Does Knowledge Have a Sell by Date?

Naomi Klein’s controversial book and subsequent film adaptation, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (2014 and 2015 respectively), was meant to give a new take on the issue of the relationship between the current dominant economic model and the price our planet has to pay for its success. To many of its critics the book/film only rehash well-trodden arguments and offer unrealistic or downright silly solutions, their damning verdict is that in fact the book and film do not ...

Of Personal and Shared Knowledge

One of the central distinctions about the nature of Knowledge in TOK is that between Personal and Shared Knowledge. Personal Knowledge is meant to refer to knowledge which has been acquired by the individual based on their own experiences, efforts and conclusions. Shared Knowledge is knowledge which is held communally, by groups which will vary in size depending on the type of knowledge being explored. For a start, I am not at all convinced that it is genuinely possible to ...

The TOK Presentation Planning Document

Many students will be busy putting the finishing touches to their TOK presentations, here are a few last minute pieces of advice. The planning document is the only evidence the IBO will have of your presentation, make sure it is filled in to ensure the best possible mark. As a matter of good practice, initially try and choose two or three Real Life Situations (RLS) before settling on one of them, not all RLS will necessarily provide good TOK material. Make a ...

What Then Must We Do?

A man pounds the keys of a typewriter in a frenzy, clearly in a state of heightened anguish. The words he types repeatedly, “What then must we do?” come from the Gospel of Luke (3.10 – 14), words which also inspired the title of a book by Leo Tolstoy on the causes of and possible solutions to extreme poverty. The man is a reporter in 1960s Indonesia where the government of President Sukarno seems oblivious to the fate of millions ...

Is Mathematics a Religion?

For many numerically illiterate people out there, the film The Man who Knew Infinity (released September 2015) was, if atheists will pardon the expression, a godsend. It describes the life and achievements of renowned Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. It did this in a way which not only made his passion for and staggering discoveries in Mathematics entirely accessible, but it also managed to express the very soul of the man.  In a particularly moving scene, the great mathematician G.H. Hardy ...

So, What’s the News?

Every moment of every day, an avalanche of information is dispersed through countless media sources in a myriad of forms and this without respite, 24/7. This may be one of the most significant changes in our daily lives since, well, forever.  It is not that information was not available before of course, but nothing comparable to the sheer quantity and accessibility of ‘news’ we encounter throughout a single day. However, it would be quite easy to trawl the internet for ...

The Beauty in Maths

A few months ago the BBC conducted a survey to find the most beautiful mathematical equation in the world. There is of course a long history of the relationship between the idea of beauty and mathematics. The ancients certainly pondered that relationship as well as connecting it to the concepts of truth and of goodness. In Plato’s mind certainly, as well as in the mind of others, the true, the good and the beautiful were objectively one in the transcendental ...

Is Economics a Science?

Robert J. Shiller is a Nobel Laureate in Economics and an Economics professor at Yale University, in an online article published in 2013 he addresses the vexed question as to whether Economics is a Science. Whilst acknowledging the limitations of his subject as a science readily enough he cannot bring himself to altogether abandon that label. Moreover, he almost seems more interested in highlighting the failures of other disciplines as sciences (chemistry, physics, politics, astronomy…) than to provide evidential support for ...

Being Human

This week I did something which I have rarely done in my many years of teaching; I asked students to spend a whole lesson watching a video. Each student was given a laptop and they were asked to put on their earphones (they always seem to have the latter available at the drop of a hat). They were told to go to Youtube and look for the film “Human” by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, and watch at least any five of the ...

Deconstructing a Knowledge Question

In the last blog we looked at how to identify and construct a Knowledge Question, this is particularly important for the TOK presentation. In this blog we will focus on how to deconstruct a Knowledge Question. This is of course essential for success in the TOK essay and although this is some way off for many students it is useful to look at this now so one can practice the skill before the TOK essay titles arrive at the end ...