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February 27, 2005




That really hit home, especially because I spent the weekend in Tennessee at a quizbowl tournament (hanging out with a friend who's an excellent player on his last hurrah, playing as an ineligible team because I'm no student) and had a great time but felt a billion years old watching all the undergrad kids, all the freshman and sophomores who are my brother's age now and not mine. And yet they are all like I was and like the people I know were (and even with some girls, which is a nice change) and it was fun to watch them, even though a bit awkward to play the teams that just weren't quite prepared for the level of difficulty.

I didn't get a chance to do things like that in high school, but now that I'm older I find myself drawn back to high school things, interested in what it is that the kids, the smart girls especially, are reading and seeing and thinking about, and I'm fascinated with portrayals of youth culture I would never have looked at as a teenager myself. I'm glad to see a little of this going on elsewhere, especially among good, smart people like you.

David Fiore

really interesting Marc--

like Rose, I never really participated in this kind of thing as a teen (I got shanghaied by teachers into a couple of "mathlete" competitions, and I did sneak into quite a few track and field meets, because you could do it without joining a team, and it was good for a day off from school,here and there...but no clubs, or quiz squads--I was the kind of nerd that figures even those people didn't want to hang out with me...)

but I must say that I am having an analogous experience as an instructor (and I think the fact that I'm only teaching one class--and they know I'm not a doctor of anything--helps to make it seem less like work to me than it does to you) at MSU... I was so borderline autistic throughout my teens that I never really noticed what other people were doing, and it's great to finally have a chance to see what humans are like at that age... the other interesting thing, though, is that I do kind of see them as "originals", rather than as types--and I wonder if this means that I myself am still wandering around in the haze that you left behind in high school!

If so--I'm not sure that I want to emerge...



I spent many an hour with Marc at these things during High school. I was of course on the C or D team from our school, regulated to captain the team with the freshmen (who usually were much much much better than I was).

All I know is that we were cool.



Of course we were. Isn't everybody at that age?

Kan, seeing these kids would break your heart.

Dave Van Domelen

I was probably the only guy at my high school to buy a letter jacket in order to put academic letters on it. We didn't have a quiz bowl team (Academic Decathlon teams are not the same thing, and besides, as the fourth best in the school I didn't get to be on the team), but there was math club and forensics to give me letters. :)

Oddly, I never really noticed a lot of smugness on either team. Of course, forensics didn't necessarily attract the same sort as went in for quiz bowl, and the people organizing the math events had our number and made sure there were always questions no one could solve. :)

I did get to be on the College Bowl team my senior year of college, though, and we went to Nationals. But I expect College Bowl isn't the same sort of social environment as high school quiz bowl, if only because a lot of the team members have been living away from home for a while.


Very nice post, Marc.

I myself found that Dazed and Confused showed that Texas high school in 1976 was not so different from California in 1983. A friend that I saw it with commented that it made him homesick for a time he didn't actually experience.

The other notion that your post provoked in me was reflecting on seeing my brother's college graduation in 1991 (I graduated in 1989) and being nearly swamped by nostalgia and what-might-have-beens. I have to admit that it's been a relief to get loose of those feelings as I get older; yet at the same time I feel oddly diminished, as if I'm wondering if life isn't as intense as it used to be.


I'm sure most high schoolers would break my heart. All of that energy put into stuff that will be pointless in less than 5 or 6 years....


In high school, I was a terrible slacker. No quiz contests for me.

I will admit to a certain fondness for some teens though. When I see a kid with more ambition and drive than I had, it warms my heart, and humbles me. (I may have reformed my loathsome slacker ways, but I should never forget my mistakes.)

Marc's notes about the kids who knew they were going on to higher ed gave me mixed feelings. It gives me hope for the world. I am in my late 20s, and based on my observations, many of my contemporaries are numbskulls. I really do think that the kids in college now, (and recent grads) are a bit smarter than my age cohort. On the one hand, it means things may improve in coming years. On the other, it means that I am competing with these little upstarts (both younger and smarter) for jobs.

Jess Nevins

"One of my favorite movies, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, tells me that high school in Texas in 1976 was not so different from high school in Maryland in 1988. Now I see that you can add Tennessee in 2005,"

Dazed and Confused was written by a Huntsville, Texas native and based on the high school here in Hunstville.

High school in Hunstville in 1976 was not so different from high school in Huntsville in 2005, and by "not so different" I mean "not at all different."


Still with the paddlings, huh? Ouch.

Jess Nevins

Actually, I was too quick off the mark.

Now girls who are suspected of being lesbians get rocks thrown at them, and then disciplined by the school for provoking the attack.

In case anyone tells you that Texas is better than its reputation--they lie.

Mike Chary

I played offensive tackle in high school. My educational career was soemwhat more pedestrian for things not involving standardized tests. (God bless you whoever decided success involved filling in a scantron sheet!)

But, we had in my high school a quiz bowl team, and academic decathlon and something called academic superbowl. I made the quiz bowl team sophomore year. They cancelled the competition.

I made the academic decathlon team sophomore year as an alternate or something, but got bored and quit. (The next year I didn't bother, but they had astronomy as the science category, so I wound up helping to coach the team because I was the only person in the school who knew anything about astronomy including the faculty.)

Finally, senior year after I hurt my knee, the principal asked me to be on and some new teacher to organize an academic super bowl team. The principal decided to do this, what, a month or so before the competition. Two weeks before the competition, the principal leaves for a conference. His last words to me are "Oh, don't let me down at the competition," thus reminding me "Hey, I'm supposed to do this." I talked to the teacher and he said essentially "Oh, it's too late to do anything."

I started to picture Father Whitley's face when he comes back and finds out I let him down, and then calls the colleges I applied to... (In retrospect, he would have blamed the teacher, but I was a kid, what did I know?) Anyway, I don't know where I fit in on the high school generic archetype scale, but I spent the night calling ten of the people I knew (probably four or so would be friends, which is to say people I actually associated with of my own will outside classes. I wasn't any easier to get along with during my teen years than I am now.) And I scraped together a team. We got first in state in history and finished in the top ten in the other categories.

So, my participation in those things was a lot less successful than my organizational and coaching endeavors. (I'd have made the NFL, however, if I hadn't hurt my knee.)

In college, Francis Uy, David Caldwell, Aaron Brennan and me won the intra-mural college bowl, though.

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