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Canon
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Author:  Tim the enchanter [ Sat May 13, 2017 9:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Canon

Discaimer: I am a parent that just finished watching his first year of quiz bowl. It's been over 30 years since I was in high school and we played "It's academic".
My question is how much the "canon" changes from year to year? My view of this endeavor is that it should be constantly evolving.
I have observed that the least mastered subject seems to be poetry. There are many kids that can name a poet or work from a few clues, but I suspect that they have never actually read the entire poem. I would suggest that rock n roll and even rap changed poetry, set it to music and at least should be recognized as such.
I have also noticed a dearth of astronomy/astrophysics questions. I feel that this is an area that we need to keep in the forefront for our brightest students. It amazes and frightens me how much this subject has receded from the mainstream in the years since I have been in school.
Thoughts?

Author:  Get Lynned [ Sun May 14, 2017 7:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Canon

These are great questions. Thanks for asking and posting them!

I think the canon experiences just a tiny bit of change every few years. By and large, the categories and what's considered to be important remain consistent. There's only two patterns of change I think happen: harder (and more obscure) material gradually gets washed out / appears less, and literature sees some inclusion of new clues and answers every few years.

World literature used to be a popular sub-distribution. A twenty tossup/twenty bonus packet would have a tossup and bonus exclusively devoted to the literature of South America, Africa, Asia or (in rare cases) Australia. In recent years, it's somewhat tapered down to where it might come up once every two packets (as opposed to once every packet) in favor of more American and British Lit. This is a change for the better, in large part because American & British Lit is what's taught in every school, whereas world literature is not (I realize some schools may call their 10th grade English "World Literature", but whether or not they do much teaching of world literature and instead lean toward teaching more grammar & composition remains to be seen.)

Where literature 'gains', I would say they gain in recent developments to the broader western canon of literature. For instance, a literature tossup on Sweden may mention the book "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", a book that's been published in last ten or so years. Some writers get added into the canon, but usually their inclusion begins at the harder competitions (i.e. Derek Walcott.)

Poetry: the thing about poetry is that it's a really diverse canon in its own right. The American poetry canon goes back to the Puritan age; the English poetry canon goes back every bit of 500 years. You also have a few poetic traditions, such as the Irish and Latin American, that do come up and at least the former is taught in the classroom. Within the respective poetic traditions of the U.S. & U.K., there are many different schools and genres of poetry that are taught in the classroom. So, picking out a poem to read on your own can be daunting... because you'd want to read a poem that'll come up later down the road.

I think astronomy/astrophysics is a subject more people would like to see be asked, but whose expansion (in terms of canon presence) might be tough to justify. Folks such as Bob Kilner and Josh Queen may be able to offer more on this topic. I don't know necessarily about astrophysics, specifically, but astronomy does come up in some bits. (Is there anything pertaining to astrophysics that can be asked about that doesn't require having to do math?) I think the reason we don't see more questions on it is because it's not Biology, Chemistry, nor Physics (three classes that are practically mainstays in every high school science department; consequently, three fields of science that comprise, at minimum, 75% of the science distribution per packet.) There could be more astronomy/astrophysics in question sets, but I think the question becomes "are we privileging the schools that can afford to teach six or seven different science classes over schools that can only afford to teach their state's minimum?")

Author:  Tim the enchanter [ Sun May 14, 2017 9:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Canon

Thanks for the reply. I shouldn't have included astrophysics. I guess what I was getting at was that the space program and exploration was much more in the forefront 30 years ago than it is today. I think a few tossups on Von Braun, Apollo missions, shuttle missions, neighboring galaxies etc. would be appropriate.

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