), as you can read. As has been repeated many times now, a more fundamental issue is that I have grave, serious doubts about the likelihood of the process whereby you've selected those answers to produce answers supporting good quizbowl questions.

MaS
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Important Bird Area » Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:18 pm

Captain Sinico wrote:My experience is that the number of local history topics that people know enough about so that they can support a good tossup is small
Quoting this because I agree with it, and also because I wanted to place emphasis on the word tossup. There are lots of answers that would make perfectly fine bonus parts but don't work well as tossups, either because of transparency/difficulty cliff issues (like the cotton gin) or because of excessive difficulty (like George Rogers Clark, which packet search reveals to have been a tossup answer twice in the last 15 years).
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Awehrman » Tue Mar 17, 2009 3:32 pm

Quoting this because I agree with it, and also because I wanted to place emphasis on the word tossup. There are lots of answers that would make perfectly fine bonus parts but don't work well as tossups, either because of transparency/difficulty cliff issues (like the cotton gin) or because of excessive difficulty (like George Rogers Clark, which packet search reveals to have been a tossup answer twice in the last 15 years).
I'll buy that too. Like most things truly new questions should be worked into tournaments via bonuses first. Part of my argument is that local history might allow regional canon expansion which would allow teams to learn more and display knowledge on questions that relate better to their own experiences. For whatever reason, Illinois seems weak on state and local history. I'll sign up to present at more teacher workshops and perhaps work with the NCSS to see what can be done. I like George Rogers Clark, because, as a colonial history guy I like to show my students in Illinois that the American Revolution stretched far in to the interior of the American continent. He's probably better known for activity in the Ohio River Valley.

