The majority of high school tossups on the Mali Empire are terrible.

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The majority of high school tossups on the Mali Empire are terrible.

Post by Vixor »

I am only considering tossups between the regs- and regs+ level of high school.

Firstly, I notice every Mali Tossup at this difficulty tends to clue the Gbara legislature or the Catalan Atlas's depiction of Mansa Musa first or second line. If the tossup is feeling especially daring, it will clue the Twelve Doors early in the tossup as well. These common first/second lines are not only problematic because of their prevalence in Quizbowl itself, but the historical significance, especially in the Catalan Atlas which inspired European incursions into Africa. This is especially problematic, as these clues are generally early regardless of specific difficulty within regs- to regs+.

Speaking of Mansa Musa, many tossups rely on him and his reign too heavily, especially his construction of the Djinguereber Mosque, funding of the Sankore University, and employment of al-Sahili early on, but also his crash of the Cairo gold market and hajj later.

Some interesting, and underused clues include Abu Bakr II's voyage to explore the Atlantic, Ibn Battuta's visit of Mali under Sulayman, and the Taghaza
salt mines.

Aditionally, I'd like to point out that Sumanguru, the Battle of Kirina, and Sundiata Keita are clued at very odd points in the tossup. Generally, Sundiata should be clued directly out of power for regs, near last line for regs+, and power for regs-. Generally Most FTP clues are also decent, usually mentioning Mansa Musa and Timbuktu.

Generally, tossups on the Mali empire have great potential to be interesting; however, that is quite frequently wasted at the high school level with misplaced clues, be it to early or too late, or overused clues, while disfavoring perfectly fine clues that would make sense at this difficulty.
Vishal Rameshbabu
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Muhammad bin Tughluq, upon his ascent to the throne of Delhi, conducted a massacre at Kannauj. He moved the capital of Delhi to Daulatabad in Maharashtra for centralization after his conquest of Warangal Fort in Telangana. Tughluq defended India in the north against the Chagatai Khanate, and was later defeated by Prithvi Chand II in in Kangara. Tughluq standardized brass and copper coinage, taking away from the market value of gold.
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Re: The majority of high school tossups on the Mali Empire are terrible.

Post by Santa Claus »

Wouldn’t including new clues and moving more common clues later in the question make questions harder, thus putting them outside of the range in question of regs- to regs+?
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Re: The majority of high school tossups on the Mali Empire are terrible.

Post by Stained Diviner »

One way to solve part of this problem is to not toss up Mali Empire in high school regs- sets.
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Re: The majority of high school tossups on the Mali Empire are terrible.

Post by ganman0305 »

I think this thread is a good place to discuss how we consider a lot of world history at a regs- or regs level! I haven't done a lot of regs- work, so I'll only comment on regs difficulty for this post.

When I write a regs tossup, I'm always thinking in the back of my mind that the audience playing the set is really big! It ranges from teams that could be competitors at a national championship, to newer players who may be starting to recognize clues from stuff they've seen in class. With this being said, its really important to balance out questions so that:

1. Dominant players can be dominant while lower-level teams can still compete against each other towards the end of the question.
2. There's a balance between "quiz bowl" knowledge and external studying versus content students find in classrooms.

I remember at my high school, the Honors "world history" course started essentially in 1492 and was mostly about Europe or colonialism across the world. This may be unique for my experience, but I think if you asked anyone in that class this question, they wouldn't be able to get any of it may be at the end. That's a problem that you face with trying to scale world content to regs: there's a pretty big gap between what's taught in an American classroom versus the huge amount of world content out there. So, with that being said, world content at the regs level is in a tough spot, and has to either:

A. Stick to basics/barebones facts
B. Incorporate some element of colonialism/Europe into the question (now this is my opinion but I try to minimize the number of world questions that are just "Europeans around the world")
C. Highlight "quiz bowl famous" authors/books.

