(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) This week, I want to add a couple of ideas, just lightly, to what I said last week. I was presenting an argument back then, feeling the urgency of TOK’s goal to engage critically with the world. In a more mellow mood today, I’m recommending much “softer” class materials, with a gentler touch that leaves educational goals implied.
After all, students surely learn more than we teach. Along with our explicit messages – the focused questions, the concepts we’re developing, the analytical tools we’re practising – we’re also communicating attitudes and values. We don’t have to spell out everything. By choosing materials and focusing examples with a bit of resonance, we can teach indirectly, giving support to both TOK and the broader IB. Continue reading →
(Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Remote or engaged? Can Theory of Knowledge have it both ways? In taking a meta-cognitive overview of knowledge, the course may appear to be cerebral and remote. But in teaching skills of thinking critically and evaluating perspectives, it is clearly engaged in life on the ground. How do we manage in TOK to maintain this double vision?
As an experienced teacher and blogger soon to retire, I’m writing today primarily to new TOK teachers, to offer some central ideas on our course before I go. Other experienced teachers who are also committed to applying the thinking skills of TOK to the world may have ideas of their own to add. Continue reading →
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) It’s easy to miss the point entirely when treating Indigenous Knowledge in TOK. It’s not a special “category” of knowledge, even though it is listed in our syllabus in parallel with other areas of knowledge. Clustering up indigenous groups across the world to look at their knowledge does not enable us to treat that knowledge as separate or separable from other areas of knowledge. I’m a big fan of treating Indigenous Knowledge — but specifically as a particular cultural synthesis of other areas of knowledge and as a cultural perspective within and upon the other areas. Today I’d like to bring attention to three current topics that clearly deal with Indigenous Knowledge but, on consideration, deal equally with history, anthropology, and archeology. I’ve included links to supporting resources. Continue reading →
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Differing perspectives are easiest to see when they come into conflict. As a result, it’s tempting for Theory of Knowledge students to seize on conflicts as topics for presentations — and for us as teachers to use them as class examples to illustrate differences in perspectives. As I’m about to do here! I worry a bit, though, that, unless we treat perspectives with nuance and some empathy for the people involved, we could end up entrenching a binary vision of the world, and possibly a static one where we don’t reach beyond the conflicts into hope for the future.
A conflict in my own country this month over the meaning of Canada Day is a case in point: a specific event gave the media a story and focused attention on conflicting views. It’s a good example in various ways to take to a TOK class, but done well only if we place the skill of identifying perspectives within the larger TOK and IB goals of curiosity, openness and desire to understand. Continue reading →
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Surely in the holiday sunshine of a northern hemisphere summer we TOK teachers deserve to rest our minds — even as we nourish them. Do you share this belief? If so, you might, like me, enjoy listening to interviews or thoughtful conversations while preparing salmon for the barbecue, watering the garden, or walking on the beach. Often, podcasts treat ideas not with bullet-point-analytical-delivery but with chatty interviews and reflective conversation – more diffuse, more relaxing. Continue reading →
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) A unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada on April 14 gives us a dramatic example to take to a Theory of Knowledge class: Métis and non-status aboriginal people in Canada are now defined as “Indians” by the federal government. The people who now fit into this category are celebrating. The implications are significant for the rights they can now claim, the programs and services to which they now have access, and the increased clarity of their place in federal and provincial jurisdictions. Moreover, some consider it to be an acknowledgement of their history and a validation of their identity. But why do I suggest a judicial ruling with political ramifications as an example for a class on knowledge? What does it illustrate that is relevant to our course? Continue reading →
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Stories have power. In the scams of con artists, they have the power to “get you emotionally transported enough that you stop asking questions, or at least the questions that matter.” So warns Maria Konnikova, whose recently published book The Confidence Game prompted my post last week, and this week. At the same time, however, stories have an enriching role in the creation of knowledge, not just in obvious areas such as literature and history but also in areas such as the sciences where we might not expect a narrative to carry us. What, then, is the role of storytelling in telling lies, and telling truths?Continue reading →
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog)To appreciate knowledge as a human achievement, we want to humanize the contributors to it, the people who work within every field of knowledge. We want to bring to imaginative life their creativity, fallibility, clever methods to overcome fallibility, and splendidly diverse achievements. We want to bring to life, too, what their knowledge means – to them, to their field, to us.
There is one area of knowledge where it is essential to engage our students imaginatively for them to grasp what the area of knowledge is even about. I’m referring to Indigenous Knowledge, where the knowledge is seemingly defined by who possesses it. In this area of knowledge, many of the knowledge questions we want to pose can be asked with understanding and grasp of implications only if we have some awareness of culture and history. Continue reading →
(by Eileen Dombrowski) I ended my last post with questions about Rachel Dolezal’s claims to be black: “Are her personal knowledge claims the deciding factor, in your mind, for determining her racial identity? Why or why not?” What has captured media attention, it seems, is the way in which her story pits her own personal knowledge claims about her own racial identity against social knowledge claims of racial classification – and this in a society where racial categorization is charged with assumptions, associations from history and politics, values, and implications for treatment.
What captures my own TOK attention, however, is more generalized. It’s the differing bases and justifications for general classifications, of course. But even more intriguing is the way particular examples fit – or, being human, sometimes dramatically refuse to fit – into the categories assigned to them. As soon as we take two steps back from Rachel Dolezal’s story, others flood into the space. Who is black? Who’s an Indian? Who’s Jewish? Continue reading →
(by Eileen Dombrowski) Why do I have such ambivalent reactions to this video “Enoughness”, when it is so obviously a splendid film to take to a TOK class? Not only does it give a short, pithy summary of perspectives on the natural world and their implications for how we treat it, with graphic illustration, but it also supports a new area of knowledge in the TOK course, indigenous knowledge. Moreover, the value it places on sustainability puts it utterly in harmony with IB education. But….but…but for me, perhaps it’s my objections to it rather than my general endorsement that make me consider it particularly valuable for TOK.