I'll present another example of why I think state or regional history is important but seems to be overlooked. Railroads are part and parcel of 19th Century American history. I think I'm on pretty safe ground there. What kinds of railroad questions can be asked nationally? Perhaps the Union Pacific, Central Pacific, and Promontory Point, Utah (that old standard three part bonus). It's a good way of writing a question on an important but non-military and largely non-traditional political topic (something that people in another thread mentioned they had a hard time writing). But when broken down by region, a richerhistory appears. If writing a question for Arkansas, Missouri, or Texas, you could reasonably ask a question (tossup, bonus, whatever) on the Cottonbelt railroad (St. Louis Southwestern). While extremely important regionally, and no doubt academic, it probably wouldn't fly at a tournament with an intended national audience. Similarly questions intended for teams in Maryland, Ohio, Virginia or West Virginia could be asked about the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. New York teams could be asked about the New York Central Railroad (notably acquired by Vanderbilt). Illinois teams, as I suggested, could be asked about the Illinois Central Railroad (Lincoln defended it as an Illinois lawyer, it transported thousands of blacks from New Orleans to Chicago in the Great Migration, etc.). Now you might say that any of those railroads could be asked of any team in a bonus or something, but I would say that any of those would make excellent questions to test teams on their knowledge of local history.
I do, however, think that it's telling that you won't even take a stab at a cotton gin question appropriate to even high schoolers. Your middle school version is fine and good for middle schoolers, but that's because the standard of what's askable is laxer for middle schoolers, because you don't have to worry about transparency (since we're very often out to test whether they know what we'd be comfortable assuming even a high schooler knows) or finding six lines of good clues (since three will more than do.)
It's not really telling of anything other than that I haven't written high school tournament in a while and don't have a pertinent tossup on hand. I would be happy to write high school level questions on all of the above topics and email them to you. It might take me a couple weeks, since I'm working on other things, but as I said there's no shortage of clues for any of them. They may range in difficulty and may not be perfect, but they are certainly doable.
For the nth time, what I am saying is: you can't say "This is important in an academic field and therefore should come up." You can't even say: "This is important in an academic field and therefore can be written about well." Both of those assertions will break down in very drastic ways. So, even if I uncritically accept a much stronger version of what you're saying (something like "100% of academic historians worldwide study only local history to the absolute exclusion of anything else") it doesn't make the point for you; rather, it remains the case that quizbowl is an activity not reducible to the trends of the academic fields on which it is built. To put it another way, I am questioning your credential to tell me and everyone else what's up in quizbowl. It's paramount to consider what players of the game actually know, what they're are interested in, and how they'll play certain questions. I feel my own work in the area of quizbowl is at least the equal of your own and I think I know how certain things will play as a result of that experience. In light of those considerations, I think the number of local history topics that ought to be asked is small at every level.
I think, overall, we're in more agreement than disagreement. I also think the number of local history questions should be small (perhaps somewhere in the neighborhood of .5/.5 per round in tournaments intended for local audiences). What's more troubling is that you seem to suggest that no one can argue for change in quizbowl; that what is currently written about is the only thing that can be written about and the only thing that can be written well. I disagree. History changes. You've dismissed my textbook knowledge, but I collect history textbooks. I have dozens of them. The things talked about in them changes. I don't think it's wrong or even a stretch to say that history questions from time to time can and should change. Similarly I would question your credential to tell me and everyone else what's up in history. Don't get me wrong, I want to work with you and everyone else on this. I'm not regarding this discussion in a "my way or the highway" point of view. I'm interested in opinions far and wide. I'm willing to admit that some local history may well be too specific or too difficult or prohibitively difficult to write about, just as questions are in all fields. I don't feel that I am getting the same respect, and it's weird.
First, there are things that already come up as history and are fine:
Plains Indians in the state, French settlement and exploration, Black Hawk War, Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, 1896 Democratic national convention, Chicago history.
Well, ok. Then I've successfully taken on Mr. Riley's challenge to come up with more topics that could be properly asked about as local history that are also historically significant. Several of those things could be expanded easily into multiple questions or bonuses. I feel that that is probably enough material for a whole tournament's worth of local history.
Second, there are things that I don't see come up but that might make okay questions history:
George Rogers Clark, East St. Louis race riots, the Preemption Acts (I admit to not having known the name of these until now.)
I wonder if the biggest part of the reason that these don't come up is that people don't know much about them. Anyway, I think players probably know enough to support okay questions.
I've talked about Clark, and he might be too difficult but perhaps could be included as a hard/local history part to an American Revolution bonus. I think the East St. Louis race riot would make a great question. It could probably be turned into a tossup or bonus on East St. Louis, but perhaps that would favor teams from that part of the state too much. As a bonus you could include ask about the riot along with Marcus Garvey, Josephine Baker (who survived it), or Ida Wells or perhaps have further parts about the Tulsa race riot or even the later Watts riot.

