2022: A World Re-Renewed

Content Update

ToC Booster Pack

Art & Music

    • It is a genuine shame that the world has departed from the thriving, resplendent culture of the ancient Greeks and Romans—or, at least, that’s what movements like the Renaissance and Neoclassicism want you to think. Explore the following efforts to repopularize past movements and artistic styles and consider: how effective were they, and to what extent were those past movements worth repopularizing? If we had a Re-Renaissance today, which works would you pay tribute to and how?

    • When thinking about artistic forgeries, most people imagine paintings or sculptures—but not the rock band Def Leppard, who created “forgeries” of their own songs just to spite their music label. It’s not uncommon for artists to update their old songs; some artists re-record to resolve licensing issues, while others give their old songs complete makeovers. Investigate these case studies and discuss: Are these re-recordings and remakes more for the benefit of the artist or of the consumer? Does re-recording a song affect its musical value?

    • It’s a crossover from the Literature & Media outline! When adapting a popular work in one medium into another–for instance, a comic book into a television series–the look and sound can be important factors in making a new entry feel like part of a franchise. Explore different ways that adaptations of famous works pay homage to their original predecessors (including these examples), and discuss: how much liberty should the adapter have to stamp their own vision into the work?

Literature & Media

    • As you read the following poetry selections, consider: how can poetry provide us with new perspectives about different forms of renewal?

    • As portrayed in the 2020 Netflix film Enola Holmes, Enola’s more famous brother Sherlock was so different from how Arthur Conan Doyle had originally written him that Doyle’s estate sued Netflix for giving him too “warm” a personality. Netflix and Doyle’s estate eventually came to an agreement, but the situation does call into question: do sequels and follow-ups produced without input from the original creator(s) of a work need to follow constraints regarding characterization? Should it be allowed to create a Batman movie where the Caped Crusader was outgoing and friendly?

    • In Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, the former duke Prospero arrives on an island and enslaves the local Caliban, who ends the play by promising to be good and being freed. In Aimé Césaire’s adaptation A Tempest, Caliban refuses to bend and, in a statement about the enduring consequences of subjugation, ends the play still stuck on the island with Prospero. The late 1900s saw a trend of centuries-old works being made into postcolonial adaptations, such as Derek Walcott’s “Omeros” and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea. Explore how these works used their source material and discuss with your team: how did the choice to make an adaptation instead of a more original work impact these authors’ messages? Are there some ideas that are better-suited to being communicated through adaptations?

    • In 2018, the creator of the hit video game Undertale announced that its follow-up game (which was specifically not a sequel) wouldn’t be released as a standalone, but rather a series of episodes. Today, while the industry is not dominated by episodic video games, there still are many games that release content through shorter chapters to tell their stories. Does this form of release suit some types of games more than others, and what advantages does it have over a steady stream of updates or post-release downloadable content? Should this episodic format be adopted by other forms of media releases, such as subject outlines?


    • For a year in the early 2000s, Iraq was nominally overseen by Paul Bremer, an American citizen with no Iraqi ancestry. Following its controversial ouster of Saddam Hussein and his dictatorial Ba’ath Party, the United States had wanted to avoid creating a power vacuum—a situation where a state has no current leader, enticing local forces to take power for themselves. Research historical power vacuums, such as the Soviet Union after the death of Lenin or post-Castro Cuba. Are there times it might be better to leave a corrupt government in power, to avoid opening the seat of power to someone inexperienced and power-hungry? Does the assumption that a power vacuum will cause a chaotic rush to assume power actually hold based on historical precedent?
    • In Lord of the Flies, a group of boys trapped on an island develops a leadership system where whoever holds “the conch” becomes the chief of the tribe. This creates a clear hierarchy—but also makes it easy to usurp the current chief by stealing the conch. Objects that grant actual power to whoever wields them exist widely in fiction; the Darksaber determines who rules Mandalore, and Excalibur grants the right to rule Britain in Arthurian myth. In real life, though, it’s more common that an object symbolizes power and legitimacy rather than actually granting it, such as Simon Bolivar’s sword or the crown jewels. How much do these kinds of symbols (some of which are centuries old) that pass between leaders matter for a regime? Does your country’s leader take advantage of any such trappings of power?
    • Speaking of modesty, the official buildings that leaders live in are often anything but—and frequently outlast the regimes that sit in them. Explore the histories of these selected buildings, as well as the ways that they house, embody, and represent past regimes. How much does a leader’s designated living space impact their citizens’ impressions of their government? Should official government residences be abandoned—or even destroyed—once those governments are no longer in power?
      • National Palace of Mexico | the Kremlin | Groote Schuur | Bab al-Azizia

    • After former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stepped down in 2016, many called for the first-ever female or Central Asian candidate to succeed him. However, Portuguese diplomat Antonio Guterres was selected instead–and in 2021, a new rule about Secretary-General selection was passed that, controversially, could lead to an imbalance of power on the Security Council. Discuss with your team: to what extent should the world’s most visible organizations consider a person’s identity (including aspects such as culture or gender) when choosing a successor?

