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Doing good is good for you: Ethics and the Human Sciences, TOK and CAS

(re-post from December 16, 2013 blog. It’s so appropriate for this time of year!) Is there really anything newsworthy about the value of doing good to others?  So much has been said over so many centuries that surely current psychological research cannot add tremendously to our understanding!  And surely doing good falls within the scope of ethics — and not within […] Find out more

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Doing good is good for you: Ethics and the Human Sciences, TOK and CAS

Is there really anything newsworthy about the value of doing good to others?  So much has been said over so many centuries that surely current psychological research cannot add tremendously to our understanding!  And surely doing good falls within the scope of ethics — and not within the scope of the human sciences! Yet, quite the […] Find out more

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Being Human

This week I did something which I have rarely done in my many years of teaching; I asked students to spend a whole lesson watching a video. Each student was given a laptop and they were asked to put on their earphones (they always seem to have the latter available at the drop of a […] Find out more

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Liberal Arts & Sciences – is this the degree for you?

What is a Liberal Arts & Sciences degree? Liberal Arts and Sciences is not a new idea and in fact began in Ancient Greece aimed at facilitating high quality, academic studies to develop critical and analytical thinkers in a broad range of disciplines. Typically (but not exclusively) the Liberal Arts and Sciences Colleges today are small, […] Find out more

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The Mathematical Sciences in the 21st century

In the last day of 2013 it seems appropriate to browse two books published by the National Academies Press – both of them represent reports of an interesting project The Mathematical Sciences in 2025. They can be read online freely (and after a registration a PDF version can be downloaded as well). I find particularly interesting and […] Find out more

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Pre-IB (2): The ‘what’ of TOK

The ‘what’ of TOK refers to the knowledge produced by human thought. Human knowledge is divided  into Areas of Knowledge (AoKs). Those units generally combine subjects which have similar methods, scope and goals. There are eight of them. Natural Sciences, Human Sciences, History, Mathematics, the Arts, Indigenous Knowledge, Ethics, and Religious Knowledge. Find out more

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How Postmodernism Undermined our Perception and Knowledge of Truth

The pursuit of truth has been the major preoccupation of philosophers from Thales’ search for the most elementary component of the universe or Heraclitus’ claim that everything is in constant flow down to Descartes’ attempt to found a new science of nature on purely rational principles and Kant’s systematic enquiry into the universal principles of […] Find out more

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Philosophy and May ’68 (Part 2)

Among the philosophers who exerted a strong influence on pre and post ’68 Continental philosophy was Jacques Deleuze (1925–1985). The latter explored new ways of thinking in his critical and highly original reinterpretations of Leibniz, Hume and especially Nietzsche’s works. as well as in his forays into psychoanalysis with his collaborator and friend Félix Guattari. […] Find out more

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Is Economics a Science?

Robert J. Shiller is a Nobel Laureate in Economics and an Economics professor at Yale University, in an online article published in 2013 he addresses the vexed question as to whether Economics is a Science. Whilst acknowledging the limitations of his subject as a science readily enough he cannot bring himself to altogether abandon that label. […] Find out more

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Deconstructing a Knowledge Question

In the last blog we looked at how to identify and construct a Knowledge Question, this is particularly important for the TOK presentation. In this blog we will focus on how to deconstruct a Knowledge Question. This is of course essential for success in the TOK essay and although this is some way off for […] Find out more

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Extended Essay research – reading between the lines

OSC’s resident IB expert Keith Allen imparts his wisdom on writing a successful Extended Essay. As an experienced IB Biology teacher, Keith knows what it takes to succeed in the IB Diploma Programme. The IB has – very proudly – reported on three research projects on the benefits of the Extended Essay for university study. […] Find out more

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Electrocution and Marriage Rates: Correlation or Cause?

The comic charts on the website Spurious Correlations are already familiar to many TOK teachers. But if you’ve missed this resource till now, you won’t want to miss it any longer. Did you know that the number of people who died by becoming tangled in their bedsheets correlates with the total revenue generated by skiing facilities in […] Find out more

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Cupcakes and sushi: fads, trends, and questions of knowledge

What’s the difference between a fad and a trend? How is the passing craze for cupcakes relevant to knowledge in the human sciences? A light story on food fads raises some general knowledge questions. My friend and co-author Mimi Bick has sent me a link to a podcast and a personal story, both of which […] Find out more

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TOK and The User’s Guide to Economics

Interviewed in the TOK Course Companion, economist Susan McDade (working with the United Nations) comments that “most economic theories” used in the West are based on “assumptions [that] can be pointed out to be weak or not always true” and argues for a complex series of values that are typically ignored by economists. Economics, as […] Find out more

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opinions on the child: raising knowledge questions through literature

On a day when TOK students seem hard to rouse to even a mild level of vehement engagement, they will almost certainly perk up when asked questions like the following: 1. If a parent coddles a child every time it cries will the child become manipulative, crying to get whatever it wants? 2. Should a […] Find out more

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TOK classification: the jerk

After my last post on classification (July 7, “Nazi poster child was Jewish”), I thought you deserved a lighter one. (After all, for many of us, summer holiday has begun!) I’m picking out the same central topic – classification of people – but this time with a laugh: “The essence of jerkitude. If it seems […] Find out more

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TOK and Classification: Nazi poster child was Jewish

Here’s a great story for TOK: “Nazi perfect Aryan poster child was Jewish.” We certainly don’t need additional evidence to debunk racist and nationalist classifications of humanity, but the bitter ironies of this particular story do make it hit home. How we classify – how we group our particular observations into general categories, and then […] Find out more

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TOK and Counterfactual History

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Ho hum? Heard this before? In the first place, this famous “quotation” is apparently a distortion–albeit a slight distortion–from George Santayana’s actual assertion, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. ” More to the point, the statement raises important questions […] Find out more

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Skepticism – a million dollar challenge

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.  For many […] Find out more

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How wolves change rivers: variables and causation

This four and a half minute video, with splendid filming of animals in Yellowstone National Park in the USA, could be effective in a TOK class on the topic of the search for cause in the natural and human sciences: http://youtu.be/ysa5OBhXz-Q  It could be used to stir thoughts (or summarize them) about causes, variables, experimental controls, […] Find out more

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