The preemption acts might be a little bit hard now after discovering that Illinois has no state history requirement to speak of. It's like the Homestead Act for the midwest. The Homestead Act comes up preemption acts don't. I don't know why. There's no good reason really. It could reasonably be asked as a hard part to a bonus on land grants or some such.
Fourth, there are things that I just don't see how anyone's going to write a good history question on:
Illinois and Michigan Canal, barbed wire (Glidden), Illinois Central Railroad, John Deere.
I don't like these both because people don't know a lot of interesting, important clues about them (and aren't in my estimation likely to learn any time soon) and because of what I'll term "structural issues," by which I mean I just don't think what can be known about these things lends itself to the creation of good clues.
The Illinois Central Railroad I have already defended. The Illinois and Michigan canal is hugely important. It connected the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River. This another situation where its the Erie Canal, Suez, Panama, or nothing. Questions like these wouldn't be as transparent if we asked more of them. If the others are askable and important so is the Illinois and Michigan especially on a state level. We've talked at length about barbed wire. John Deere would get much the same argument from me.
Third, there are things that I don't see how anyone's going to write good questions on because I don't think people know enough about them:
Illini confederation.
Obviously this would move into the former category if people knew more about it.
I'm surprised that this one landed here. Since Illiniwek is the mascot of the state's flagship university and that the state was named after this confederation (alternate answers would include Illiniwek, Illinois, and Illini), I would think this one would be bedrock. I don't think it would be out of bounds nationally either since Illinois is famous. You could also conceivably ask about the confederation's constituent tribes. I think Native American history is somewhat lacking in quizbowl generally (it may be that it's a tough fit in US history sometimes and a harder fit in world history). I think if any major Native American tribe can be tossed up in quizbowl, this one can too.
Finally, there are things that I don't think are properly historical topics (or at least aren't yet):
Carol Mosely Braun, George Ryan, Blagojevich. I'd say that these are all current events topics. Obviously, it's well documented that the line between history and current events is at best a dark one which may lead to a "recent history shadow" in quizbowl. However, that seems to me a separate issue, so I'll leave it to one side for now.
Yeah, I'm tempted to agree with you here. These are the political names in Illinois that came to me off the top of my head. I didn't even include Obama on the list. It may show my non-native status that I couldn't name more. I think each is a significant figure and wouldn't be surprised if all three have appeared as either tossups or bonuses in other out-of-state tournaments. One of my pet topics is getting social studies teachers to teach more current events. My education master's thesis was on that subject. I think if current events are on the table, then local current events should be. Also, my above suggestions trended old, so I wanted to include some newer material. I'm sure with a little research I could find more significant things about Illinois politics that could be written with everyone's concerns in mind. I think that's enough for now. I hope I at least gave some people pause about the place of local history. I'll get to work on writing up some tossups and bonuses when I get the chance.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Important Bird Area » Tue Mar 17, 2009 3:40 pm

Awehrman wrote:I'm surprised that this one landed here. Since Illiniwek is the mascot of the state's flagship university and that the state was named after this confederation (alternate answers would include Illiniwek, Illinois, and Illini), I would think this one would be bedrock. I don't think it would be out of bounds nationally either since Illinois is famous. You could also conceivably ask about the confederations constituent tribes. I think Native American history is somewhat lacking in quizbowl generally (it may be that it's a tough fit in US history sometimes and a harder fit in world history). I think if any major Native American tribe can be tossed up in quizbowl, this one can too.
This is drifting yet further off-topic, but, no, I don't think the Illinois confederation is, in fact, bedrock. It's a fine bonus part, but what would a middle clue look like for this tossup, especially at the high school level? Compare to the abundance of well-known clues available for the Shawnee, Cherokee, Apache, Lakota, Seminole, etc. that come up more often.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by at your pleasure » Tue Mar 17, 2009 4:03 pm

Just to chip in my two cents:
First of all, we have to look at how we define local history.History of County x? History of Chicago? History of Illinois? History of the midwest? Depending on the definition, there may be greater or a lesser widely accesible answer space.
Also, it depends on the audience of a tournament. Since many central Illinois tournaments do not seem to attract very many distance players, almost everyone who hears the question can assume that the local history is relevant to the. However, this is not true in someplace like the mid-atlantic, where people routinely travel great distances for tournaments. Like, if WJ runs a large tournament with a geographically diverse field and use a question on the C&O canal, the 3-4 local teams will get it and then the rest of the field will think "What the devil is the C&O canal"? Stuff like Chicago history or the Black Hawk war is different, because even non-ilinosians should know about the Black Hawk war.
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Re: IHSA Sectionals Results and State prognostication

