Examining what we “Know”

In the Theory of Knowledge course I teach, we examine the word “knowledge” or “to know” in a deeper sense. Philosophically, this can be classified as “epistemology”.  This article: “Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?” was posted on astress TOK teaching website and posits some interesting ideas about what we think we know. Opinion aside whether or not the article is accurate, the concepts of stress and depression are important. To me, as a teacher of almost 20 years, student stress is currently the most concerning aspect of helping the modern student. So many students have stress as part of their lives and it manifests itself in various ways. These include avoidance, non-attendance, defiance, etc. The causes of stress are obvious complex and diverse, but dealing with and helping students with coping strategies must be near the top of the priorities of the modern teachers and school systems.


A mathematician looked at when society is likely to collapse and the answer is sooner than you’d think

Happy new year, not to start the year on a negative note, but this is an interesting examination of the effect of mathematics on knowledge (a Theory of Knowledge topic). It may not have been your favourite subject in school – but we highly recommend paying attention to mathematics, just this once.  Trump’s presidency marks the beginning of a peak in political violence, according to one expert.  Peter Turchin, professor of Ecology and Mathematics from the University of Connecticut, uses a maths equation to predict the rise and fall of civilisations and human behaviour. The new discipline, called cliodynamics, treats history like a science. And what he’s found using this process is terrifying. He writes on Phys.org:

Ten years ago I started applying its tools to the society I live in: the United States. What I discovered alarmed me.

So we’re off to a good start then. It looks like you’ve got around three years to build that underground bunker in your back garden, because Turchin predicts that social instability and political violence will peak in the 2020s. He also states that the 2016 US election ‘confirms his forecast’. His predictions are informed by trends such as income inequality, declining wellbeing, and growing political dysfunction. He says he also tracks the role of “Elite overproduction”. This term is used to describe increasing inequality propping up the most wealthy, so the “one per cent” becomes the “two per cent, which increases competition between the elite and polarises political parties. He says this is a big driver of social instability, and it looks like Trump might make it worse – although the jury is still out on whether we needed a mathematician to tell us that (source).

Theory of Knowledge for the 2015-2016 School year…

Well, the new school year is upon us, and with it the challenges of TOK for this year. The course for grade 12 students was scheduled outside the regular school day, so it is a challenge for the students to give up their lunch hour every second day. This year’s group will be the second group to use the new I.B. TOK curriculum and new I.B. TOK assessment rubrics on their internal and external grades. Below is a picture of this year’s class doing our annual “mask” activity for our study on the Arts!