Pre-IB (2): The ‘what’ of TOK

The ‘what’ of TOK refers to the knowledge produced by human thought. Human knowledge is divided  into Areas of Knowledge (AoKs). Those units generally combine subjects which have similar methods, scope and goals. There are eight of them. Natural Sciences, Human Sciences, History, Mathematics, the Arts, Indigenous Knowledge, Ethics, and Religious Knowledge. TOK will not only make you look at these areas of human thought from a new perspective but it will also highlight the connections and differences between them ...

Pre-IB (1): What on Earth is TOK?

When asked about what makes IB students better ready for university than others, admissions officers tend to highlight two things, the Extended Essay and TOK. TOK, which is short for Theory of Knowledge could be regarded as the heart and the crown of the IB. It forms the foundation of the whole programme and it elevates the DP curriculum to a level of sophistication not achieved by other qualifications. Sure, it is possible to pursue courses in Critical Thinking outside ...

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 ...

The Art of Knowing

There is no shortage of people who view Art or the arts as a largely redundant luxury which, other than as time filler, seem to add very little to the total sum of human knowledge. Art for them is an entirely self-indulgent, subjective and emotion driven enterprise. Artists do not solve problems, they do not provide new avenues of thought, they do not cure diseases or build useful devices, they cannot and should not therefore be considered as contributing to ...

CONTEMPORARY ART and THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE

 I recently spent a day at the TATE MODERN gallery with a group of Norwegian students and their teachers, who were staying in London for a few days having left Oslo the day before. We were looking for links between, and questions about, Art and the Theory of Knowledge. My role at the Tate on that day was to introduce and explain to the students some of the tricky issues that infuse and surround contemporary art. Tate Modern is the ...

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 ...

Reason: A Goddess with Feet of Clay

In the wake of the French revolution in the 1790s emerged a new religion, the Cult of Reason. This new faith was dedicated to the de-Christianizination of Europe and in churches all over France a new goddess was enthroned. Sensibly the new high-priests shied away from objectifying Reason by setting up statues of it, instead women, often young and scantily clad, were sat on newly erected altars whilst holding torches symbolizing enlightenment. Reason was to shine its guiding and liberating ...

Lost for Words? You’re not the only one.

The seminal 1970s concept album Tales of Mystery and Imagination by the Alan Parsons Project begins with the recorded voice of the legendary Orson Welles. In his inimitable voice Welles reads out an extract from Edgar Alan Poe’s Marginalia (1844 – 1849) in which the idea of ineffability is given an evocative and powerful expression. The ineffable is that which cannot or should not be expressed in words. Poe writes, “For my own part. I have never had a thought which ...

What will they understand 20 years from now?

This morning my Flipboard reading brought me this news commentary: Do You Really Understand Why Water Boils? New Survey Says, Probably Not.  by Nadia Drake.  Ms. Drake writes about the newest Pew Research Center Science Knowledge Survey, asking some very pertinent questions that anyone teaching in an IB school should recognise. She writes: The key with such surveys, says the University of Michigan’s Jon Miller, who’s been studying science literacy for nearly four decades, is to ask questions about core concepts. Things like what molecules are, what ...

In Two Minds

Being in two minds usually refers to occasions when we struggle to make up our minds about choices in front of us, like whether to have the healthy option for lunch or indulge one last time before we begin that diet tomorrow. One could also use the expression for when one is not able to decide on the truth of two, apparently, mutually exclusive propositions. A further meaning could be that which is closer to what might be called cognitive ...