A World on the Margins: A Review, and Looking Forward

The inside jokes shared by our community transcend borders and boundaries. When you’re part of the WSC community, you’ll meet people you can count on from all over the world. In this deep dive, OnePwaa scholars from across the globe will be reflecting on the 2019 season. We also made theories on what could happen next year (none of us have 20/20 vision, but we gave it our best shot). ​​

  1. A Reflection on the Curriculum

A World in the Margins was a great curriculum to study; and I hope you will agree with me. This year, we learned about the many types of margins that permeate our everyday lives: from cutting-edge technology in science to the oft-forgotten voices of history. Each subject connects with the theme in its own unique way, and connects well with one another. For example, learning about screenwriting software in science allows us to examine how authors in literature might have benefited from those programs. I’m sure you’ve encountered this multidisciplinary approach in the curriculum from the rounds you’ve attended, too.

My personal favorite subject was science. Ever since I joined this amazing community three years ago, science (& technology, in 2017) has always been the most fascinating: the questions call upon us as scholars to dive really deep down into the specifics of the scientific developments being studied, but they don’t make you feel like you are writing an esoteric dissertation. Terms and concepts are laid out with specificity and in intuitive categories. Meanwhile, the questions for discussion really tackle thought-provoking issues.

This year, I see that the concentration in science has included more of the latter: the majority of the material was dedicated to team discussion questions: like the legitimacy of Scantron-compatible tests and the reflection of inequality in people having air-conditioners (or not). Of course, the prerequisite is to know how these things work. What’s amazing is that these concepts and terms become part of a larger conversation– one that concerns societal and ethical change. Questions like these underline the importance of discourse among team members (and among different teams, too!), which will lead to a deep understanding of the subject.

I also had a good time researching on the other topics. I was intrigued by the works and concepts which have ties to Vietnamese history and culture, such as bụi đời and White Boy Time Machine: Override by Hieu Minh Nguyen. It is interesting to see the juxtaposition of my existing views (of how culture and history have manifested) and that which has been documented in my research.

  1. A Personal Experience

Scholar’s Cup has become a platform for thousands of scholars to become better versions of themselves. (I know that I sound like every other person right now, but, really) WSC has simultaneously given me the opportunity to grow as an individual and meet new people–people like me who I’ll never forget, even when they live on the opposite side of the planet. This year’s round at Beijing was my 4th global round, and possibly my last one. Something about this trip felt different. My school is usually known for its large delegation, but our numbers dwindled significantly because everyone else wanted to go to Aussie. As they say: it be like that sometimes.

As I was travelling with the unusually small group of seniors from my school, I felt an uncanny sense of contentment. I am used to the waves of longing and nostalgia. They come and go; the waves crash in when your coach tells you to leave the convention center, fades, then returns when you’re forced to get onto your flight back home. This year, I felt as if I had made the most of my WSC journey. In the past, I’d always have regrets: not studying enough, not sleeping enough, not talking to that cute guy I saw at the ball–the (slightly embarrassing) list goes on. After spending so much of my life with the WSC community, I couldn’t help but feel so at home in Beijing; I wouldn’t mind if it became my last global round. I had embraced every moment, and not a single instance was tainted with regret.

What About Next Season?

Theme: A World Renewed

Possible Direction: Celebrating the achievements of the past decade while talking about the challenges brought forward that are still unresolved.

Analysis: “Renewed” implies rebirth. The most probable reason why this became the theme for the 2020 season is due to the dawn of a new decade. This can be treated as a soft reboot of the past decade, which is a new beginning for us to face the problems that have been lingering since the past decade and to deal with any new issues that may come up. The issues carried forward that I believe will be included are issues of climate change, political strife, division within society and inequality. Potential issues we will be dealing with are cyber security, job security (due to AI and automation) and potential changes in the political climate.

Art and Music: Might include Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, since the firebird symbolizes the cycle of rebirth and hence, renewal. Furthermore, another idea would be remixes of the same song. This would tie into the syllabus of songs being ‘renewed’ and made into different (could be better… or worse) versions. With this in mind, I personally think that there would be sub-sections of “famous songs that have been sued with copyright infringement”– for example, in 2007, 50 Cent was sued over the line “Go shawty. It’s your birthday.” in the song ‘In Da Club’. The plaintiff, a music publisher, claimed that the lyrics were copied from its song ‘It’s Your Birthday,’ which was written by Luther Cambell. However, the court ruled for 50 Cent, holding that those lyrics were not original because the phrase was a common chant in hip-hop events and Cambell admitted he did not create the phrase.

Several paths for science: the first being the science of climates and green technology, since climate change has been, and will be a serious issue in the coming decade (also, 2019 was the year where we had Greta Thunberg and the climate protests). Hence, topics could include global warming, CFCs and their history, how ozone depletion occurs (radicals and such) and other green technologies, like how we replaced CFCs (and how the ozone might restore itself), electric cars, solar panels, etc. Another idea for science comes in the form of cyber security and technology. Topics may discuss automation, computers and how they work. Cyber warfare might be included to introduce the concept of ‘renewed’ warfare– not one of weapons and escalating armament, but that of cyber networks. Topics could even include how governments prepare for cyber warfare.

History: So far, I can only speculate that History will involve collapsed nations/societies and how they were rebuilt from scratch/ruin by their governments/international cooperation. Cases that first come into mind are Post-WWII (includes Dresden, Tokyo, London and the capitalist/communist bloc’s plans– Marshall Plan and COMECON). Natural disasters could also be explored: cases like the 2010 Haitian earthquake and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Chernobyl, and the efforts to rebuild these areas or control their damage. Other topics could revolve around protests like the Arab Spring, due to the increase in the number of active protests for democracy in many nations.

Social Studies: I think renewed might refer to cultural assimilation– where immigrants are ‘renewed’ into new unique identities in whatever state they are in. Renewed might even refer to the shift in how society is organized, which goes into the heart of many key debates in the news these days: the extent of free speech, the roles of democracy and capitalism in society, and whether there are other ways of organising society instead of capitalism, socialism and every other ideology in between the spectrum.

The possibilities are endless. The extent to which next year’s season will renew our personal worlds is difficult to predict; some things are always subject to change. However, there are also things that never change. For one: alpacas, crisp memes, and stressful hours dedicated to the dreaded challenge await us all. We at OnePwaa are ready to do it all with you– again and again and again and again.