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> What exactly is the value of Academic Decathlon?, and how do you sell it?
Guest_Subversive Asset 2.0_*
post May 2 2011, 03:31 AM
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Long time, no see, everyone.

In the very recent past (like...yesterday, when I saw EDC post on Facebook about Arizona's performance at Nationals -- congrats BTW to everyone who competed, not just the AZ team), I started reading some of the discussions here -- especially related to Nationals....But I was really intrigued by meta-topics relating to AcaDec, such as the Open Letter to USAD. There were also a few other threads I really enjoyed reading, of course.

The reason I was interested is because I've had a few months to think about Acadec. As you may have been able to tell if you were paying attention to the LOLStates at Nationals, Eisenhower did not represent Oklahoma. I learned about this a while back, and learned that our loss (of our several-year state winning streak) had a bit of politics and personality conflicts behind it. Certainly, the team wasn't competing at the level it ought to have been (and again, I am talking about LOLstate performance here), but there was a bit more behind it.

I lamented that it happened. I seriously considered dropping what I'm doing, dropping my job offer in Houston, and going back to Lawton to be a coach.

(Interestingly, one of my English teachers, who, along with her husband, was very influential in the Acadec program when I was in school, always wanted me to be a teacher rather than an accountant. So if I went back, it would be to kinda continue her and her husband's legacy.)

Anyway, I guess I'm too risk averse to do something like that -- and I actually don't think I'd be all that good of a teacher or coach. I wasn't the best decathlete (especially considering the national playing field), but for my LOLState, I was a pretty good one. But I realize that being a good decathlete is not the same as being a good coach...and even on my team, I wasn't that good at motivating my fellow team members (which is why I often pined for a kind of "all star team" selection process, that would send the top 9 people from a state to Nationals rather than picking the best school from a state. I *still* think more in terms of motivated individuals rather than team synergies.)

When I was considering being a coach for a brief moment, I began to ask myself what things I would do...and I realized that I had some really fundamental problems with the kind of evangelizing role I would have to play.

I have never been the salesperson type or missionary type. I don't feel comfortable trying to convince people to do a lot of things if they aren't already self-motivated about it. Especially when I find that the thing in question being sold has some flaws.

...and it seems to me that Academic Decathlon has plenty of flaws. USAD has flaws, as we know, but it seems like Acadec has some flaws too.

What is Acadec? At the most basic level, it is taking tests for fun. Already, this isn't a great sell.

Now, now, one might say, it is the chance to explore subjects that one might not normally learn in the course of HS. It is a chance to learn, to sharpen study skills across a variety of areas. And plus, the opportunity to improve speaking, interviewing, and writing skills.

...but isn't it also a test of recall of very minute details from random sentences buried deep within packets? And the best competitors -- no offense -- basically get to the point where they know the packets so well that when they see an incorrect or bad USAD question, they can point to specific sentences within the packets that contract the question at hand or that expose the ambiguity at hand.

I just can't help but feel as if Acadec encourages "letter of learning" kind of mentality, rather than a "spirit of learning" mentality. (If that minced metaphor and analogy even works here.)

I feel it's a tough sell. Maybe it's because I'm generally cynical when selling *anything*.

So, what do you feel is the value of Acadec? Why should we support and promote it over, say, World Scholar's Cup. (Does WSC fall into the same pitfalls as AD, or does it have its own ideological and tactical pitfalls)? How does one motivate and excite one for AD?
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The Evil Dr. Cal...
post May 2 2011, 03:47 AM
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Learning great information, developing study skills, honing time management, learning public speaking, enjoying team play, and making memories that last forever.
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zzzptm
post May 2 2011, 04:09 AM
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I've had a feeling that WSC can do for students what USAD does, but on a potentially wider scale. Inertia in the USA keeps schools from switching over entirely.

Comparing USAD to AP multiple-choice, the AP questions are head and shoulders above USAD questions in being able to test beyond memory and recall.