What do I mean by quiz bowl famous? I mean things that I've learned from playing quiz bowl that are heard every set (i.e. Things Fall Apart or One Hundred Years of Solitude as regs world literature, or in this case, Mali as African history in regs level packets). I'm NOT saying that these things are only famous because they're in quiz bowl: Achebe and Gabo and Mali are all really important and super cool subjects!! They just happen to come up a lot, which can draw some eyerolls from experienced players who have the clues battened down.

So what can be done about this?

1. Write questions from new perspectives/answerlines. I remember a recent hs regs packet that had a tossup on "gold" instead of Mali, but used some of the same clues in a similar vein to get to the answer. Things like asking about different goods, or a leader, or other common links that are within reason and aren't super crazy are pretty good ways to go.

2. Try to find at least one cool new clue, or a new way to talk about something that comes up all the time. For instance, maybe you could find a cool way about the Gbarra was run? Or something interesting about Mansa Musa's wild ride to Mecca? I like to try and make every question I write have at least one thing new to the answerline so it can contribute to the development of knowledge over time. I see how reading the same "Mali" question over and over could be a little annoying over time, but that's what regs writers have to work with to make a gettable question with that answerline at the regs level.

TL;DR Regs World content is usually limited in scope, so it leads to repeated clues/answerlines a lot. Writers could help remedy these by finding creative (but sane) answerlines or new ways to talk about clues.
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Re: The majority of high school tossups on the Mali Empire are terrible.

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

I defer to Jakob Myers or others more well-read on this subject, but to my knowledge one of the issues we have here is that the primary source material is very limited in terms of what can be reasonably asked, while any attempts to foray into deeper historiography are doubtless going to fall outside of the purview of high school students. A lot of the history of the Mali Empire was transmitted orally and the transmission of this material outside West Africa into academic historiography has only been a major project since the era of decolonization. There's probably a good amount there that still hasn't been transmitted into a written form, so we're stuck with al-Umari, Ibn Battuta, material from the Epic of Sundiata, and a few other things. I'm not particularly well-read on the archaeology here either, admittedly, but outside of an occasional lead-in that is probably a bridge too far at this level.

In addition, all of the tossup ideas that Ganon proposes have, in fact, been done at college tournaments in some way or another. This is not to say this is a bad thing, but rather that the system does in fact work - it's just people are more conservative with their answers at the high school level. However, there's probably something else up here.

I think a lot of this ultimately is a product of how many high school tossups get produced. Many of the writers are competent players in their subjects who learn about things in the natural way you'd do so - study old packets, read things on Wikipedia, or pay attention in world history class (if that's possible in the era of Zoom school). So they write questions the same way and the most salient facts there naturally get put in. I wouldn't say these questions are bad per se, but rather that they inevitably play out poorly among experienced players who prepare with the exact same material that the writers use. Naturally, this problem gets worse as more and more study material becomes available over time.

I don't do much high school level history work, but I think there's room to expand the answer space in some of these areas. I have no idea what the conversion rate on an answer like Timbuktu would be at the HS Regs level - it would probably be harder than median, but I doubt lower than 50% and you should have some of those mildly tougher answers in every set anyways. Gold / salt / etc. have been done before but still offer room for fresh material, geographic feature tossups have been a fruitful area of expansion in some instances, etc.

This all being said, we ought to have some charity in mind for the writers who, for lack of a better phrase, don't know much better - and for editors who are crunched to get things out on time and aren't inclined to rework a question that goes "yeah I've seen it before, but the clues are in the right order." This charity and a gentle nudge here and there, or a suggestion of a reframing to the writer, can go a long way.
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Re: The majority of high school tossups on the Mali Empire are terrible.

Post by A Dim-Witted Saboteur »

As an East Africanist I probably know just about as much about the Mali empire as Will does, but both his points about endogenous sources largely having been written down centuries after their oral creation and exogenous sources being few and Ganon's that Vishal probably came close to listing everything you can reasonably expect the audience of a regular difficulty HS set to know struck me as correct (although there's a lot of material in e.g. Al-Bakri and Sundiata, so at this level you run up against Ganon's difficulty constraints first). I wish the high school curricula that you need to ground these sets in (as opposed to in college, where you're much freer) were less stupid about Africa, but alas they are not.
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