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Mar 17, 2009 4:30 pm

Awehrman wrote:It's not really telling of anything other than that I haven't written high school tournament in a while...
I guess this is my point. I have written for a ton of high school tournaments recently and over the past several years. My judgment is that the ideas you're coming up with and the example questions (actual and hypothetical) that you're using to adduce them are in some significant fraction bad ideas that will lead to bad questions and bad questions.
Awehrman wrote:...you seem to suggest that no one can argue for change in quizbowl; that what is currently written about is the only thing that can be written about and the only thing that can be written well.
No, I don't believe that and I said so when I said, not two posts ago, "'I'm not opposed to... things that don't come up now coming up at all; far from it." It was also pretty strongly implied in the list of "stuff that doesn't come up now but might make good questions" that I posted right before that. In fact, given those things, I have no idea how you came away thinking what you just said you do.
What I have said and do say is that unconventional questions are harder to write well and should be used sparingly and where appropriate. I don't think the current climate of the IHSA is appropriate (given that it's one in which writers struggle and routinely fail to construct good conventional questions) and I don't think "every round" is sparing.
Awehrman wrote:You've dismissed my textbook knowledge, but I collect history textbooks. I have dozens of them. The things talked about in them changes. I don't think it's wrong or even a stretch to say that history questions from time to time can and should change. Similarly I would question your credential to tell me and everyone else what's up in history.
Okay. I didn't dismiss your textbook knowledge; I did the opposite of that. I have no doubt you know a lot more about the academic field of history than I do and, for that reason, I didn't and don't presume to tell you anything about the current state of history. Also, I'm well aware that things in every academic discipline change over time. That's a very banal point that I hope you'll stop making.
What I did and do say is that the current state of an academic discipline doesn't have a decisive (and, for the health of our game, can't, c.f. 20/20 string theory per tournament) bearing on what comes up in quizbowl, i.e. that even perfect "textbook knowledge" doesn't necessarily translate into an ability to select good answers.
Awehrman wrote:The Illinois Central Railroad I have already defended. The Illinois and Michigan canal is hugely important...
Okay, again (and if I could write this in OVER 9000 point font, I would) saying of a topic "it's important" and leaving it at that does not constitute a valid claim that something should come up. I believe you that the I&M Canal is historically important. It doesn't follow at all that we can (must less ought to) ask good questions on it. You just keep coming back to this argument; it remains under the same (seemingly damning) criticisms because you don't answer them. In addition to something being important, a topic has to have a wide variety of interesting, important clues about it that people know at differing levels in order to be an answer; that's really just how it is.
Awehrman wrote:I'm surprised that [you consider the Illini unaskable because people don't know about them.] Since Illiniwek is the mascot of the state's flagship university and that the state was named after this confederation (alternate answers would include Illiniwek, Illinois, and Illini), I would think this one would be bedrock. I don't think it would be out of bounds nationally either since Illinois is famous. You could also conceivably ask about the confederation's constituent tribes. I think Native American history is somewhat lacking in quizbowl generally (it may be that it's a tough fit in US history sometimes and a harder fit in world history). I think if any major Native American tribe can be tossed up in quizbowl, this one can too.
As Jeff noted, this is nonsense. A question on the Illini will go one of two ways:
1. [A series of clues nobody knows is read.] [Giveaway no one knows is read.] [People stare, I guess.] [Question goes dead.]
2. [A series of clues nobody knows is read.] [Giveaway mentioning "namesake of Illinois" or something is read.] [Every buzzer in room is depressed.]
I've oversimplified just a tad here: I guess I can think of a couple middle clues people might know. A (trashy or at best current events) Chief Illiniwek clue might elicit a buzz or two and just maybe people will know that a ton of these dudes were starved to death at Starved Rock. Beyond that, I can think of not a single clue that I know about the Illini. So if, by "bedrock" you mean "this topic has a clue literally everyone will know," this is bedrock. If by bedrock you mean "this is a topic a lot of people know a lot of clues about," I join Jeff in saying that you're badly wrong.
I discuss this at length because I think that most of the answers that you're posing and that I'd consider bad would result in questions of this kind. You're not proposing things nobody's heard of, by-and-large, but you are proposing things that people know/can know very few real clues about. Please at least consider whether that's so before you make your next "This is important in the current academic discipline of history and therefore should come up" argument.