USAD reaches down to varsities and offers them a place in the sun that often is denied them. USAD puts people together in intense study situations for a year and forges some powerful moments in that stress. USAD does offer a program that, even for a losing school, can be a great experience.

But, absent a coach with a passion for the sport, USAD will languish. Students can only sustain the program for a short few years while they're at school. With a coach gone, the program can also dry up. (And yes, I do follow the lolstates. I was surprised to not see Eisenhower. There were also new faces from OH, PA, CO, and NY.)

I'm looking at going to the WSC International Round in June. I'm going to see it and observe it closely. If it delivers everything positive that I associate with USAD, I would see a case to be made for switching over and not treating WSC as an afterthought to USAD. It would be the main program. It has the ability to reach more students in the way it allows more 3-person teams to compete. That makes it a true G/T program in my assessment. My district makes a big deal about AVID as a successful program. I would daresay they could start to make the same big deal about WSC.


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Guest_Gear_*
post May 2 2011, 04:59 AM
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QUOTE (zzzptm @ May 1 2011, 11:09 PM) *
I've had a feeling that WSC can do for students what USAD does, but on a potentially wider scale. Inertia in the USA keeps schools from switching over entirely.

Comparing USAD to AP multiple-choice, the AP questions are head and shoulders above USAD questions in being able to test beyond memory and recall.

USAD reaches down to varsities and offers them a place in the sun that often is denied them. USAD puts people together in intense study situations for a year and forges some powerful moments in that stress. USAD does offer a program that, even for a losing school, can be a great experience.

But, absent a coach with a passion for the sport, USAD will languish. Students can only sustain the program for a short few years while they're at school. With a coach gone, the program can also dry up. (And yes, I do follow the lolstates. I was surprised to not see Eisenhower. There were also new faces from OH, PA, CO, and NY.)

I'm looking at going to the WSC International Round in June. I'm going to see it and observe it closely. If it delivers everything positive that I associate with USAD, I would see a case to be made for switching over and not treating WSC as an afterthought to USAD. It would be the main program. It has the ability to reach more students in the way it allows more 3-person teams to compete. That makes it a true G/T program in my assessment. My district makes a big deal about AVID as a successful program. I would daresay they could start to make the same big deal about WSC.

so says someone who's been on Dan's payroll wink.gif
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Guest_TheWerg_*
post May 2 2011, 07:32 AM
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Everyone above me has good stuff to say, so much so that I almost feel like my two cents aren't worth the copper they're made out of (oh, wait). But I'll throw them in anyway.

One big thing that I've taken away from AcaDec is just a great deal of confidence going into any future academic endeavors. Regardless of the legitimacy of the questions on the test, they DO force you to engage with the material on a pretty deep level. I haven't encountered academic work in college that even touches AD in terms of sheer difficulty and amount of work. Also, I can really just go into any reading and come away with literally everything that's in it. So there's that, plus the skills in interview and speech that I've developed.

Also, I met of my best friends through AD, and I never would have built those friendships otherwise. I got experience teaching and as a leader. I had incredible experiences.

And then there's the learning thing. To be honest, I don't fully recall all the stuff I studied in AD, at least not in nearly the detail. But I got exposed to a bunch of stuff that I never would have looked at in school, especially in subjects like art and music that you just don't cover in school at all.

The best part is, I don't think these observations are at all unique to me. In fact, I have a hard time imagining someone engaging with the program with enthusiasm and NOT coming away with gains at least similar to those I did.
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Guest_dizzyizzy_*
post May 2 2011, 02:05 PM
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QUOTE (zzzptm @ May 2 2011, 12:09 AM) *
There were also new faces from OH


This wasn't because South dropped the ball or anything of the sort. Over the last couple years in Ohio, new programs have been growing steadily. South's win streak wasn't because we were the only ones who cared: we sweated it out every year as a different team looked strong enough to beat us. If you look at the top finishers in Ohio: Willoughby South, St. Ignatius, Youngstown Christian, and, of course, state champs Oakwood, you'll see they all have charismatic, passionate coaches whose enthusiasm is infectious. At least for South, a lot of people join Acadec because they want another class with Bruce.

