AN ORIGINAL PODCAST FOR TEACHERS, STUDENTS AND OTHER CURIOUS PEOPLE
This is the first of a series of Bilingual TOK Talk Podcasts! Today I met with four Chinese speaking colleagues to discuss the question: 具有不同文化及語言背景的人們是否生活在不同的世界中? “Do people with different cultural or language backgrounds live in different worlds?”
Sun Laoshi led this conversation, and together we met with Liu Yu, Zhang Qiong Laoshi and Bai Laoshi. These teachers shared their understanding of this topic from multiple perspectives based on their own personal experience. Sun and I personally benefited a lot from this discussion, and I look forward to more Chinese teachers participating in this series in the future.
I would especially like to thank Wang Mei Tyng Laoshi for the beautiful original musical composition especially prepared for this podcast.
Today I’m joined for another session by Ms. Virginia Voigt, Psychology teacher and we discussed TOK Exhibition Prompt 12: Is Bias inevitable in the production of knowledge?
Since we’re human (and we're biased even when we try to be aware of our own biases), and knowledge is made by and for humans, the logical deduction here would be that yes, bias is inevitable. We don’t stop with this though, we unpack this question through the lens of Psychology, a field that strives to be as aware as possible and remove bias through stringent measures.
Our conversation today reminds me very much of Thoreau’s quote I have on my refrigerator “It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see”. I’m left wondering that if bias is inevitable to some extent, is bias necessarily a bad thing? Or, if it is unavoidable, what can we do about this? Another topic we discuss is the bias of language, and the fact that we’re holding this conversation in English, and the problems that come along with this.
Kudos (my favorite granola bar as a kid) to Bernard for the music once again. Seriously, if I can find a kudos bar, it’s yours. Thank you.
Link from our discussion well worth the listen:
14 Biases (Master Class)
In this episode, I met with one of my favourite teachers here in HK, Anastasia Stitch. She is a DP History teacher & examiner, and she holds a Masters of International and Public Affairs from University of Hong Kong, and was a DP History student herself. Looking through a Historical lens, I was really interested to hear what she had to say about Exhibition Prompt 9: Are some types of knowledge less open to interpretation than others?
We explore the beauty of history, literature and arts as being constantly open to interpretation, and try to dig into what kinds of knowledge might not be as open to interpretation, even in these areas. We talk about the key methods of historiography, and how that plays a valuable role in interpretation of historical events, as well as the role of the historian in removing the subjective “I” and to consider a range of contrasting evidence to get a sense of what took place. We get in deep in this one about the nature of knowledge in history and the role of interpretation. Hope you enjoy it and it gets you thinking a little more about the history you know!
And again, thank you Bernard Wun for the music!
After we finished the last episode, Kevin Hoye and I kept our conversation going about each of the titles, and I decided to keep the mic on to capture our conversation in the form of a quick little bonus episode to point out some things to watch out for and some interesting bits about each of the 6 titles. Class of 2023 TOK students… listen up!
Again, thank you random musicians on this track… speaking of which, if you’re a musician and would like to be featured,reach out to me!
Today I enjoyed tea and talked some TOK with Kevin Hoye (IB English Literature and TOK Teacher) about 2023 TOK Essay Title 5: Are visual representations always helpful in the communication of knowledge? Discuss with reference to the human sciences and mathematics. We talked a lot about different ways into understanding this question, beginning with ∞
Thank you to the random street Shanghai musician, once again for the music bringing us in and out of this track.
2023 Essay Title 1: Replicability
In this episode, I sat down with Donna Gee (IB Design Technology Teacher) and Michael Stewart (IB Psychology and TOK Teacher) to unpack and wrestle with 2023 TOK Essay Title 1: Is replicability necessary in the production of knowledge? Discuss with reference to two areas of knowledge.
We had a rich discussion which I hope you’ll find insightful into the role and relevance of replicability in different Areas of Knowledge.
2023 Essay Title 3: Bubbles
In this episode, I talked to Ian Galley (IBDP English Language & Literature) Nicole Mamphey (Science and Applied Ethics) about TOK Essay Title 3: Does it matter if our acquisition of knowledge happens in “bubbles” where some information and voices are excluded? Discuss with reference to two areas of knowledge.
We had a rich discussion about “bubbles'' as they exist in social media networks and internet platforms as well as within academia, algorithms, and how this contributes to, enhances and distorts our bubbles. We also discussed many of the real world consequences (why it matters!) that what we’re learning may occur in these bubbles.
