Doing good is good for you: Ethics and the Human Sciences, TOK and CAS

Is there really anything newsworthy about the value of doing good to others?  So much has been said over so many centuries that surely current psychological research cannot add tremendously to our understanding!  And surely doing good falls within the scope of ethics -- and not within the scope of the human sciences! Yet, quite the contrary: recent studies in the human sciences do contribute knowledge, and delightful knowledge at that! Personally, I find the results of these studies give my heart ...

We just can’t leave it alone: the past, memory, and history

It seems that we just can’t leave the past alone.  We choose what to deny and what to glorify from the life that we leave behind, as most of our moments drift entirely from our memories.  We reshape the past and impose upon its fuzzy outlines new stories of our own to fit our present interests and purposes.  In TOK, the addition of memory as a way of knowing opens up fascinating questions of knowledge.  Discussion of memory is likely ...

KQ: what TOK’s all about

What an enviable set of initials!  Can’t you imagine all the monograms possible in fancy fonts?  At the centre of the TOK course, those KQ stamp on it quite the designer label!  And what does the label represent?  Knowledge Questions, of course! TOK is an exploration, after all, into what knowing is all about.  We deploy the powerful interrogative form, the question, to open up possible answers everywhere within knowledge. The biggest question of all is, “How do we know?”  Stencil ...

“Context is all”

One of the dangers of immersing in TOK for long is that it can begin to affect your sense of humour.  You can find yourself laughing aloud at things that nobody around you finds funny.  Take today.  In my email inbox, from a consistently dire news feed, screams the header:  The Future You Don’t Want.  Of course, it’s likely to be the usual prognostications of woe.  But today?  Today is my birthday!  It's a marker between the past and the ...

Correlation or causation?: climate change and increased violence

Few recent scientific studies have received as much media coverage as one published recently in Science, arguing for a causal link between climate warming and violence.  The range of media sources covering it is as impressive as the number:  not just general news media at all levels, in many parts of the world, and not just science journals, but also those with particular perspectives, among them religious (or, at least Christian) environmental, police-based, medical and business.  Why should this particular ...

Framing knowledge: getting the structuring “just right”

“Where the historian’s interpretations of human behaviour are based largely on artifacts and documents, the human scientist’s are….”  “Natural scientists and human scientists share some core research methods, such as….”  “Unlike scientists, whether natural or human scientists, mathematicians….”  Comparisons lie at the heart of the TOK essay, comparisons drawn from the large overview of knowledge that our course takes.  Yet in what terms do we draw these comparisons, and what features of knowledge do we emphasize in the process?  As ...

TOK changes: not just “optional extras”

How does imagination interact with sense perception and memory? The new WOK change the way we deal with the old. A revised version of a course presents no particular problems for teachers new to the course in any case. They enter the new version as if the course has always been that way, and can quickly become bored listening to experienced teachers make comparisons – irrelevant comparisons -- between the old and the new.   If you are new to TOK, ...

TOK brain freeze?

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 ...

TOK Refreshment

It’s been only six months since I suspended this blog, but as I return I’m blinking with pleasure at the new surroundings. The web environment has changed: Triple A Learning is now teamed up with Oxford Study Courses in an attractive new site.  The TOK course itself has also changed: the revised version, with new structures and interesting new topics, is starting to roll. Have the readers changed too?   Welcome to new readers, and welcome back to those who have followed ...