School Talk: Students shoot for gold at decathlon

By: Vicki Barber
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Yea team! Go, go, go! No, this is not a sports team. It’s the Academic Decathlon team from your local high school. These team members prepare, train, and get ready for a contest just like any other team. And, yes, their focus is on winning. Their win, however, doesn’t take place with a ball, puck, or javelin. Their win is with their answers, and the competition is from other high school teams who are trying to answer the same questions. If you’ve never attended an Academic Decathlon, you’re in for a treat. The “games” take place all over the state of California on the first Saturday in February. There is a yearly topic, complete with information and materials given to the team leaders from competing high schools in November. High school teams prepare for months, reading, studying, and answering questions. This year’s topic is “The Great Depression” and teams are hard at work getting ready for Feb. 5. On that Saturday, teams will show up at Union Mine High School for the competition. As stated on the Academic Decathlon website, “individuals will spend the day competing in 30-minute multiple choice tests on economics, art, music, language and literature, mathematics, science, and social science. In addition, each team member gives a planned four-minute speech and a two-minute impromptu speech, sits through a seven-minute interview, and has 50 minutes to write an essay.” Scores are tallied for each individual, and then combined for a team score. Often the Super Quiz, the last event of the day, is the deciding factor. This is the one event during the day in which the public is invited and encouraged to attend. Here’s where the “Yea Team” becomes a factor. Although perhaps not as energetic as a football game, the fans, usually parents and relatives, are just as excited when an answer is correct and a team scores. Try one of last year’s Super Quiz questions and see how you do: Who introduced the theory of punctuated equilibrium? a. Haldane and Wright b. Kirschner and Gerhart c. Lewontin and Hubby d. Gould and Eldredge e. Turelli and Fitzpatrick Sure, you knew all the time it was (d) Gould and Eldredge. Right? Punctuated equilibrium? El Dorado County high schools are invited to send their top team to the State competition. We mentioned the questions in the County are hard. At the State level, they move to harder and hardest. And, of course, the El Dorado high schools are up for the challenge. Vicki L. Barber has been with the El Dorado County Office of Education for 26 years. In 1994, she was elected as the Superintendent of Schools.