Biases, fallacies, argument: Would you argue with a T-rex?

(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) If you were the brontosaurus, what would you say back? The following cartoon sequence is designed for TOK to prompt examination of assumptions, emotional appeals, and fallacies of argument. Students will quickly see some real world relevance and echoes of common knowledge claims.

If you would find this activity useful with your own students, please feel free to download a formatted copy here (with permission given to teachers to use it in their own classrooms): Would you argue with a T-rex? Continue reading

(Dis)trusting statistics: a one-page guide

dombrowski dracula 1 300(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) A numbers expert declares he’ll sum up everything he knows about analyzing statistics on the back of a postcard. Could any TOK teacher NOT instantly spring to the alert? He’s inspired me to attempt my own lean summary: a single page mini-guide on (dis)trusting statistics, useful in our own educational context of Theory of Knowledge. Continue reading

Facts matter after all: rejecting the “backfire effect”

(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Good news: counter-argument with factual support may not be doomed after all. The “backfire effect”, as widely discussed in the past few years, was a truly disheartening phenomenon for anyone who cares about critical thinking or reliable knowledge. However, recent studies illustrate how the human sciences work as they offer revised conclusions – and at the same time give us back some reasons for optimism.

Backfire effect

1 backfire

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History: writing the past, drafting the future

books_history(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) History, it often seems to me, isn’t essentially about the past. In so many ways, it’s about the present and the future – the afterlife in records, interpretation, and impact on thought. In current news, I’m struck by what lives on from bygone days in three seemingly unlike examples: a controversial law (Poland), yet another statue (this one in Canada), and a day of national commemoration (Australia). What they share is an eerie sense that we’re watching a troubled past in afterglow – and hearing in echo the resonance of TOK knowledge questions.

Here we go again? History is one area of knowledge that is keenly attuned to repetition, with variation! The knowledge questions from the current TOK Guide take another turn upon the stage: Continue reading

“Fake news”: updating TOK critique

news dood clip(by Eileen Dombrowski, OUP blog) “Fake news” is a term that I would happily consign to the annals of 2016 and 2017. Goodbye. But as it lives on, it morphs meaning – and takes on further allure for TOK analysis. It doesn’t just face us, belligerently, with issues of truth and falsehood. It also offers an excellent current example, rooted in real life situations, of another topic central to Theory of Knowledge: the interaction between concepts and language. Further, its shifts in meaning demonstrate the care that we have to take with our tools of analysis – that is, our words and terms. Time for a TOK update! Continue reading

“How am I supposed to appreciate it?” Art, science, and some silly assumptions

(by Eileen and Theo Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Do we expect to understand art and the natural sciences in the same way?  Today, here’s a 5-drawing cartoon sequence to open a comparison in class discussion, with class-ready questions and a download at the end. I hope it gives you not only material for thought but also a smile.

“How am I supposed to appreciate it?” cartoon sequence by Theo Dombrowski

art sc 1 Continue reading

Download TOK resource: 2017 TOK blog posts, collected

Dear TOK teachers — Again this year, I’ve gathered into a single document my year’s blog posts on Theory of Knowledge so that you can skim them easily, looking for ideas for your own teaching.  Note the Table of Contents at the beginning for an immediate overview.  Please feel free to download this resource, and to use it and share it freely (with the usual conventions of acknowledgement).

My goal in this blog is to give support to teachers by supplementing your core resources with fresh ideas for teaching TOK, activities for the classroom, and commentary relevant to TOK on current knowledge discoveries and events of the world as they pass.  My stress throughout is on thinking critically to gain the best knowledge possible, and on appreciating reliable knowledge as the achievement that it is.  I hope that, somewhere in this document, you may find something that stimulates your own ideas.

DOWNLOAD: 2017 TOK blog posts Dombrowski

I wish all of you an excellent year ahead.

Eileen Dombrowski

“2017, a good year”: Wasn’t it?

171218 new-year(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) As 2017 comes to a close, what impression will our students have of the world in which they live? Is it of an angry and threatening place? If they follow the news – even if only through social media – they might benefit from ending 2017 or starting 2018 by stepping back from the predominantly shocking or grim events that so often characterize headline news to encounter some of the good news that can easily get lost. For TOK, a class on “good news” reinforces much that we teach about knowledge production – and at the same time offers (perhaps) a little lift of the heart. Continue reading

“Those experts!”: cartoon, class discussion activity

experts_intro(by Theo and Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Distinguishing Experts from Imposters has always carried a lively edge when their conclusions matter in the real world.  Yet it’s still a bit of a novelty when views get applause simply because they reject experts!  “Those bully experts, telling the rest of us a lot of stuff — just ’cause they actually know!  How unfair!”  If our students are picking up on the anti-intellectual, anti-knowledge attitudes that echo in some current media, we might prompt them to reflection on the role of justification — such as boring old evidence! — in making knowledge claims. Would you find the following cartoon and its discussion questions useful in your TOK class to stir such a discussion? Continue reading

Signed language, symbolism, and reflections on inclusion

(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) I learned something important from my friend Lynx – something important for how I think about TOK and knowledge. It was almost seven years ago. I was interviewing her, as an experienced New Zealand Sign Language interpreter, on how signed languages worked and what they tell us about the nature of language. I was keenly interested in the ideas – and on using my laptop to make a video for the very first time. Then, when I had finally edited the interview, I passed it to Lynx for her response. It was immediate. “Can we add closed captions?” she asked. I was mystified. Why would we do that? “I wouldn’t like to talk about the Deaf community and their knowledge,” she explained, “without their having access to what I’m saying.” In an abrupt shift of perspective, I suddenly thought about the function of the closed captions I had always ignored – and realized that she was right. I had anchored my thinking entirely in my own TOK community and relationships of ideas. As an interpreter between hearing and Deaf groups, Lynx was much more fully attuned to the people. She was talking about inclusion and respect. Continue reading