Saturday, May 31, 2008

"It's Academic" presents high-performing high school students


It’s Academic, a syndicated quiz show competition for well-performing high school students, made the news this week because its “intellectual founder” Sophie Altman passed away in Washington DC, as indicated in local media reports.

The program usually has tree teams, each with three members, from three different high school in a Metropolitan area. In Washington it is hosted by Mac McGarry (on NBC4), and usually plays on Saturday morning from 10:30-11:00 AM. In the late spring, there are playoffs and a “super bowl.” Giant Foods is a major sponsor, with scholarships going to school funds. George Washington University has also been a major contributor in Washington. The US Army and Sylvan Leaning are also major sponsors.

Most students are seniors, and most announce their ages. Usually the ages match the grade: 17 turning to 18 some time during the school year. But occasionally students from other classes are invited, with juniors, sophomores, and in at least one case a freshman on his 14th birthday. The appearance of younger contestants from earlier grades probably means unusual academic ability and excellence. On television, business suits, which are usually worn by the men, tend to make them look like adults.

Teachers and administrators from the participating schools are also present, and are introduced by the student in the middle of this team’s bench. The presence of teachers shows that teaching sometimes becomes a very public occupation.

Public, private and parochial schools are included, as are some schools that are all female or all male .

The high school from which I graduated in 1961, Washington-Lee, appeared on March 1.

Other major syndications include New York, Buffalo, Charlottesville (NBC), and Baltimore (on CBS).

Questions are on a variety of topics, with at least one “visual” round, and sometimes are asked by government officials or celebrities. Mathematics questions tend to be simple but require a quick mental calculation, with a lot of emphasis on exponents and radicals.

Jeopardy, hosted by Alex Trebek, has also had high school and college contests. I haven’t seen such a special on Merv Griffin’s Crossroads.

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