On the flipside, Eastlake North, who used to be an Ohio powerhouse, has languished recently after they lost their coach.

It doesn't end at the coaches: The state director, Jim Krancevic, is also passionate about the program and really gives it his all to make sure every competitor has the absolute best time they can have while competing. Don't be surprised if Ohio manages to progress past lolstate in the coming years, they're already at the cusp.
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stanleytree
post May 2 2011, 04:04 PM
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The most important thing a kid can learn from decathlon is being able to subvert your main interests (playing video games, having a social life,etc.) for the good of the whole. It's a trait that everyone needs in the real world, but is never expressed in school EXCEPT in AD.

As Werg put it, my abililty to extract all information in just one or two reads from something is pretty extraordinary. That's a huge gain in my ability to learn for the REST OF MY LIFE. That's a pretty big gain.

I can now talk to people in interview-style setups with the easiest grace, and I am now not afraid of being on stage as I once was. That's a huge win for me.

It is easy to find bondable experiences in HS (sports, band, social groups, after-school orgs, etc.), but they usually only have bonds that originate in the amount of time spent together, the general interest in one area, and some sort of small time dedication to it (I never practiced soccer or football outside of school). While these three bonds are good, the bond of having learned an entirely massive curriculum with 5-8 different people is the strongest of them all. You see how much you put into it, and when you see what your friends are scoring and are equivalent to you, you know that they too have put their all into it. It's a pretty strong bond there.

Finally, this is all as an athlete-turned-varsity. As an honors, some of these things aren't very appealing: you probably already knew how to study fairly well, and if you're a hardcore book worm you won't like the idea of interview and speech. However, as a varsity who had no previous direction in terms of how to study and how to learn and how to win in an academic setting (or athletic really, if I had actually ever practiced soccer there's a good possibility I could be playing semi-pro somewhere), AD was the best thing that could've happened to me. It gave me the ability to choose my destiny in life, and definitely got me into UT over some inferior school like Texas St (was going to say A&M, but in deference to the OP I won't make an Aggie jokes).

The pros of decathlon are not seen in the paper and in the words; it's in the kids themelves.

And Dean's comments about WSC v. AD are one of the reasons I have a very hard time catching on to it, despite Dan's many invites and our great personal relationship: varsity students are basically null in this competition. Sure, a varsity such as myself or Eddie or Tad would be able to do halfway decent in it, but we'd get COMPLETELY demolished by all those other kids out there, because if we ranked WSC kids like in AD, then probably all 3 people on almost every team are either all honors or 2 honors, 1 scholastic. In WSC, structural unemployment for varsities abound, and it's very difficult for me to support a program that "my people" would have problems succeeding in and NOT because of lack of work.
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Guest_Subversive Asset 2.0_*
post May 2 2011, 05:22 PM
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QUOTE (Stanley Tree @ May 2 2011, 11:04 AM) *
*snip*
It gave me the ability to choose my destiny in life, and definitely got me into UT over some inferior school like Texas St (was going to say A&M, but in deference to the OP I won't make an Aggie jokes).

*snip*


hehe, wise call.
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The Evil Dr. Cal...
post May 2 2011, 05:56 PM
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QUOTE (Stanley Tree @ May 2 2011, 09:04 AM) *
And Dean's comments about WSC v. AD are one of the reasons I have a very hard time catching on to it, despite Dan's many invites and our great personal relationship: varsity students are basically null in this competition. Sure, a varsity such as myself or Eddie or Tad would be able to do halfway decent in it, but we'd get COMPLETELY demolished by all those other kids out there, because if we ranked WSC kids like in AD, then probably all 3 people on almost every team are either all honors or 2 honors, 1 scholastic. In WSC, structural unemployment for varsities abound, and it's very difficult for me to support a program that "my people" would have problems succeeding in and NOT because of lack of work.


