Academic Decathlon Lessons

I disagree with your editorial, “Education Is the Prize,” (Feb. 21).

While your comments might assuage the feelings of Moorpark’s Academic Decathlon B team, you missed the point. The prize is not the academic but rather the “real” education provided here.

Lesson No. 1: Bureaucrats make rules as they see fit. Judy Combs created the “no two teams from the same school” rule five months after the start of training.

Lesson No. 2: Politics is people manipulating events. In 1998, Moorpark was the best Division II school at state competition. Divisions were remapped for 1999. Only Ventura County changed divisions. Ventura is now the smallest Division I county (126,000), competing for awards with Los Angeles County (792,000). Why? The California Academic Decathlon office (CAD) wants “low scoring” schools to get awards. An idea akin to booby prizes at the Olympics.

Lesson No. 3: What is fair? California is unusual in that it doesn’t select its state competitors by score. The CAD rule is “one school per county.” Los Angeles County, with a 792,000 enrollment, has one spot. A county with 10,000 enrollment has one spot. Hundreds of Los Angeles students will lose scholarships to lower-scoring students. Wild cards are whomever CAD chooses.


Lesson No. 4: What is truth? Judy Combs says, “Wild cards increase diversity with small county participation.” All seven wild card spots went to Los Angeles County.

Instead of a simple, fair competition for the pursuit of academic excellence, CAD has created an unfair, political and bureaucratic event that they will lie to protect. There are life lessons here, but not the ones CAD intended.