Blast from the Past

Thirty Years Ago In December I thought I’d dig a little into some IBDP visual arts memories and look at the course as it was 30 years ago, when I was a young and eager art teacher (not so young now but still eager!). I confess I have a slight tendency to hoard, and up in the loft there are many boxes of ‘old stuff’. Some of it dates from the 1980s – a period when computers were primitive by today’s standards ...

Isaiah Berlin and the Vexing Issue of Liberty

When Isaiah Berlin died in 1997, his conceptions of liberty and value pluralism were to be read within the dying tradition of totalitarian politics, as implemented by Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. For the Russian-born thinker whose family escaped to England in 1921, Rousseau, Hegel and Marx were directly responsible for a warped interpretation of freedom enabling the state to force its citizens to conform to its own needs and ethereal collective aspirations.  His answer was a more realistic solution that ...

The Halogens

Topic 3.2 of the periodic table deals with periodic trends. In particular, under the applications and skills section, we are told to 'discuss the similarities and differences in the properties of elements in the same group, with reference to the halogens (group 17).' In this month’s blog, I thought I would share with you my way of teaching this particular aspect of the course. It goes without saying that the halogens are toxic, poisonous and in general pretty nasty. You the teacher ...

Dunning Kruger Analysis

Dunning who? Dunning Kruger Analysis is doing the rounds in my school – it's the current buzz phrase. I've been in this game for too long and am always sceptical of new initiatives, but this one did catch my eye and I think it has some mileage. The theory has been around for nearly 20 years and was first applied, like a lot of the new ideas coming into teaching via business models. The idea works by applying the idea the people who do ...

What Is Entropy?

Entropy is covered in the AHL part of the course: Topic 15.1 in the energetics / thermochemistry unit. The entropy change (symbol = S) in a chemical reaction is determined by as follows: total entropy change = total entropy of products – total entropy of the reactants You will have probably been taught that entropy is a measure of disorder. Order goes to disorder. The universe is expanding (and therefore getting more disordered). Liquid water has a greater entropy than solid water (ice) ...

Of Learned Ignorance

One of the most common responses I have encountered from teachers new to TOK is sheer panic.  The main reason for this seems to be twofold.  One, because TOK applies to every Area of Knowledge (AOK), teachers become anxious about dealing with spheres of knowledge which lie outside their comfort zone.  Second, TOK does not seem to provide stock answers to any questions and, therefore, new teachers are afraid they will not be able to give clear and neatly packaged ...

Burial in China

Around 10 million people die in China each year. Of these about 50% are cremated. The Chinese authorities have looked at ways of reforming burials in China, in order to deal with the lack of space and high prices of burials in certain areas. Each cremation releases around 160 kg of carbon dioxide, so around 800,000 tons of CO2 are released into the atmosphere each year in China, as a result of cremations! As China’s population ages, this amount is likely ...

Nudes vs. Prudes

Discussions, and what is 'acceptable' I recently had a conversation that reminded me that even in my school, which I considered to be fairly enlightened and progressive, there are corners of old-fashioned, conservative and conformist thought. The discussion was about our regular figure drawing workshops for DP visual arts students, and it clearly made this person uncomfortable. Of course, if my school was located in a more conservative culture, this attitude would be predictable and understandable. But my school is located just outside ...

Mary Midgley: A Combative Philosopher

Mary Midgley, who died on the 10th October 2018, at the age of 99, belonged with Elizabeth Anscombe, Iris Murdoch and Philippa Foot to a formidable quartet of gifted philosophers, all educated at Somerville College, Oxford, in the late 1930’s. Midgley was a late developer as her first noteworthy article on ‘The Concept of Beastliness’, appeared in the Journal of Philosophy in 1973, five years before the completion of her book Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature, published ...

Benzene

Benzene is sometimes referred to as an aromatic compound as opposed to the majority of other organic molecules that you have so far studied that are found in chains and sometimes referred to as aliphatic compounds. Aromatic substances are said to have an unsaturated ring of atoms whereas aliphatic substances open chains. The word ‘arene’ is sometimes used in place of aromatic. Benzene has the formula C6H6. Its structure was first proposed by the German chemist Friedrich August Kekulé in 1865. Its ...