About this site

This is a site where I post articles, videos, and various resources relevant to a Theory of Knowledge teacher or student. You can find handouts, activities, and day to day plans on the resources for the TOK class page.

You can follow my day to day lessons with my Year 1s here.

The folder linked above lists the daily lessons chronologically. For the individual articles and resources linked below, there is no particular order but you can search by relevant Area of Knowledge or Way of Knowing by navigating the tabs above.

This site is currently configured for the “old” TOK course whose last assessment is 2021. Here is what I have gathered about the new course.

Please contact me by email if you have any questions.

TOKTopics[at]gmail.com

 

Friedrich August von Hayek’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1974

F.A. Hayek on the importance of humility and limitations of Economics and the social sciences in general.

I feared…the Nobel Prize confers on an individual an authority which in economics no man ought to possess.

This does not matter in the natural sciences. Here the influence exercised by an individual is chiefly an influence on his fellow experts; and they will soon cut him down to size if he exceeds his competence…

I am not sure that it is desirable to strengthen the influence of a few individual economists by such a ceremonial and eye-catching recognition of achievements, perhaps of the distant past.

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/economic-sciences/1974/hayek/speech/

The “Smirk seen ’round the world” Updated 7/28/2020

sandmannUpdate: Most of what’s below was posted January 2019. Since then, the boy in the left of the image filed defamation lawsuits against several news agencies and a few of them have settled.  Here are a couple of articles about those lawsuits and their resolution. This topic also fits well with the new course concepts around knowledge and knower, knowledge and technology, and knowledge and politics.

CNN Settles Lawsuit Brought by Covington Catholic Student Nicholas Sandmann (1/7/2020)

Numerous national media outlets painted Sandmann and his classmates as menacing — and in some cases racist — after an edited video emerged of Sandmann smiling, inches away from the face of Nathan Phillips, an elderly Native American man, while attending the March for Life on the National Mall. A more complete video of the encounter, which emerged later, showed that Phillips had approached the Covington students and begun drumming in their faces, prompting them to respond with school chants.

https://www.nationalreview.com/news/cnn-settles-lawsuit-brought-by-covington-catholic-student-nicholas-sandmann/

And another from 7/24/2020

https://thehill.com/homenews/media/508905-nicholas-sandmann-announces-settlement-with-washington-post-in-defamation

Interesting situation from a TOK perspective. Below is a collection of articles about the topic. They raise a lot of interesting questions about how we acquire knowledge and the relationships among the various ways of knowing. It also lends itself to ask about the primacy of some WOKs over others.

 

Download Lesson plan on “the smirk”

Download smirk articles handout

TOK Day 31 (daily student worksheet)

What’s also interesting is how impactful the image was. The image seemed to be a perfect representation of how many people view the current moment in the United States. It fit perfectly into prior assumptions about the world and spoke to a deeper truth. Interpreting and explaining this image!and fitting it into preexisting mental schema seemed pretty easy.

Once more and more videos started to emerge and the greater context became known, there were some interesting developments. Some people Continue reading “The “Smirk seen ’round the world” Updated 7/28/2020″

Twitter aims to limit people sharing articles they have not read

The problem of users sharing links without reading them is not new. A 2016 study from computer scientists at Columbia University and Microsoft found that 59% of links posted on Twitter are never clicked.

Twitter’s solution is not to ban such retweets, but to inject “friction” into the process, in order to try to nudge some users into rethinking their actions on the social network. It is an approach the company has been taking more frequently recently, in an attempt to improve “platform health” without facing accusations of censorship.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jun/11/twitter-aims-to-limit-people-sharing-articles-they-have-not-read

Making people aware of their implicit biases doesn’t usually change minds. But here’s what does work

Click here for other articles tagged, “Implicit Bias”

Do the diversity or implicit bias training programs used by companies and institutions like Starbucks and the Oakland Police Department help reduce bias?

I’m at the moment very skeptical about most of what’s offered under the label of implicit bias training, because the methods being used have not been tested scientifically to indicate that they are effective. And they’re using it without trying to assess whether the training they do is achieving the desired results.

