Strong Emotions about TOK

photo: Adam Clark
photo: Adam Clark

I started the year feeling slightly worried about IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK). This is the first semester I’ve been incorporating some of the recent changes to the program, including the addition of “Indigenous Knowledge Systems“, a new Area of Knowledge (AOK) which I felt strangely uncomfortable about or perturbed by upon first hearing of it. I’ve spent a lot of time (too much, probably) trying to figure out just what made me skeptical about that particular new AOK. Was it the potentially divisive idea that “modern” and indigenous peoples use completely different systems of knowledge? I’m still not sure.

However, as the semester has gotten rolling, I’ve been reminded repeatedly that TOK is one of my very favorite classes ever. I was asked to give a presentation on History as an Area of Knowledge to the Grade 12s yesterday (picture above), which was quite energizing (for me, that is – the students might differ). Another of the exciting things happening this year is the development of a blended learning / online course platform to accompany the TOK curriculum by my colleague Adam Clark. It’s been quite interesting to be involved even peripherally in this new endeavor.

Then there are my students, who have already impressed me with their insight and ability to make interesting connections – for example, last week we got into an impromptu discussion about why people think some houses are haunted; I think the discussion probably involved serious consideration of all the Ways of Knowledge and Areas of Knowledge at some point (yes, even Indigenous Knowledge Systems). It’s great to use TOK as a chance to step outside of the narrower perspective of a single academic area to get the chance to hear what students think about topics they’re personally interested in.

Students investigating forced perspective and visual illusions as part of a look at Sense Perception
Students investigating forced perspective and visual illusions as part of a look at Sense Perception.

I don’t have any big point to make here – I just wanted to share the fact that I’m really enjoying TOK so far this year and some of the reasons why. I’m even starting to warm up to my old bugbear, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, and in any case my grappling with it is sure to turn out to be an opportunity for learning. My main emotion (an often underrated Way of Knowing) on the topic of TOK this year is definitely excitement.

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