This.
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Guest_JP_Irish_*
post May 2 2011, 06:24 PM
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QUOTE (Stanley Tree @ May 2 2011, 11:04 AM) *
In WSC, structural unemployment for varsities abound, and it's very difficult for me to support a program that "my people" would have problems succeeding in and NOT because of lack of work.


I'm interested in this commet Andrew? If it's not from a lack of work, then what?

For me the structure of AD is inherently bizzar? Take an academic competition, which involves a lot of reading and studying (if you are going to put up a successful team) and require that at least 1/3 of your team be the kind of student who does not study or read.

My only experience with AD is at 7L's, so I don't have a good overview of all the possibilities. We've had no problem getting the top kids to the top. But apathy and grade inflation are sinking us as a team, as recently as this past weekend with Octathlon. Our honors went 1, 2, and 3 in the state, but the rest of the team . . . did awful. But there is a direct correlation to grades and work, the three honors kids did not miss a single practice, read all the packets, came in and asked questions, while the rest of the team did not and the results showed.

I think this pie in the sky idea of taking kids who are struggling and giving them something to work for and that turns around their lives probably does happen in AD. But I also know that kids tank their grades so they can compete at lower divisions, so how is this a noble cause?

You put up scores that would rival many honors. My top two scholastics this year beat our 2 and 3 honors. I'm moving to a different environmet next year, so it will be interesting for me to see how this dynamic plays out.

But I don't uderstad your comment about why varsities can't compete if you work hard? The reason our varsities don't compete is because they don't work hard.

And back on topic, AD has value just like any other extra-curricular activity has value. It teaches kids teamwork, hard work, reading skills, social skills (which to me is the most important), communication skills, and on and on.
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Guest_AK_WDB_*
post May 2 2011, 07:25 PM
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I would generally agree that the reason varsities score lower is because they don't work as hard, but some of them (perhaps a significant portion) also have mild learning disabilities or other legitimate reasons. I actually like the three-tiered structure of AD because, even though varsities could be incredibly frustrating at times, it really helps bring a love for academics to those who don't necessarily already possess it.
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post May 2 2011, 07:36 PM
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In addition to the benefits to the varsity kids, those of us who aren't varsities also derive benefits from the 3-tier system. Learning to work with other kids who have maybe never worked to their potential, who don't really want to work at all is great experience in my opinion. Plus I feel that teams would largely be devoid of entertainment without them tongue.gif

But in all seriousness, I definitely learned a lot of things about myself because I was working with honors, who could outperform me in almost any academic setting, and with varsities, who really had to be shown that they could work just as hard as the rest of us and get the same results. That is one of the fundamental reasons for the formations of such strong bonds; a team of people from different backgrounds really has to learn how to handle each other, and each person takes away something entirely different from the experience. But each person takes away something life-changing nonetheless.
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Guest_Subversive Asset 2.0_*
post May 2 2011, 07:55 PM
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QUOTE (AK_WDB @ May 2 2011, 02:25 PM) *
..I actually like the three-tiered structure of AD because, even though varsities could be incredibly frustrating at times, it really helps bring a love for academics to those who don't necessarily already possess it.


I still want to push at a comment like this...

I am, btw, very intrigued about comments regarding the three-tiered structure of AD as being a benefit (especially over other competing competitions), but I don't quite see it.

I don't see how AD helps bring a love for academics to those who don't necessarily already possess it.

Maybe it's because I've never been someone who hasn't loved to study, but I don't see myself as having done AD unless I were already motivated to study and to compete. I can understand that some varsities may be motivated (spectacularly so), but I don't understand how one moves from lack of motivation or lack of love for academics to that point, however.

I am very interested in hearing more, like magicblueman alluded, about people realizing that they could "work just as hard as the rest of [their team] and get the same results." Does AD convince people of the "efficacy of studying" that many students may not have had before?
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stanleytree
post May 2 2011, 08:15 PM
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QUOTE (JP_Irish @ May 2 2011, 06:24 PM) *
QUOTE (Stanley Tree @ May 2 2011, 11:04 AM) *
In WSC, structural unemployment for varsities abound, and it's very difficult for me to support a program that "my people" would have problems succeeding in and NOT because of lack of work.


