Wisconsin Academic Decathlon

Tuesday afternoon, the Madison Masonic Center was the setting for the Wisconsin Academic Decathlon State Competition.  About 800-900 people were there, almost all of high school age.  It had all the youthful enthusiasm and cheer of a pep rally, except this time mental achievement was being honored, not physical.  School mascots were in attendance, and competing cheers filled the auditorium before quiztime.  
Twenty high school teams of nine students each competed in the final Super Quiz Oral Relay.  During this section of the competition (the written portion was held the day before), each member went down to sit at tables facing a screen where a multiple choice question was displayed that was read out by News 15’s John Stofflet.  Competitors then had ten seconds in which to “bubble-in” their response.  Correct responders were known immediately as they were asked to raise their hands.  Each team’s cheering section would then erupt with glee (provided a hand had been raised).
Each team member answered five questions; there were 45 questions in all.  And they were tough, all having to do with the Renaissance.  Waukesha West were declared the state champions at a dinner held at the Madison Concourse Tuesday night.  They will get to compete in the national finals in San Antonio, TX on April 27-29.  Wilmot was second and Sun Prairie third.  McFarland also made the finals.  Madison and Middleton were not amongst the 114 teams fielded this 2005-06 season.
This was the 23rd annual competition, and quite possibly the last, as the event costs about $220,000 annually, and depends on private donations for two-thirds of that amount; this year, donations fell $50,000 short.  I am writing this as thousands arrive in Madison on a snowy day to watch three days of state high school basketball competition.  As well they should; it’s a culmination of a long and exciting season for those twenty schools.  But I can think of no more exquisite demonstration of our society’s values than the hoopla at the hoops this weekend versus the media’s nigh-silent coverage of the noisy and exuberant academic decathlon.  The WSJ had a four-sentence description beneath two photos; the Capital Times had nothing at all.
On Waukesha West!  On Wisconsin!