Tag Archives: perspectives

“Crisis of authentication”: true art, false art, and the science of detection

Dombrowski forger detailCunning criminality is nothing new.  But the “faithful duplicity” of some recent forgeries has stunned art experts and shaken the markets and social organizations that envelop this area of knowledge.  Stories of stolen fortunes and international detective work however, can kick-start student interest as we use fake art to raise questions about real art. The TOK questions scream to be asked:  What is a “real” work of art if a forgery is indistinguishable?  What gives works of art their value?

Stories:  truth, fakery, and stupendous fraud

When we start in TOK with a Real Life Situation (RLS) – as our course evaluation puts it – we often get the advantage of the appeal of stories.  An excellent article in a recent Guardian Weekly gives us background for narration of modern fakes and provides an account of processes of authentication: The master detective.

In our contemporary context of electronic fakery of all kinds – including the “deep fakes” on which I recently blogged – it’s not surprising that the arms race between criminality and attempts at detection should escalate in the art world.  Continue reading

TOK Ethics: balancing detachment and engagement

(Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) It’s easy to spark discussion in TOK when the topic is Ethics.  This area of knowledge offers its own tinder, and a spark can quickly flame.  But what then?  How much should we fuel student engagement with the case studies or issues, and how much should we instead encourage them to take a giant step back?  In treating Ethics in Theory of Knowledge, we walk the line between two extremes, excessive engagement and excessive detachment.

dog ethics 2 Continue reading

“Art is dialogue about difficult subjects”

(Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) “Only art has the power to build bridges between communities,” asserts an art historian in response to a current exhibit in Srinigar, Kashmir.  One of the hosts of the exhibition similarly affirms, “Art is dialogue and conversation about difficult subjects.”  As TOK teachers, we have a world of examples to bring to class on art as an area of knowledge.  However, this current one, treated in the following article with brief interviews and backstories, is powerful in prompting thought and discussion on the role of art in communicating and creating knowledge:  The Kashmiri art bringing Hindus and Muslims together. Continue reading

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

“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

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

That event in the past: what do we make it signify in the present?

(Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) The Franklin Expedition just gets better and better. The present narration, I mean, not the actual expedition in the 19th century. No, that was a wreck in the icy north, costing the lives of all the men! But it’s a splendid example for Theory of Knowledge of the way the past can be reframed by our present interests. Continue reading

Standing at the Centre of the World: TOK class discussion (with handout)

Daryl Duke 200 dpi

Standing at the centre of the world: it’s a compelling image. But just who or what is at the “centre”, and what does planting that centre do to our knowledge? Clearly, this question of “centrism” threads through the Theory of Knowledge course, and there are plenty of good entry points to take students into discussion of its complexities. For one such entry point, I’d like to suggest using the image above, with its claim, “Whoever holds a camera stands at the centre of the world.” Continue reading

Indigenous Knowledge: not a separable area of knowledge

(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

Controversy in the Canada Day Party: analyzing perspectives for understanding


(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