I'm interested in this commet Andrew? If it's not from a lack of work, then what?

For me the structure of AD is inherently bizzar? Take an academic competition, which involves a lot of reading and studying (if you are going to put up a successful team) and require that at least 1/3 of your team be the kind of student who does not study or read.

My only experience with AD is at 7L's, so I don't have a good overview of all the possibilities. We've had no problem getting the top kids to the top. But apathy and grade inflation are sinking us as a team, as recently as this past weekend with Octathlon. Our honors went 1, 2, and 3 in the state, but the rest of the team . . . did awful. But there is a direct correlation to grades and work, the three honors kids did not miss a single practice, read all the packets, came in and asked questions, while the rest of the team did not and the results showed.

I think this pie in the sky idea of taking kids who are struggling and giving them something to work for and that turns around their lives probably does happen in AD. But I also know that kids tank their grades so they can compete at lower divisions, so how is this a noble cause?

You put up scores that would rival many honors. My top two scholastics this year beat our 2 and 3 honors. I'm moving to a different environmet next year, so it will be interesting for me to see how this dynamic plays out.

But I don't uderstad your comment about why varsities can't compete if you work hard? The reason our varsities don't compete is because they don't work hard.

And back on topic, AD has value just like any other extra-curricular activity has value. It teaches kids teamwork, hard work, reading skills, social skills (which to me is the most important), communication skills, and on and on.


I think that bizarre structure is what makes AD so unique from Debate and from just about any academic program: to ensure success (not necessarily get it, as you proved last year Irish) you HAVE to get two kids who don't have a history of studying in high school to study for decathlon, and at a level that almost none of their non-decathlon classmates have ever done, much less in a long period of time. There's also a good chance you'll find scholastics and maybe a few honors who have the same trait, but they still get the necessary grades to be good (when you get a scholastic like this, that's called the jackpot aka Ross Watson). Importantly, in a social "philanthropic" sense, AD in the right environment is born by a great coach and needs a culture of success behind it. Even then, it's still tough to attract varsities to something usually seen in a school as study-intensive. As for kids tanking grades, that happens, but a coach can cut that off at the bend if he/she wants to, and even then it might just be in the kids best interest to drop his U.S. History class from a 80 to a 79.

If we theoretically replaced WSC with USAD and had each HS have 3 teams (and then have a total HS award as well I hope), with the structure of no rules as to who can apply, it is the ultimate battle of minds, but if you have 9 kids like that for a bunch of those it's going to be an uber-competitive atmosphere that will drive any kid away who doesn't already have a history of studying. In that environment, it's just going to be a resume-builder for at least 2 of those teams. And maybe you have it as senior, junior, sophomore teams; even then, it almost concentrates that amount of cut-throat competition.

Irish, if I was one of the honors at SL and I was in that situation, I'd take WSC 9 times out of 10. And naturally, lots of this comes from my own experience as well, but I also see it in Eddie and Tad too, and Jordan, a new dedication to something higher than what I was dedicating to previously. And something that happens to make me a much better person for it.

I'm still a varsity; I have a 2.92 currently (although major-line is around 3.2), but if I get my finals right I could finish as a scholastic. I have 6 classes I'm taking and in the next two weeks I have write a Constitution for Egypt, write a paper on Jean-Jacque Rousseau's "Emile: An Education", and take 4 finals. I'm graduating in 3 years from UT, one of the best public schools in the country. I've only been able to do this by tapping into the habits I formed as a decathlete. I'm 100% convinced that if I'd declined Layne's invite to participate my sophomore year, I would have not been in this fortunate a situation, or had the capacity to do what I am doing. I think the same will be said for Jordan, Tad, and Eddie come four or five years.
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Guest_dizzyizzy_*
post May 2 2011, 10:00 PM
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QUOTE (debator @ May 2 2011, 05:34 PM) *
i dunno, like eight bucks?

snorted so hard i hurt my sinuses at this.


