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May 2024 TOK Essay Title 6: Are we too quick to assume that the most recent evidence is inevitably the strongest? Discuss with reference to the natural sciences and one other area of knowledge.
Be careful here with this title that you’re really talking about evidence and not the interpretation of evidence in the form of theories! This one is worth a listen just for how we talk about ways to approach TOK Essay Titles in general, nearer to the end.
One more word about the arts after further consideration: recent evidence could be uncovered in the arts in many ways, for example the use of x-ray can uncover new evidence about artists’ intentions, techniques and processes. Check out the Art News article linked below
Links from our discussion:
Guest: Rhodri George
Music: sounds recorded on the beach in Pak Lap and a random bass line from Garage Band... I really need more music! Contact me if you have any you want featured.
May 2024 TOK Essay Title 1: Is subjectivity overly celebrated in the arts but unfairly condemned in history? Discuss with reference to the arts and history.
Be careful with this title: you need to really interrogate assumptions about the role of subjectivity in both arts and history. Think about instances where subjectivity may be overly celebrated in the arts and where objectivity could be of value. Likewise, think about where subjectivity is condemned and where it might also have value in history.
Guests: Kevin Hoye, Robert Scheer
In this episode, I met with Bill Kyzner (IB Teacher of Global Politics) and Garrett McKee (IB Teacher of Design Technology) to discuss Prompt 10: What challenges are raised by the dissemination and/or communication of knowledge? We explored the relationship between the communicator, the message, and the audience along with the challenges raised in each of these stages. We first unpacked the assumption that there will be misinterpretation: what is said is not what will be received. Some of the many challenges we discussed include: the layered meaning of words, translation, media of dissemination, perspectives that shape our understanding, language, expectations, context (everything is relative to the context!). We also discuss the challenges when a message requires action on the part of the listener: convenience or desire to act, fatigue and lack of tools or methods to act upon a message, lack of a singular clear authority, not knowing who to trust, vetting sources, knowing what knowledge is valid when faced with conflicting information or ideas, especially when they go against existing beliefs. We agreed that it is always a challenge (though absolutely necessary) to set our own perspective aside in order to develop sincere understanding.
We also discuss when less is more to make a message clearer and less open to interpretation, but also in a very Orwellian way, how this can also go entirely wrong. What authorities supersede our own independent search for truth? From a Global Politics perspective, an important idea raised was that “just because the more powerful perspective dominates the landscape doesn’t mean that the less powerful perspective is less meaningful.” From a Graphic design perspective, to communicate messages, raise awareness, what is the best way to communicate so that it is not misinterpreted? How can we avoid adding to misinformation? What are the basics of communication to begin with? This was a challenging question and (as many knowledge questions) we ended with even more questions than we started with! Thanks for listening, I hope you found it thought provoking.
Host: Emily Osann
Guests: Bill Kyzner, Garrett McKee
Music: Emily Osann
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.
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)
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!
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!
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!
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.
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
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…)