We discussed relevant ideas including retracted findings of psychology and vaccination studies, bubbles in comedy and how it fits with the Benign Violation Theory, perspectives and the Soldier vs. Scout Mindset by Julia Galef, Spiral of Silence Theory and the social tendency to reinforce bubbles and silences descending voices, and the Metaverse. We discuss the difference between a community and a bubble: which one is more open to other ideas? How do they overlap?
We unpack and explore: Does it matter (to who? for what?) Does it matter to our acquisition of knowledge? Does it matter to the voices that are excluded? We challenge the notion that science is objective, and discuss how even in the sciences we want to reinforce what fits our own perspective and beliefs. We also begin to discuss voices that are excluded: silenced voices - why this matters!
2023 ESSAY TITLE 4: POWER
In this episode, I met with Dr. PS and Janka Steinkamp (both IB English teachers to talk about Essay Title 4: Do you agree that it is “astonishing that so little knowledge can give us so much power” (Bertrand Russell)? Discuss with reference to the natural sciences and one other area of knowledge.
I hope you find this episode as interesting as we did. If you’re looking for the TOK Essay Title Posters I mentioned, you can find them here.
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance” (Confucius in 500 BC)
2023 Essay title 6: Methodologies
Today I had a really insightful discussion with IB Theatre teacher, Alex Campion. We talked about May 2023 TOK Essay Title 6: To what extent is the knowledge we produce determined by the methodologies we use? Discuss with reference to history and one other area of knowledge.
Of course we talked about the Arts, attempting to give light to artistic methods in contrast with "the scientific method". I really enjoyed this one, and hope it leaves you thinking a little about the connection between the way we choose to produce knowledge and the impact it has on what we know. Stay tuned for more of these Essay Title discussions in the next few weeks!
2023 Essay Title 2: explained?
Today I had a coffee with Bill Kyzner and Bob Scheer and we unpacked the 2023 May Title 2: For artists and natural scientists, which is more important: what can be explained or what cannot be explained? Discuss with reference to the arts and the natural sciences. Questions that arose included: When does one become an “artist” or “scientist”? What does it mean to “explain”? Important for the artist/scientist to do what? So many different questions and ideas came up as we talked, I hope this gives you some food for your TOK thought!
Today I met with Dr. Rachel Oser, (Science Teacher) & 孫秀東 Xiudong Sun, (Chinese Literature and TOK Teacher) to talk about Exhibition Prompt 8: To what extent is certainty attainable? This was a really interesting episode for me firstly, because we begin by contrasting the idea of certainty in Religious knowledge and Science… This is something I find very delicate to explore through the lens of TOK. Secondonly, the episode was especially interesting because it was my first English & Chinese bilingual episode! I hope to do more of these in the future. I have added a translation of some of the sections where I thought clarity would help. I hope I have translated well enough to keep the integrity of Sun’s ideas, as well as to make it understandable to an English listener.
Some key quotes and ideas from this episode include:
Benjamin Franklin: “Nothing is certain but death and taxes” which Sun said was similar to “我唯一确定的事情是什么都不确定” The only thing of which I can be certain is that I’m not certain of anything.
"There are a thousand hamlets in a thousand people's eyes" in relation to Shakespeare… which brought up a discussion of Hamlet through a Taoist lens, and how this brings up the problem of lenses and certainty. We discuss certainty in the Arts in relation to good and bad interpretations.
Later we talk about issues that pertain to certainty have to do with our perspectives, replicability, tools and the limits of our human experience, raising the question Why do we need certainty? What is the role of doubt?
a few key Chinese words I learned from our conversation:
物种起源 wùzhǒng qǐyuán Darwin's Origin of Species
怀疑论者 huáiyí lùn zhě skeptic
不可知论准 bù kězhīlùn zhǔn agnostic
Once again, thank you Bernard Wun for bringing us in and out of this episode with your guitar!
To unravel this question, I met with Sarah Rodgers (DP Chemistry & MYP Science Teacher) & Alice Brookes (DP Bio & MYP Science Teacher). Together, we talk about a range of reasons we might doubt claims that are made about knowledge, and conversely what might make knowledge claims more trustworthy. We touch upon a variety of criteria, and discuss issues related to science, doubt in the time of Darwin when religion ran the world, the conflicting information about nutrition, as well as the current political climate in areas around the globe. It’s always fascinating to talk with people from different areas of the world, especially international teachers because we see things from both our own culture, our host culture, and sometimes a third global perspective as well.