On varsities, I think I was the "perfect" varsity. To me, a high school diploma, at the end of the day, was the same no matter what my GPA was. I was, and still am, perfectly capable of pulling a four point, I just don't see the point of all the extra work for the same outcome. Decathlon gave me a place to work for something that I can remain proud of, not just a little class ranking, but direct, head-to-head competition with the best of the best from around the state and country. Be honest: What are you going to remember more, that time you got an A in science, or that time you, as a freshmen, stood alone, unrivaled, on the stage as you were presented the gold medal in Economics? I know which one I remember.
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post May 2 2011, 10:27 PM
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I agree with people who believe that having varsities compete is a huge benefit. I got to know kids that I wouldn't necessarily have otherwise, and they were honestly some of the smartest and most interesting kids on the team. I enjoyed trying to motivate them to work, and they enjoyed achieving success in something school-related. Most of the really good varsities I've met don't hate learning, they hate the school system as it's set up; whether they've had some bad teachers at some point who convinced them it wasn't worth it to give their best, or have been so unchallenged in school that they can't even muster up a bare minimum of caring, they checked out of school at some point. And AD gives them a chance to get back in, with a different style of learning and assessment, and some events that they can be absolutely amazing at (i.e. speech and interview, where their personality can really come through and help them).

Also, while I was an honors, my attitude toward school was basically varsity. When I joined AD, I had literally no idea how to study, or what "studying" even meant. I had never had to, or if I did I just didn't care. That completely turned for me being in a competition setting where I couldn't just coast by on my intelligence. One of the most appealing things to me about AD was that no one had ever gotten 100%, or even particularly close, so while there is a theoretical upper bound, really, it gives you a chance to work your ass off and still not hit the upper limit. In other words, I was able to get 100% on most everything in high school without putting in even 25% the maximum effort, while in AD, I could put in 100% effort and still not come close to 100%. Which was really appealing to me.
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post May 2 2011, 10:40 PM
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QUOTE (TheWerg @ May 2 2011, 05:27 PM) *
I agree with people who believe that having varsities compete is a huge benefit. I got to know kids that I wouldn't necessarily have otherwise, and they were honestly some of the smartest and most interesting kids on the team. Most of the really good varsities I've met don't hate learning, they hate the school system as it's set up; or have been so unchallenged in school that they can't even muster up a bare minimum of caring, they checked out of school at some point. And AD gives them a chance to get back in, with a different style of learning and assessment, and some events that they can be absolutely amazing at (i.e. speech and interview, where their personality can really come through and help them).

One of the most appealing things to me about AD was that no one had ever gotten 100%, or even particularly close, so while there is a theoretical upper bound, really, it gives you a chance to work your ass off and still not hit the upper limit. In other words, I was able to get 100% on most everything in high school without putting in even 25% the maximum effort, while in AD, I could put in 100% effort and still not come close to 100%. Which was really appealing to me.

Yes, yes, yes, and no not so much

and yes
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Guest_Cody_*
post May 2 2011, 11:12 PM
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I think the fact that varsities can compete is what makes this competition the best option. I can think of a dozen academic competitions, but AD is the only one that lets kids compete against students of their own work ethic, or in some cases, intelligence. I have no problem putting out a score that is one of the best on my team if I work as hard as the others. But I have friends that aren't capable, even if they try their best, who I've invited into Academic Decathlon and they have loved it. Many people like them need a place, and for them, AD is that place.

This post has been edited by Cody: May 2 2011, 11:13 PM
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Guest_TheWerg_*
post May 3 2011, 01:12 AM
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Haha, TTTA, that may just be a function of the varsities at my school... usually light on math/science stuff (our teachers in those subjects, dating back to elementary school, are almost universally terrible... which may contribute to their being varsities in the first place). But they're personable and articulate, usually. But of course the same thing applies for you and math. You could truly excel in something academically.
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Guest_tryingtothinkagain_*
post May 3 2011, 01:29 AM
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I sucked at the subjectives. The one time I scored well on the essay was the one time I broke 8k.

Math, on the other hand...
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