Tag Archives: knowledge claims

“Evidence-based medicine”: a class discussion, with a caffeine lift!

1507coffeeDid you know that green coffee bean extract can help you lose weight? No? Me neither! Today, I’d like to propose a class discussion on thinking critically about media knowledge claims for products that yield fabulous (literally) medical benefits. The discussion is given a caffeine lift by a bite-sized example from a year ago – a story of fabulous claims and the corrective process of science. Continue reading

Classification and implications: Who is black, or indigenous, or Jewish?

(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

News anchor in disgrace: media, memory, and questions of knowledge

14 02 helicopter-297742_640(by Theo Dombrowski) If there’s one quality we all want in news announcers it is their truthfulness. A liar is not what we want. It’s not surprising, then, that one of the most widely covered news stories of recent weeks is the one directed at exposing famous NBC News “anchorman” Brian Williams–as a liar. So high profile is this story that if you take it to a TOK class you can expect most students to have heard it (at least in North America.)

As for the lie itself, well, according to Williams he was traveling in a helicopter in Iraq in 2003, when it was hit by enemy fire. The truth? It wasn’t. (In fact, another helicopter traveling ahead of him by more than half an hour was hit—though Williams’ helicopter did land to avoid a dangerous situation.)

Ask the same TOK class what knowledge questions related to shared knowledge emerge from this story and, no doubt, many will point out those associated with trusting news media. The fact that Williams did not present his story as a news story will hardly take away from the point. This emphasis, however, obscures an even more interesting question for TOK, one raised by psychologists commenting on the story. Is it possible that it illustrates not a failure of honesty but the normal workings of fallible memory? Continue reading

Misinformation, implications, and responsibility: fact-checking on Africa

“What do these statements about Africa have in common? A white farmer is killed every five days in South Africa. Earlier this year Nigerian Islamists Boko Haram burnt 375 Christians alive. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the rape capital of the world. Johannesburg is the world’s biggest man-made forest. Answer: despite being widely accepted, none of them are true.” (“Get your Africa facts right”)

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TOK and the “real world”: How do we engage most appropriately when knowledge claims have been politicized?

enbridge-map-1(by Eileen Dombrowski, OSC TOK blog June 27, 2014) As a TOK teacher, do you feel you can be “political” in the classroom?   I’d love to have your thoughts on this topic. (Please use that “comment” feature!) I’d love to know how others walk the line between being relevant to the world – and hence engaged in its issues – and being neutral in order not be accused of being an ideologue, inappropriately, in the classroom. Continue reading

Skepticism — a million dollar challenge

207034602_7090209ae4_m(by Theo Dombrowski, from OSC TOK blog March 15, 2014) Many a TOK teacher has added spice to a discussion on the scientific method by tossing in, for critique, pseudoscientific knowledge claims made by astrologists, psychics, ghost hunters and the like.  Guaranteed to ratchet up interest even further is the fact that a cool million dollars awaits anyone who can demonstrate “paranormal” ability.  Continue reading