Are we immune from the challenge of doubting the norm? Should we really doubt everything? Should we question everything? Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? These are important questions to consider and I hope you take some time to think about the things you take for granted and where you’ve developed “cognitive ease” around what you believe.
Cognitive Ease a 5 min youtube video summing up Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow section on Cognitive Ease
Once again, thank you Bernard Wun for music to bring us in and out of today’s discussion.
Today I sat down with Jim Faherty, an experienced University Guidance Counsellor here in Hong Kong to exchange views on Exhibition Prompt 7 What are the implications of having or not having knowledge? Because of his background in university applications and guidance, we discussed this question in relation to how having knowledge within this realm expands and helps to refine options for future choices in a young person's life. We go beyond this, and discuss the implications of having knowledge, one of those being the responsibility to share knowledge with others. We consider the reliability of sources, which is not only relevant to university choices but to all aspects of knowing about the world. We also explore what responsibility might come with having knowledge, and the relationship of money, power and knowledge.
We discuss the implications of not having knowledge as well again in light of having access to education (and therefore certain forms of knowledge) as well as the war in Ukraine and the race for a vaccine for Covid. We begin to think about knowledge as a resource, and only begin to ponder the problem of how we could better manage this resource on the internet. I hope you enjoy this episode and think again about the implications of having or not having knowledge.
Unifrog University guidance platform
Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
Prompt 6: How does the way we organise or classify knowledge affect what we know?
Today I’m joined by Liu Yu, aka Mr. LY, teacher of Chinese Humanities and Assistant Principal at ISF Academy in HK. We discuss Exhibition Prompt 6: How does the way we organise or classify knowledge affect what we know? We explore Confucian values in China as a way of organising knowledge (and by extension society) within Chinese culture. We also consider language and culture as ways we organize knowledge, and explore how in our personal experiences we’ve been able to step outside our own individual cultures in order to understand more about the world.
We also really get into the challenge of language as a way we know about the world, and the complexities of translation, as well as how having more varieties of language allows us to become more aware of the nuances of our experiences around us. There is still a lot more to discuss about this question, especially in the realms of art, science and humanities!
Thanks again to Bernard Wun for the guitar that brings us in and out of this one! Links for further investigation:
In this episode, I sat down with DP Design Teacher Donna Gee and DP Global Politics Teacher Bill Kyzner to discuss TOK Exhibition Prompt 5: What counts as good evidence for a claim? It really got me thinking about the significance of this question in my own personal knowledge about myself and the world, but also in a bigger sense about claims being made in today’s very heated political world. We stayed focused in this talk about evidence and claims within Design and Global Politics, but I cannot stop thinking about how perspectives play a very significant role in just how much evidence is enough to be “good” enough, and the implications this has on all kinds of knowledge communities. There really is so much more to be said about this prompt. I’m gearing up to do a reflection episode, so if you have comments or things you’d like to add, please send me a message via the contact page at www.TOKTalk.org.
And thank you thank you thank you to Bernard Wun for his lovely guitar licks on this track!
I know this will likely bother anyone who is interested in order and logic, but I've decided to break the order of prompts so I can publish them as I record them. Turns out the most interesting topics to those around me are not necessarily in the order the IB has given them. Who knew? Anyway...
Today I’m joined by Theatre Teacher, Bob Scheer. We get together and discuss TOK Exhibition Prompt 11: Can new knowledge change established values and beliefs? Bob has also done the beautiful harmonies for music on today’s podcast, they’re really beautiful!
Links & fact checks:
History of Gender Pronouns
JK Rowling on gender and cancellation - a worthwhile read, worthy of questioning what you think
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
Don’t Say Gay
This is the second episode in a series exploring the TOK Exhibition Prompts. Today I’m joined by Adam Walker, expert and teacher of Theatre. We get together and discuss TOK Exhibition Prompt 2: Are some types of knowledge more useful than others?
We’re both teachers of the Arts, so our conversation focuses heavily around the Arts. It would be interesting to sit down with a physicist, architect, astronomer or statistician and have a similar conversation!
Links for some of the theatre references discussed:
Another thank you to Vyvienne Schapel for the quick little riffs taking us in and out of the podcast!
