Too many abstractions all at once can freeze your mind. “Knowledge” is enough to produce brain-freeze all by itself. What are you supposed to think about it, and how, when the word covers everything that everybody has ever known in all parts of the world? The concept is simply too big and too vague to be able to focus on easily. Then, when it is combined with “theory” – a very laaaaaarge concept -– “knowledge” can start to echo in your mind as two short syllable sounds, empty of meaning. Can you feel in your skull the icy onset of brain freeze? Brace yourself. In this blog, I’m about to make things a whole lot worse.
I’m adding two more mega-abstractions. “Citizenship” is a word that means different things in different contexts, and “global” – well, it takes in the whole world. How can Theory of Knowledge meet global citizenship — as in the name I’ve given my blog? Sorry about that. I wasn’t meaning to make you clutch your head in pain.
The odd thing is that what I want to do in this blog is not to bring on brain freeze but to help overcome it. I want to help you take the thinking tools of TOK and use them in the real world. TOK is a practical, useful course that helps you sort out and understand better what you read and hear in everyday life and your academic subjects. TOK supports your effort to listen to people in an open-minded and interested way, and it helps you give your own reasons clearly for conclusions that you reach yourself. TOK also helps you figure out what’s going on when people disagree, and maybe even take an effective role yourself in shedding light on problems in your future work or your community. TOK will surely give you some insight into how knowledge works in the world.
In this blog, I promise that I’ll try to thaw out some of the brain-freeze that I’ve caused just by its title. I’ll try to deal with the real world and show why it matters to develop and use TOK thinking tools. I suppose I might also, along the way, give you some help toward doing good presentations and essays, because these give you tremendous practice in honing your skills. Done well, they might also give you good marks –– but marks are really just a rough indication that you’re on the right track.
The right track toward what? I’d say, myself, that the right track is to become the kind of person who can balance a genuinely open-minded attitude toward the perspectives of other people with the critical thinking essential for understanding and evaluating them. The right track is seeing why it matters to seek the truth, to exchange ideas effectively with other people in the different ways that different contexts demand, and to reach the best conclusions you can yourself. If you move as far as you can along this track, then you are likely to contribute positively to all the communities you’re part of, local and global. In short, your TOK skills will take you to a version of global citizenship.
Are you recovering from the icy grip of brain-freeze?