Click Here to Become Sad

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Mike Bentley
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Re: Click Here to Become Sad

Post by Mike Bentley »

Ike wrote:More generally, I'm willing to bet that every portion of the quizbowl distribution is not representative of the way Things Are. Computer Science - my major, is mishandled in quizbowl. But I don't come on here to make long tirades about it because 1.) there's much more important things to get right in quizbowl and 2.) the amount of people who have the energy and time to listen and rectify All The Problems With Computer Science is very few. Much in the same way that we got sick of the music mafia about things not being perfect, I think most people don't really want to read endless posts about Canadian history, computer science, etc.
For what it's worth, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on how quizbowl CS diverges from "real" CS.
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Re: Click Here to Become Sad

Post by Masked Canadian History Bandit »

Since my initial “most misrepresented” comments were meant to focus on factual accuracy and the playability of questions, this post is mostly about how the writing of Canadian questions in quizbowl can be improved. Musings on Canadian historiography, why Marshall is (mostly) wrong, and how that applies to quizbowl will come in a later post when I have more time.
Auks Ran Ova wrote:Look, we cut you Canadians a lot of slack with your excess Us and metric measurements, but there's no country on Earth that calls the opening clue of a tossup a "lede-in".
Yeah that's a Wikipedia thing that I sometimes slip into, sorry. You'd be surprised at how many inexperienced editors start questioning the relevancy of Pb.
Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:Anyway, as quizbowl becomes more international, I think it is useful to discuss what people in country x think of their history, versus what people in America think of their history.

When I visited the UK to play Oxford Open in 2011, I was struck by how little interest British quizbowl players had in their own late 19th century history. British history in American quizbowl can be a parade of Disraelis, Palmerstons, and Salisburies...but the British people I actually talked to didn't seem to care about any these people (and certainly didn't care about lesser figures such as the Earl of Derby), but instead saw their important history as having taken place during the 1920's and the rise of the Labour Party...an era that isn't particularly asked about in American quizbowl questions, at least not when I was playing half a decade ago.

Likewise, American quizbowl in the late 2000's went through a phase where every Canadian history tossup was about Riel, which the Canadian players I met at 2009 VETO thought was very curious indeed. The injection of actual Canadians into positions of great influence within American quizbowl has probably fixed this to an extent, but clearly Canadians are not yet happy with it, nor is Marshall Steinbaum.
Bruce is right in that efforts at quizbowl expansion outside the United States are best served when their country’s history as asked about in quizbowl corresponds with what that country’s citizens actually know.

For most Canadians (or at least for Ontario, where most Canadian quizbowlers are from), anything before the First World War is consigned to middle school classes taken nearly a decade before their collegiate careers. Unless someone went out of their way to learn more about topics like Louis Riel, John A. MacDonald, Laurier, deep clues for those (at least for the collegiate level) normally don’t come from school. For example, I’ll admit that I had never even heard of the Manitoba Schools Question until I started playing collegiate quiz bowl and was told to write a Laurier tossup for MO 2011 because I had learned a different set of key events of Laurier’s time in office. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing because many of these topics are genuinely important to Canada and (therefore) the world, but it can definitely be jarring to see seemingly unimportant events like the Manitoba Schools Question or the On-to-Ottawa Trek repeatedly come up.
at your pleasure wrote:So does someone actually have a good introductory book to Canadian history that is not A) awful whig history, B) duller than cottage cheese, or C) by Desmond Morton(which I have tried to read only to find it painfully, painfully boring)?
If you think Desmond Morton is boring, try reading Donald Creighton. That stuff's borderline unreadable. I personally found Desmond Morton book on the Canadian Overseas Ministry during the First World War, A Peculiar Kind of Politics, pretty readable, but I haven't read his A Short History of Canada.

If anyone besides myself has read J.L. Granatstein's Who Killed Canadian History?, they would know that the problem with Canadian academic history is that it's boring and largely inaccessible to the public and that you're better off reading popular historians. I personally enjoyed reading Will Ferguson's Bastards and Boneheads which is both humourous and pretty uncompromising in ridiculing Canadian leaders of all stripes.

I've also heard good things about the Illustrated History of Canada, especially the updated version, although I've never read it because I'm not in the business of reading introductory books to Canadian history. Its chapters are written by leading Canadian historians and edited by Robert Craig Brown, who did top-notch work on World War One history.