Science & Technology

    • While purposeful, high-tech geoengineering has only become feasible in recent years, humans have been making large-scale alterations to Earth’s landscape for centuries. And, even without humans, Earth’s climate has always been in flux. Explore the following cases of both human-caused and naturally-caused changes to the planet, and consider: what large-scale consequences did each of these cases have? Can we—and should we—harness the power used to cause these changes to geoengineer the Earth in a more directed way?

    • For each of the following planned, large-scale geoengineering projects, consider: what is it trying to achieve, what will the costs be, and would it be worth setting in motion? What technological and geopolitical requirements would need to be met for it to happen?
      • Telosa | Atlantropa | Sahara Sea

    • When the Covid pandemic ravaged the world, at first there appeared to be a few climate-related silver linings. In April 2020, the skies of Delhi were clear for the first time in years; dolphins were said to have returned to the canals of Venice. However, those articles were from early in the pandemic—we’ve since had a few years to observe its true upshot. Investigate the effects that the pandemic has had on the world’s climates and on the production of pollutants and greenhouse gasses. Are there any safety practices birthed by the pandemic that we should adopt in the long run to mitigate against climate change? And, on a different note, does a crisis such as Covid help justify the drive to colonize the Moon, Mars, and beyond?

    • The Moon and Mars may be the places most often viewed as candidates for space colonization, but they’re not the only possibilities. Whether it’s building floating cities on Venus or giant satellites surrounding asteroids, scientists seem keen to plan out how to inhabit every bit of real estate in the solar system. As you research these and other celestial bodies to colonize (especially those that may at first seem very inhospitable or impractical), consider ways that we could make them work for us. Are there strategies that humans have used to adapt to starkly different biomes on Earth that could be adapted for living in space? Discuss with your team: should we be protecting environments in space from human modification?

Social Studies

    • Some phone companies have begun taking a stand against planned obsolescence, creating products that buck the trend and are internationally long-lasting and/or user-repairable. Take a look at the Fairphone 4, a Dutch phone that lasts over a decade, and look into why they make such a claim. Are issues of planned obsolescence something that consumers should care more about, and is this phone’s design the best way to address those issues? Should the public boycott technologies (not just phones!) that take planned obsolescence too far?
    • A faltering company (or political candidate) may try to renew its image by rebranding or otherwise changing its public image—such as when Burberry made its fashion lines go from appearing laid-back to lavish—or when Mark Zuckerberg tried to take the metaverse mainstream. How can a company tell when to change course, and are there times it would make more sense to shut down instead?
    • Consider the following examples of companies that have undergone rebranding processes—some wildly successful, some less so. If you were running a company, what lessons would you learn about brand identity from each of these cases?

    • When Snapchat changed its user layout in 2018, people hated on it with a fervor they would never have had if that had been its design from the get-go—so much so, in fact, that Snapchat reversed many of those changes. From Twitter’s font update to Discord’s logo change, people tend to react to sudden changes with outrage and disdain, regardless of how those designs may aim to improve user satisfaction or test well with focus groups. Can it ever be worth it to keep an imperfect design if it’s what users have grown attached to? When changing its image, to what extent should a company prioritize changing what its consumers see directly versus changing its underlying structure?

Special Area

    • From the friend who starts watching a bad show just because everyone else already has to the big sibling who says that they’re always right because they’re older, many of people’s most common mistakes are the result of logical fallacies. Explore the many different kinds of fallacies, including the examples below. Have you ever heard someone commit one while arguing with you—and have you ever committed any yourself?
      • ad hominem | slippery slope | bandwagon
      • sunk cost | cherry picking | anecdotal fallacy
      • appeal to emotion/authority | fallacy fallacy

    • When the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was writing Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he accidentally plagiarized a passage about rabbit hunters from a book of adventure stories he’d read a long time ago and forgotten about. Plagiarism may be bad, but if it’s not done on purpose, as in cases of cryptomnesia, is it still a mistake—and should it be punished the same way, even if it’s unverifiable whether plagiarism was intentional? What about other mistakes that may be indistinguishable from more malicious acts?

    • At the 2012 Olympics, a one-second mistake on the part of a fencing timekeeper cost the distraught South Korean fencer Shin A-lam the gold medal. Explore the so-called “never-ending second” and consider: did the Olympic committee make the right decision? Can it ever be acceptable for a participant to face consequences for a mistake made by a staff member of a competition?

    • In Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and parts of the United States, the acknowledgement of native peoples’ claims to land is becoming more widespread. There are some (including indigenous people themselves) who claim that the act, meant to increase awareness of communities erased by past generations, oversimplifies and disguises more concrete issues. Research the ways that such acknowledgements are made, such as Australia’s National Sorry Day, then discuss with your team: what is the best way to recompense groups that have been wronged by harmful systems like colonialism? More broadly, when do we have an obligation to fix mistakes made not by us, but by people from the past?