Four years after he went to Washington, D.C., for the National Spelling Bee, Lawrence resident Cyrus Mody now is back in the nation's capital to compete in the National Citizen Bee.
Mody, who will be a senior at Lawrence High School this fall, placed first in the state Citizen Bee contest in April, which qualified him to represent Kansas in the national bee. The state's second-place finisher also will compete in the national contest, which is being held today and Monday.
Mody said preparing for a spelling bee is different from preparing for the Citizen Bee, in which contestants demonstrate their knowledge of American history, government, economics, geography and current events.
"The spelling bee was memorizing lists of things, and the Citizen Bee is reading material and understanding it," he said.
MODY SAID he has been studying from four or five textbooks on American history and government. He said he usually studies between two and three hours a day.
Citizen Bee contestants complete a written test before joining an oral competition resembling those used in spelling bees.
However, Citizen Bee contestants are not disqualified for missing a question. Rather, they earn points for the questions they answer correctly, and the contestant earning the most points wins.
Even without the automatic elimination, the contest can be pretty nerve-racking, Mody said.
"On the written round, it's just like a standardized test, and having all those points behind you takes a lot of the pressure off," Mody said. "But to place well, you pretty much have to get all of the oral questions right.
"The oral is certainly more nerve-racking because you have more time to sit there and stew between your questions."
THE ORAL questions become more difficult and worth more points with each succeeding round.
Mody said that as an example of the questions asked, he once had to explain the difference between the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Missouri Compromise regarding the issue of slavery.
"The Missouri Compromise said that there could be slavery below the 36-30 (latitudinal) line but not above the line. The Kansas-Nebraska Act said it was open to the people of each territory to vote whether they wanted slavery or a free state," Mody said.
He said written questions about the economy often require problem solving with the use of informational graphs. But in the oral competition, questions in that area usually relate to how the U.S. economic system is set up.
Mody, the son of Bill and Janet Mody, said he doesn't engage in any superstitious activities to try to bring himself luck during the contest.
"ON THE day of the competition, I just try to keep myself calm," he said.
The final round of the Citizen Bee, which will involve the top 15 students from Sunday's competition, will be aired on the C-SPAN network at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The Citizen Bee is sponsored by the Close Up Foundation in Washington, D.C.