Friday, 8 July 2011

Fact v. Opinion

Perhaps its just me. Sorry, I ought to explain myself. Last night in the quiz at the rugby club, Mike and Jan were the question masters. Jan read them out, and I think Mike compiled them, though if that’s not quite the arrangement I apologise now. Mike is one of our semi regulars. He doesn’t compile them that often, but every year he does two or three, and that’s a welcome thing, especially if he can do it in the middle of a period when Brian and I have been taking turns for a couple of months without anyone else coming in.

So the quiz began, and Jan announced the first round. All the questions were on the 1960s. I am ashamed to admit that the groan which welled up from inside me did actually escape my lips. Now, please, don’t think that I have anything against the 60s. Many excellent things began in the 60s, me included. But, I don’t know, I just don’t really like themed rounds. You have to be a gifted, or at the very least well experienced question master to get it right, and make it a)fair , and b) interesting, in my opinion. The second round was a proper general knowledge round, then the third was full of questions about the 70s, the fourth another general knowledge, the fifth about the 80s – well, I’m sure you see how it worked.

It was these themed rounds which raised an issue for me. Now, some of the questions were perfectly fine and fair : - for example – What was the name of the Saudi Arabian Sheikh who was his country’s high profile oil minister in the 1970s ? This was the cue for half a dozen of us scattered around the room started to mime the answer by standing up and jangling our loose change, but I digress. However on the other hand there were questions such as -
in the 1980s what was the item without which no living room would have been complete ? -
Now – hang on a minute. We guessed that this most likely referred to a video recorder. However the fact is that this question really called for opinion, rather than fact. There were even more glaring examples of questions which were based on opinion rather than a concrete fact. Things like –
what did most well-heeled people want in their bedrooms in the 1970s ?
Well, I can think of several answers, hardly any of which I would write in this blog. In the end we plumped for water bed – correct as it happened. So its not that we were getting the majority of these questions wrong that upset me, it was the, for want of a better phrase, the whole guessing gameyness of it. I can’t help it. I have a Gradgrindesque liking for facts, and for questions that require facts as an answer. Is that so wrong ?


DanielFullard said...

A problem I often have with our local quizmaster is this too. Once every 2-3 weeks he will put in some question like the ones you have mentioned and given the quiz is divided by only a point most weeks it means these nasty little questions can be the difference between placings

Londinius said...

Hi Daniel

Well, I can't really complain about one or two , but on Thursday night we had 4 out of 8 rounds made up of 'decade' questions, and each one had at least 3 questions which I believe were purely a matter of opinion.