To go beyond introductory Canadian history books, Pierre Berton has published fifty books on Canadian history and is highly readable. Richard J. Gwyn's biography of John A. Macdonald is by far the best one yet.
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:I tend to think that clues in bonus parts only have a responsibility to convey sufficient information to answer the bonus part; i.e., the concerns Matt listed above. I don't buy that clue-selection alone can be offensive or "insulting." If that question had said "This stupid and unimportant military unit," a la Modern World, that would be one thing. But as it stands, I think you're putting unrealistic expectations on question writers if you demand that they eulogize their subjects.
I've made jokes about Canada in my questions before, so I would be the last to demand that question writers eulogize their subjects. However writers should not make shockingly incorrect value judgements unless it's clearly presented as humorous (and YMMV on that à la Ashvin) or else the question becomes less playable.

In this case, every single clue for the first bonus part except the location was either incorrect or misleading! How would American players react if questions seriously used incorrect value judgements such as "Washington's greatest accomplishment was when he killed Jumonville" or "Lincoln's most important domestic policy was General Order 28"? In extreme, outlier cases like this one, the near total lack of research resulted in a horrible question that basically plays on stereotypes, lies to the players, and is indeed “insulting". The key takeaway here is that this is simply the worst example of things that writers can do with Canadian content that would be unthinkable for American content.
Cheynem wrote:At the risk of sounding like a dufus, I feel like a lot of this comes down to writing better questions. The Lord Strathcona bonus, even at the time, seems obviously too hard and/or not written very elegantly. I'm interested in obviously trying to write questions that actually reflect what's important and what people know, but I also think we should be careful not to forget that:
a. most quizbowl questions are written for Americans who have a different view of what's notable in Canadian history presumably than most Canadians
b. trying to write quizbowl questions to avoid "bias" is sometimes a recipe for disaster, depending on the writer's skill and familiarity
c. it's difficult to make generalizations based on a few people's experiences. I actually bet I could a lot of American players who would claim that American history questions don't match what they learn in school--i.e., where's the string of Civil War battles, why don't we identify colonies more, etc. I'm all for trying to find different answerlines or clues that are cool, interesting, and gettable (and I think I do this a bit in my Canada focused questions), but we should be pretty careful in doing so.
Matthew J wrote: Since all of these things are more or less neutrally represented quite frequently in quizbowl questions already I think I have the answer I need (which is that things are pretty much fine as answer selection goes, and should be made better by earnest reading of/engagement with Canadian history facts).
The Lord Strathcona bonus part was bad, rightfully criticized when it appeared, and unrepresentative of the majority of Canadian history questions, which are good, if somewhat dull, for reasons of difficulty appropriateness. Matt Jackson has it right in that answer selection is fine, but better clue selection and writing is really what’s needed for Canadian questions. No one is asking that traditionally less recognized areas of Canadian history should suddenly be made into answerlines, but it would be nice to see them worked into difficulty-appropriate questions.

I’ll make a more detailed post later, but my experience is that there are certain tropes that appear in quizbowl writing about Canadian subjects and non-American subjects in general that unnecessarily make them less answerable for the most knowledgeable. Thankfully, most of these issues can be solved through things like Googling clues you’re not sure of and doing reverse-clue lookup.
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Re: Click Here to Become Sad

Post by The Stately Rhododendron »

My godfather's sister's husband (Harry the Historian, Historian laureate of Calgary) subscribes to a magazine called The Beaver, from the Canadian Historical Society. Is that a good source for Canadian History?
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Re: Click Here to Become Sad

Post by Cheynem »

I think it's pretty clear that the bonus lead-in that started this kerfluffle was pretty not so Raven. Can you give us an idea of what other poor qualities Canadian questions have, perhaps by using examples? I apparently am not one of the elite Canadian writers so I'd like to know what mistakes I'm making.
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Re: Click Here to Become Sad

Post by Masked Canadian History Bandit »

The Stately Rhododendron wrote:My godfather's sister's husband (Harry the Historian, Historian laureate of Calgary) subscribes to a magazine called The Beaver, from the Canadian Historical Society. Is that a good source for Canadian History?
I'm a big fan of Canda's History, which hasn't been known as The Beaver for 5 years now because it kept getting caught up in spam filters. If you can get your hands on copies in the States, it's an excellent, high-quality source.
Cheynem wrote:I think it's pretty clear that the bonus lead-in that started this kerfluffle was pretty not so Raven. Can you give us an idea of what other poor qualities Canadian questions have, perhaps by using examples? I apparently am not one of the elite Canadian writers so I'd like to know what mistakes I'm making.
That list was just me listing off whatever writers who I could vividly remember as having written/edited good Canadian questions and is by no means exhaustive.