I see most implicit bias training as window dressing that looks good both internally to an organization and externally, as if you’re concerned and trying to do something. But it can be deployed without actually achieving anything, which makes it in fact counterproductive. After 10 years of doing this stuff and nobody reporting data, I think the logical conclusion is that if it was working, we would have heard about it.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/making-people-aware-of-their-implicit-biases-doesnt-usually-change-minds-but-heres-what-does-work

What is the process for “creating science”? Explained in images

Very well drawn and well explained. Each step listed here raises interesting questions and discussions as well as limitations but nonetheless is a good visual introduction.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/188445124@N06/with/49892267702/

Related, the problem with peer review.

The problem with peer review is the peers. Who are “the peers” of four M.D.’s writing up an observational study? Four more M.D.’s who know just as little as the topic. Who are “the peers” of a sociologist who likes to bullshit about evolutionary psychology but who doesn’t know much about the statistics of sex ratios? 

Website Link

Using computers to teach children with no teachers

The article summarizes what Mitra spoke about in his TED talk (linked below). This tells us a lot about the role technology can play in education along with the role of intrinsic motivation and self guided learning. Our recent foray into remote learning calls into question a lot of our assumptions about education.

One group in Rajasthan, he said, learnt how to record and play music on the computer within four hours of it arriving in their village.

“At the end of it we concluded that groups of children can learn to use computers on their own irrespective of who or where they are,” he said.

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-10663353

 

Genocide denial gains ground 25 years after Srebrenica massacre

What is the relevance of historical knowledge? How does the present affect our views on the past?

Related: “Villain or hero? Sarajevo is split on archduke’s assassin Gavrilo Princip”

With survivors and perpetrators living side by side, and given the country’s divided politics, it is hard to imagine closure and reconciliation coming soon…

Schooling, like so much in Bosnia, is still divided along ethnic lines. Pupils are split into separate classes for “national subjects” such as history, and while the Bosniak textbooks cover the genocide, the Serb textbooks gloss it over. There is little hope of a unified curriculum in the country in the foreseeable future. “The main nationalist parties that continue to benefit from social division have no interest in changing a divisive status quo,” said Valery Perry, of the Democratization Policy Council in Sarajevo.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/10/genocide-denial-gains-ground-25-years-after-srebrenica-massacre

 

Modeling the impact of climate change on human migration: “Where Will Everyone Go?”

Extremely ambitious project from Propublica and the NY Times Magazine. What I really appreciate about this work is that it does not simply talk about alarmist conclusions and predictions but discusses at length its assumptions, methods, and different possible outcomes along the way. I think the TOK value here is less about climate change and its impacts and more about the ways in which we predict the future. What is the role of models? How do different disciplines build them? What is the value of interdisciplinary work? What are the limitations of these predictions?

In all, we fed more than 10 billion data points into our model. Then we tested the relationships in the model retroactively, checking where historical cause and effect could be empirically supported, to see if the model’s projections about the past matches what really happened. Once the model was built and layered with both approaches — econometric and gravity — we looked at how people moved as global carbon concentrations increased in five different scenarios, which imagine various combinations of growth, trade and border control, among other factors. (These scenarios have become standard among climate scientists and economists in modeling different pathways of global socioeconomic development.)

The results are built around a number of assumptions about the relationships between real-world developments that haven’t all been scientifically validated. The model also assumes that complex relationships — say, how drought and political stability relate to each other — remain consistent and linear over time (when in reality we know the relationships will change, but not how). Many people will also be trapped by their circumstances, too poor or vulnerable to move, and the models have a difficult time accounting for them.

All this means that our model is far from definitive. But every one of the scenarios it produces points to a future in which climate change, currently a subtle disrupting influence, becomes a source of major disruption, increasingly driving the displacement of vast populations.

https://features.propublica.org/climate-migration/model-how-climate-refugees-move-across-continents/

Related article:

The Truth about Scientific Models

They don’t necessarily try to predict what will happen—but they can help us understand possible futures

Scientists rely on models, which are simplified, mathematical representations of the real world. Models are approximations and omit details, but a good model will robustly output the quantities it was developed for.

Models do not always predict the future. This does not make them unscientific, but it makes them a target for science skeptics.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-truth-about-scientific-models/