I leave tomorrow for the national NAQT Quiz Bowl tournament in Chicago. I’m going to be there 4 days. Or maybe 5, I don’t remember. 3, maybe, if we get knocked out the first day. Whatever.
Anyway, the point is – it’s a Quiz Bowl tournament. Quiz Bowl is a type of competition where there are two teams of 4 players, and a series of questions are asked, giving various numbers of points. The team with the most points wins. There are “tossup” questions, where the first person to buzz in and answer correctly gets the points (10, or 15 if answered before a specific point in the question – answering incorrectly gives -5), and “bonus” questions, which are answerable only be the team that got the corresponding tossup question and which the team works as a whole on.
It’s a pretty fun game, actually. And it does seem to test your knowledge, to a certain extent. But my complaint with it is that it seems to emphasize memorization of information more than understanding of what that information means.
For example, there are a bunch of questions on classical music. They mostly involve matching composers with works. You could be very knowledgeable about musical criticism and musical theory and get none of them, simply because you haven’t memorized what people wrote what works; conversely, you could memorize all of these lists and get all of the musical questions without ever listening to any of the pieces of music or really knowing anything about them.
I’m not sure what to thing about this. It’s true you could sit down and memorize list after list after list, but I think that would help you less than being culturally learned and picking up all of this stuff about composers through listening to conversations and reading about topics that interest you. But that still isn’t as good as actually listening to the works.
For example, because I find the topic interesting, I’ve read a lot about and now know a lot about the composers Sibelius and Dvorak, more than I would actually need to answer the questions about them. And knowing this will probably help more on the QB questions than just memorizing lists of names, because I’ll be able to answer questions about Sibelius and Dvorak before other people who only studied the names will be able to. But I’ve never actually listened to any of their works, simply because I’ve never found the time.
So QB does seem to promote a sort of ‘cultural literacy’, more than just memorization of facts. But it doesn’t really promote, in my opinion, actual knowledge – in that the kind of knowledge you could only get from actually listening to the works of Sibelius and Dvorak will never come in handy at QB competitions.
Still, promoting cultural literacy does has a place, I think. So QB isn’t a complete waste of time – and it is fun.