Off the top of my head, the biggest thing is clues that can apply to more than one thing being presented as if they were uniquely identifying. For example, the Liberal Party of Canada question at 2013 VCU Open began with something like "One scandal involving this party was revealed by Sheila Fraser," which is problematic because Fraser was Canada's auditor general for a decade and investigated scandals under two different parties. For good measure, it also gives the wrong Cabinet post for Pearson, who was only ever External Affairs Minister. In one of the SCTs or ICTs these past two years, there was a tossup on Malala that clued that she was an individual awarded honorary Canadian citizenship, which could apply to a bunch of other individuals tossupable as CE. A non-Canadian example if this is the Bloody Sunday tossup in Oppen, which had one clue that was essentially "Mike Jackson commanded troops during this event" which is particularly unhelpful because Mike Jackson is arguably the most prominent post-War British general.

Another thing that seems to happen occasionally is unnecessarily changing names in a way that makes it confusing. For example, in this year's ACF Fall, there was as tossup on Pierre Trudeau that mentioned his stoic response to bottle throwing during Fête St. Jean Baptiste, but strangely chose to Anglicize it as Baptist Day, which would make any good Canadian player. Another example of this is in either 2012 or 2013 PACE NSC, where a tossup on Ottawa as submitted called the Tulip Festival "Tulip Day". Just like it would be pretty weird to obfuscate Mardi Gras as "Fat Day" or Washington's Cherry Blossom Festival as "Cherry Day" names shouldn't be made up for things that either have existing English names or easily translated names.

I'll make a more detailed post later that pulls from examples from my collegiate career sometime later.
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Re: Click Here to Become Sad

Post by theMoMA »

The tossup on Malala did not make it seem as though her honorary Canadian citizenship was a unique clue; it introduced one sentence with "This honorary citizen of Canada..." As there are six honorary Canadian citizens, this seems like a worthwhile clue, even though several of the others are tossupable world figures.
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Re: Click Here to Become Sad

Post by Ike »

For most Canadians (or at least for Ontario, where most Canadian quizbowlers are from), anything before the First World War is consigned to middle school classes taken nearly a decade before their collegiate careers. Unless someone went out of their way to learn more about topics like Louis Riel, John A. MacDonald, Laurier, deep clues for those (at least for the collegiate level) normally don’t come from school.
What exactly is the problem here? Am I misreading this? To pick a random category, say mythology, we don't write mythology based on what is consigned to middle school classes or choose topics that "don't come from school." So why should Canadian History be any different?

I guess I will try to offer a genuine reading at best: you seem to be saying that there are a lot of topics which Canadians know about in Canadian History, but they don't get asked about that much. If that's the case, I think the best thing you can do is just write more history that hits those mines of information - and eventually it'll make its way into the canon.
Off the top of my head, the biggest thing is clues that can apply to more than one thing being presented as if they were uniquely identifying.
I don't mean to be glib, but this is neither a uniquely Canadian, History, or Canadian History problem. Many categories (science, I'm looking at you!) often times have this problem. That is to say, if writers do this, it isn't because they are conspiring to anger Canadians.
How would American players react if questions seriously used incorrect value judgements such as "Washington's greatest accomplishment was when he killed Jumonville" or "Lincoln's most important domestic policy was General Order 28"? In extreme, outlier cases like this one, the near total lack of research resulted in a horrible question that basically plays on stereotypes, lies to the players, and is indeed “insulting".
The Lord Strathcona bonus part was bad, rightfully criticized when it appeared, and unrepresentative of the majority of Canadian history questions, which are good, if somewhat dull, for reasons of difficulty appropriateness. Matt Jackson has it right in that answer selection is fine, but better clue selection and writing is really what’s needed for Canadian questions.
Ok, so let me give you a bit of history about this question. I don't recall writing it; it's very possible that this was something Charles Martin wrote and I just used - that's because Illinois refused to pay me any editor's fees for the tournament until I vociferously protested and threatened to boycott the tournament. So while the question wasn't great it wasn't the only bad question in the set - look at the tossup on Jay's Treaty that's horrible that still might be in there. All of this is to say, that this isn't some Vast South-of-the-Border Conspiracy to insult Canada. It was me being overworked with class, undercompensated until I yelled at the Illinois leadership, and me trying to get the set into usability. Considering how that tournament was the only regular difficulty tournament in the fall, I would run that tournament again whether or not people choose to read that particular question as insulting to Canada. All I'm trying to say is, writers are not trying to be misleading to make the Canadian equivalent value judgments of ""Lincoln's most important domestic policy was General Order 28," but rather are ill-informed about (Canadian) history and do actually mean well.
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Re: Click Here to Become Sad