MaS
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Re: inclusion of state/local history

Post by jonah » Tue Mar 17, 2009 4:40 pm

Mike, I agree with what you've said about the appropriateness of such answers for tossups. I'm curious to know what you think about them as bonus answers? Obviously I'm not talking about the one or two per round of the IHSA, or even close to it, but what would your reaction be to such things coming up in bonuses occasionally?
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Re: inclusion of state/local history

Post by dtaylor4 » Tue Mar 17, 2009 4:44 pm

jonah wrote:Mike, I agree with what you've said about the appropriateness of such answers for tossups. I'm curious to know what you think about them as bonus answers? Obviously I'm not talking about the one or two per round of the IHSA, or even close to it, but what would your reaction be to such things coming up in bonuses occasionally?
This would be fine, for sets that are only used in Illinois. The problem is, many of the quality sets that Illinois teams play on are either produced elsewhere, or produced within and mirrored elsewhere. Unless you plan on doing such questions for each individual mirror site, this is not a good plan.

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Re: inclusion of state/local history

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Mar 17, 2009 4:45 pm

Most of these answers certainly would fit as bonus answers. I think my earlier comments about a lowered level of rigor in middle school tossups applies just about as well to higher-level bonuses. Transparency doesn't matter as much, since we're just testing whether people know any clue, not which clue they know (though it still matters some; you still want to test real clues.) Also, number of real clues isn't that important as long as some exist, because you only need a few.

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Re: inclusion of state/local history

Post by cvdwightw » Tue Mar 17, 2009 8:37 pm

So, I had a standard Dwight-length post written, and decided to junk most of it. Here's what was important:

1. The "local history" part of the canon necessarily expands differently than just about every other part of the canon, because it expands in different directions in every locality (as opposed to, say, philosophy, where it expands in the same general direction everywhere).
2. The national companies need to function as regulators, taking "inputs" from the "local canons" and producing questions that are in the "national canon." I define "local canon" as "answerable by at least 85% of teams in the locality" and "national canon" as "locally canonical in at least 85% of regions." Thus they will both help speed up expansion in that 15% of regions that are lagging behind the expansion curve and check expansion in most other regions.
3. Because of the way the "local history" canon expands, there is no real overlap between the local canons in "local history," and so there is no national canon for "local history."
4. However, as more and more tournaments become nationwide affairs, there is an increased need for a national canon.
5. Therefore, mandating a local history distribution requires either (1) extra work on the part of all tournament producers to replace, e.g. "Illinois local history" in Illinois with "Maryland local history" in Maryland and "Texas local history" in Texas or (2) an overlap of locally canonical "local history" that introduces different local histories into the national canon. Since (1) is a pain in the butt for all tournament producers, it won't happen, so (2) must happen.
6. However, there is no one direction to expansion of local history. This will result in different regions "fighting" to have their "locally canonical" answers introduced to the national canon.
7. Ultimately, the regions that will win those "fights" are the ones that produce high-quality nationally-mirrored questions.
8. Thus, certain regions (e.g. the DC area) will be far more represented in the "local history" canon than other areas (e.g. California, which doesn't really run any house-written tournaments).

In my opinion, the most likely result from a mandated "local history" distribution is most regions will actually have a decrease in the number of questions on "local history that's nationally important" and a few regions will have a sharp increase in the number of questions on "local history that's not all that nationally important." Keeping the "vary your questions by time period and geographic location" ensures that if something meets Mike's criteria of (1) historical importance and (2) potential question quality, then it will likely come up.

The other likely scenario is that there becomes another dichotomy between regions that like local history and regions that don't. I highly suspect that, with Illinois, the worse teams from the Chicago and Springfield areas will be highly in favor of these "local history" questions because they will bring an even greater concentration of Chicago/Springfield-centric tossups (and thus they will look better without really getting better), while the more rural teams and the more nationally elite teams will be opposed to it (for different reasons; the rural teams because they're at an even greater disadvantage and the elite teams because they could have spent that question on something that is more likely to come up nationally).
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