One for the history books: Bishop’s School team to compete in National History Bowl championships

The Bishop's School's History Bowl team
The Bishop’s School’s History Bowl team includes (back row, from left) Jake Shim, William Guo and Will Keefe and (bottom row) Victor Joulin-Batejat and Nason Li.
(Provided by William Guo)

For the high school students who make up The Bishop’s School’s History Bowl team, the past has relevance not only to the present but also to the immediate future.

The five-member team will travel to the National History Bowl National Championships at the end of this month in Arlington, Va., organized by International Academic Competitions. The team qualified earlier this year by taking a quiz provided by IAC.

The week’s events also will include a History Bee for younger students and a Political Science Bee.

“It’s a more rigorous version of some local competitions because the teams that compete are the best,” said Bishop’s School sophomore Nason Li, who has been participating individually in regional, national and international history competitions since third grade.

Now part of a team in the nationals, Nason said: “I’m super happy and excited to go back to [Arlington] and I’m excited to see this journey through. It’s going to be a great experience.”

Junior William Guo, who revived the Bishop’s club this school year after it was inactive for years, said members prepare for the tournament by reviewing materials and questions from past competitions to better understand themes and the types of questions that might be asked.

“Our members are all committed to history, so once we get used to the format, we would look at different topics,” William said.

Further, each team member has an interest in a specific period of U.S. history on which to develop expertise.

“My favorite era of U.S. history is anything before 1900 and the politics therein,” William said.

Nason, who is interested in the Cold War and World War II, said history can be a challenge to study because it is such a broad topic.

But “a lot of studying history is diving into topics that interest us,” he said. “The members of our team have a deep passion and like to research these topics outside of school. We have a lot of ways to prepare, so anything we learn outside of school helps us in the competition.”

Talking with history teachers helps the team members retain the most relevant information about a certain era, he added.

“By learning history, we can see all the good parts and cast out the bad parts. You can refine the things that didn’t work. That’s what history is.”

— William Guo

William said he enjoys reading history books about “as many topics as I can.” He’s found that when multiple books cover the same information, “that’s probably important information to remember.”

History is “how we learn” what worked and what didn’t work in society, William said.

“An analogy I like to use is, in science you have theories and those that do experiments to test if the theories are right,” he said. “I like to think of history as the experimental part of philosophy. Philosophers ask about the right way to conduct ourselves. History is a way to test those philosophies.

“By learning history, we can see all the good parts and cast out the bad parts. You can refine the things that didn’t work. That’s what history is.”

Adhering to the George Santayana quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” Nason said: “We have a responsibility to our country to not repeat the mistakes of the past. As people, we have improved upon our way of living. History helps us learn from past mistakes and build upon them and create a better future.”

As for their future, William and Nason said they’re looking forward to the History Bowl competition.

“I can’t wait to compete at such a high level and meet other enthusiasts and talk about history and learn from other people,” William said. “It’s been a great journey with this team, and we’re excited to see where it goes.” ◆