Post by Bartleby »

Ike wrote:
For most Canadians (or at least for Ontario, where most Canadian quizbowlers are from), anything before the First World War is consigned to middle school classes taken nearly a decade before their collegiate careers. Unless someone went out of their way to learn more about topics like Louis Riel, John A. MacDonald, Laurier, deep clues for those (at least for the collegiate level) normally don’t come from school.
What exactly is the problem here? Am I misreading this? To pick a random category, say mythology, we don't write mythology based on what is consigned to middle school classes or choose topics that "don't come from school." So why should Canadian History be any different?

I guess I will try to offer a genuine reading at best: you seem to be saying that there are a lot of topics which Canadians know about in Canadian History, but they don't get asked about that much. If that's the case, I think the best thing you can do is just write more history that hits those mines of information - and eventually it'll make its way into the canon.
The problem is that normally this works in the opposite way -- writers and editors accept that there are plenty of important topics that aren't necessarily part of a school curriculum, whereas Patrick is saying that many Canadian topics that come up seem to stick to things that Canadians learned in their middle school history classes (though I don't think, and I'm sure he doesn't think this is intentional), when there are other important extra-curricular topics that should be asked about.
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Re: Click Here to Become Sad

Post by at your pleasure »

Bartleby wrote:
Ike wrote:
For most Canadians (or at least for Ontario, where most Canadian quizbowlers are from), anything before the First World War is consigned to middle school classes taken nearly a decade before their collegiate careers. Unless someone went out of their way to learn more about topics like Louis Riel, John A. MacDonald, Laurier, deep clues for those (at least for the collegiate level) normally don’t come from school.
What exactly is the problem here? Am I misreading this? To pick a random category, say mythology, we don't write mythology based on what is consigned to middle school classes or choose topics that "don't come from school." So why should Canadian History be any different?

I guess I will try to offer a genuine reading at best: you seem to be saying that there are a lot of topics which Canadians know about in Canadian History, but they don't get asked about that much. If that's the case, I think the best thing you can do is just write more history that hits those mines of information - and eventually it'll make its way into the canon.
The problem is that normally this works in the opposite way -- writers and editors accept that there are plenty of important topics that aren't necessarily part of a school curriculum, whereas Patrick is saying that many Canadian topics that come up seem to stick to things that Canadians learned in their middle school history classes (though I don't think, and I'm sure he doesn't think this is intentional), when there are other important extra-curricular topics that should be asked about.
Yea, maybe I'm reading something wrong here but it seems like Patrick is claiming that Canadian history in quizbowl is sort of like what you'd get if someone from the UK or Canada decided to write American history questions in small doses for a local set and then proceeded to write their questions entirely on things like the Stamp Act and other topics you learned in middle school history classes that listed Important Events Leading to the Revolutionary War and not things that most Americans who study American history or like to read about it for pleasure are actually likely to read about.
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Re: Click Here to Become Sad

Post by minusfive »

As a long-overdue reference, I would recommend the introductory text "Egotists and Autocrats" by (Someone?) Bowering about Canada's history (framed as a history of the Prime Ministers, but claiming facetiously that Cardinal Richelieu was Canada's first PM). It shamelessly uses potentially self-serving sources such as autobiographies, but it's an entertaining canvass.

Did we ever get that CS discussion up and going?
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