Prompt 1: What counts as knowledge
This is the first in a series exploring the TOK Exhibition Prompts. In these episodes, I don't intend to answer the questions, but rather explore them and get you thinking. I hope you enjoy and find it stimulating!
To explore Prompt 1: What counts of knowledge, it was helpful to think about the following Types of Knowledge:
Do good explanations have to be true?
Today’s topic is a previous TOK Essay title: “Do good explanations have to be true?” To help me explore this question, I am joined by four fellow IB & TOK Teachers: Mr. Bill Kyzner representing Political Science, Mr. Francis Wynne, representing the Classics, including Latin Language & Greek Mythology, Mr. Jordan West-Pratt representing Natural Sciences, and today I’ll be representing the Arts.
Questions we discuss in relation to Natural Sciences, Political Science, Classics and the Arts:
Three things that stand out to me after this conversation:
Finally, I still am left wondering about the relationship of truth to the goodness of an explanation, and how that might differ depending on the audience of the explanation - who is the explanation for? what is its’ purpose? and does that determine what makes it good rather than its truth quality? There’s still much to be considered here. A title like this one seems so simple, and yet so complex once we start to unpack it.
No matter if you’re a TOK student, teacher or knowledge enthusiast, I hope that our discussion got you thinking about the relationship of good explanations and truth in your areas of interest or expertise. Tune in again next time for the next episode of TOK Talk.
Thank you to the random street performer in Shanghai for the intro and outro music.
Today we delve into the world of Statistics, and unpack how it can be a tool that can both reveal and conceal. To help me with this complicated question, I’ve asked some well-informed people to help me unpack this year’s TOK Essay Title 4: “Statistics conceal as much as they reveal”
Here with me today are Ms. Zehra Baig, Statistics teacher, Mr. Martin Brown, Mathematics teacher and Ms. Virginia Voigt, Psychology teacher. We discuss:
Music Credit: The Plastic Daizi Collective, 2015
Bias in the pursuit of knowledge
Joining me today are Dr. Rachel Oser – a Research Scientist & Teacher, Mr. David Fenwick: a Physics, Mathematics and Engineering Teacher, and Mr. Kevin Hoye, an English and fellow TOK Teacher. The prompt is this years’ essay Title 6:
“Avoiding bias seems a commendable goal but this fails to recognize the positive role that bias can play in the pursuit of knowledge”
Questions we discuss:
* Why might avoiding bias be a commendable goal in the discipline you teach? What are some of the measures taken to avoid these biases in your discipline?
* The title seems to imply that it isn’t possible to avoid bias – do you agree? Are some biases therefore fundamental? In what ways?
* What positive role(s) might it play in the pursuit of knowledge in your discipline?
I really enjoyed this conversation, and I hope this gets you thinking about your own biases as well as the positive and negative roles they have in the disciplines you study.
Original music by Emily Osann
Interview with IB Graduate
In this episode, I sat down and talked with my oldest daughter, who graduated last May from an IB school in Shanghai and is now studying Art at Parsons in New York. We discussed her experience as an IB student and she shares her perspective about TOK, CAS and IB in general. She also shares some honest advice in general about getting through IB and applying for Universities, as well as her experience and challenges as a Third Culture Kid in University. We share some good laughs in this episode, and I hope that you enjoy it as much as we did. Credit to Leah Osann and Xoai David for their beautiful vocal harmony, and Xoai on the guitar in their interpretation of No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen (hope the Boss won’t mind…)
Intro to Ethics
This episode I give an introduction to four main theories or perspectives on ethics: Virtue ethics, Deontological Ethics, Consequentialism and Utilitarianism, and Moral Relativism. I discuss these theories in relation to current situations such as the MeToo Movement and Self-driving cars. I love ethics... so this will be the first of several episodes looking at how ethics shapes knowledge in other areas.
Reason? Intuition, Faith, Imagination!
Should we as a global society value knowledge produced with reason over all other ways of knowing? In this episode, I explore a little more about the strengths and limitations of reason in contrast with intuition, faith and imagination. I’d like to give credit and thanks to the intro singer Kelsang Dorjee from Tibet with whom I had the pleasure of meeting and singing with a few years ago in Shanghai.
What's in a name?
Welcome back for episode 2! In this episode I introduce my cohost, Hobbes and together we discuss the first way of knowing: Language. We ask and explore the questions: What's in a name? A word? How does language shape the way we think? Why does it matter?