Tuesday, August 19, 2014

7 Questions with David Madden, Founder of the National History Bee and Bowl

(David Madden is the founder and Executive Director of The National History Bee and Bowl. He is a former 19-day champion on Jeopardy and professional genealogist, who established the National History Bee and Bowl while in the process of getting his history teaching certification. Since their inception in 2010, The National History Bee and Bowl have been the fastest growing academic competitions in the USA, and are now played in over 20 countries around the world under the name The International History Bee and Bowl. Websites: www.historybowl.com , www.historybee.com , www.ushistorybee.org , and www.historyolympiad.com )

1.         How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?

I've been interested in history as long as I can remember. While I can't say that there was any one single thing that really got me hooked, I have always enjoyed listening to my grandfather's World War 2 stories. He's now 95 and I still ask him about his time serving under Patton in North Africa and Europe each time I see him. Aside from that, I was addicted to the original computer game in the Civilization series, which taught me a great deal about history while I was battling Genghis Khan and Napoleon.

2.         What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

Apart from my professional life, I've long been interested in my own family's history. I've worked as an amateur and professional genealogist before and have traced my family's history throughout Germany, England, Ireland, and Croatia in Europe. I think that it's also essential to apply the lessons of history to our own lives. Nobody is perfect, but if we can learn from our mistakes in the past, we'll be happier in the future. So it's important to realize that history isn't just about nations and societies but everyone's own life too.

 3.         How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?

Since 2010, I've been directing the National History Bee and the National History Bowl. Every day of the year, I work on growing and developing our history quiz tournaments around the USA. And my wife has taken on the challenge of organizing tournaments all over the world - our international division now oversees tournaments in over 20 countries. I love sharing my love of history with young people, and I'm delighted to have found a job where I need to call upon my knowledge of history when I'm writing and editing questions.

 4.         Why is studying/knowing history important?

It's impossible to know how to make sense of the world without knowledge of the past. Whether reading a newspaper, voting for candidates, or even just having a conversation with friends, we rely on our knowledge of history every day. Even in other fields, such as the arts, science, or sports, we look to those who have gone before us and build on their legacies.

 5.         What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

I've always enjoyed military history and World War 2 in particular. The what-ifs are fascinating, particularly with regards to the way the war played out in North Africa and the Middle East. Aside from that, I'm interested in Roman history, the Enlightenment, and the history of 20th century American music.

 6.         What are the National History Bee and Bowl and how did they come about?

The National History Bee and Bowl are two academic quiz competitions with a history focus, which I oversee. The Bee and Bowl feature various age classifications, so students as young as 8 or as old as graduate students can compete. The questions we use are mostly paragraph-length and progress from more obscure to more familiar information. Students try to figure out their answers by making connections as they're being read the questions; this approach encourages critical thinking. Each year, we run over 100 regional tournament sites for the Bee and the Bowl, as well as our National Championships. We also now run a separate US History Bee, which focuses solely on American history. And in the summer of 2015, we'll be debuting the International History Olympiad as well.

7.         Why should students and teachers participate in National History Bee and Bowl?

The National History Bee and Bowl encourage students to study history by offering them a chance to put their knowledge to use in fun and exciting buzzer-style quiz tournaments. In order to do well in our tournaments, students need to have a broad knowledge of all eras and fields within history, be able to retain that knowledge over time, and apply critical thinking skills to evaluate possible answers. All of those skills serve students well both in their history classes and outside the classroom too. Aside from that, it's very easy to start competing, as we have numerous tournaments each year.


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