(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) At first glance, this three-minute video (6 Photographers Capture Same Person But Results Vary Widely Because of a Twist) provides a visually engaging, if rather obvious, illustration of differing perspectives at work as 6 photographers take distinctly unlike pictures of the same subject. Taken at face value, it’s an appealing resource for a TOK class on the effect of what we think (perspectives, WOK intuition/reason) on what we see (WOK sense perception) and how we represent the world (WOK language). It’s when we question the methods of the film makers, though, and the reach of their conclusions, that the video becomes richer in questions that we want to raise in Theory of Knowledge.
(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
Posted in IB Theory of Knowledge
Tagged arts, emotion, faith, history, implications, indigenous knowledge, intuition, knowledge questions, language, literature, methodology, natural sciences, reason, sense perception, shared knowledge, truth
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Claiming he was a surgeon, Ferdinand Waldo Demara tricked the Canadian navy into giving him a ship full of people as his patients. With no qualifications whatsoever – without so much as high school graduation – he even performed operations on his trusting patients. How could anyone be so dishonest and callous as to deceive others so flagrantly? And why would so many people fall for his impersonation? The “con artist” – the swindler who plays a “confidence game” or gains the confidence of others for his own ends – seems to awaken our emotional outrage, but also our fascination. Such reactions make stories of large scale deception enormously attractive for stimulating and focusing discussion in a Theory of Knowledge classroom. Continue reading
(by Theo Dombrowski, from OUP blog) The image is striking. A woman walks through the streets of Beijing dressed in a strange gown with a long–orange–cape trailing along the ground. But wait. What is the gown made from? Well, strange to say, what at first glance might seem like ruffles, are actually plastic cones or horns.
The woman is called Kong Ning and her creation of this orange dress provides TOK teachers with a striking current story to challenge and provoke students into considering complex–and vital–ways in which the Arts function as an area of knowledge. Continue reading
(originally published on my Oxford University Press education blog) In my part of the world, there’s an entire public holiday built around a particular emotion: gratitude. In 2015, Thanksgiving Day falls on October 12 for us Canadians and November 26 for our American neighbours. Although this year I’m not home cooking a traditional turkey (I’m off travelling in Romania!), I wanted to wish all of you the best for this day, and to send you my hopes that you have plenty in your lives to feel happy about. And (no surprise here!) I can’t resist linking the emotion of gratitude to TOK class discussions. Continue reading
A story currently running in the media jolts me out of summertime diversions, straight back to TOK. I find knowledge questions about classification magnetic, especially when the categories constructed have social and emotional resonance as they are applied to human beings – as has the categorization of “race”.
This week’s incident gives an interesting twist to American stories of people of one race “passing” as another. Rachel Dolezal, president of a Washington state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), has been exposed by her birth parents as lying about being black. She is white – and they have the birth certificate to prove it. Many people have condemned her deception, including her black adopted brother who describes her “blackface” as “a slap in the face to African-Americans”.
Yet she is clearly a leader in Washington state’s black community, an expert on Black American culture, and an advocate for the community on issues of civil rights. Asked by a reporter whether she was black or white, Dolezal responded only, “That question is not as easy as it seems. There’s a lot of complexities … and I don’t know that everyone would understand that.” Continue reading
Salvation Army uses “black and blue” in campaign against violence against women.
(by Eileen Dombrowski) A week now since I posted “What colour is that dress? Millions disagree”, the story of the dress (black and blue, or white and gold?) continues to echo in the media. As different groups frame the story of the optical illusion with their own interests and ask their own questions, they create different stories of their own attached to what is currently a common reference point. Does placing the dress in different contexts affect, do you think, how you “see” it? I’ll pick out just two striking uses of the dress, both of them seizing on it to make points irrelevant to its optical qualities – but in the process moving into extended TOK territory!
(by Eileen Dombrowski) Yes, of course, we do know that people perceive colours differently. But so very differently? The dress at the centre of this week’s media storm makes an entertaining example in TOK of variability in sense perception, interpretation of optical illusion, and the extreme edge of “shared knowledge” – knowledge claims not shared through communal and corrective methodology but instead spread swiftly through social media. Millions of people are firm in their conflicting knowledge claims: “It’s obviously blue and black!” “Are you kidding? It’s white and gold!”
In sheer crowd appeal, the colour of the dress surely trumps other colour tests or optical illusions that TOK teachers often take to class to prompt discussion on human variability in sense perception and interpretation. As the BBC reports, “Buzzfeed’s online story about the dress has been shared more than 20 million times. Its post about the story also set a record for the website when 670,000 people went on to the site at the same time.” Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski) The police descended, responding to the warning: residents of Karlskrona, Sweden were allegedly displaying their allegance to the terrorist Islamic State with an enormous IS in their window. The officers left laughing, however. The inflatable balloons, viewed from the inside of the house, took the shape of 21, the number of the birthday celebration. “I’m so surprised at all the attention,” said Sarah Ericsson. ” I will never forget my 21st birthday.” Continue reading