Critical Thinking — Part 2

A teacher once called me to say my quizbowl questions are too long and need to be shorter because her students can’t listen that long.

My response was —- teach them to listen longer, by sad experience if needed. The teacher said, “Oh…yeah, I could do that.”

Now I don’t blame teachers, with all the stuff they get in a classroom every day, for not thinking of that on their own. Many teachers want their classes to be stricter in some way but can’t do it– because neither the students nor their parents nor the principal would support it.

But listening longer is an important skill of critical thinking. It’s hard to analyze a political position and decide where you stand if you can’t listen long enough to hear all of the possibilities or all of the candidates.

In quizbowl, where the only way to score points is to listen (though deaf students do play quizbowl too), you have to learn to listen as long as necessary. If you’re used to questions that are 2 lines long, or to not really listening until you hear a clue that’s a reflex buzz (Watergate/Nixon), then listening longer is difficult…at first. For kids with ADD, a single round of longer questions may prove absolutely exhausting…at first.

But soon, kids get the hang of it, especially if not getting the hang of it means you miss questions you actually knew, and if it also means you play on the D team instead of the A team.

If your team needs practice at listening longer, try our subscription set.

Listening longer gives you practice for both college lectures and college quizbowl, where each question in one major format is as long and involved as a chapter of a Dickens novel—-and big tournaments often play at least 10 games in a day, with the tougher matches against the best teams starting in late afternoon or early evening when players are already tired.

At that point…you could use a few shorter questions.