Yes, that’s me sprawled in the soft snow — and laughing.  I thought I knew how to turn sharply left at the bottom of the steep hill.  But evidently — put to the test — I didn’t.  This is definitely not the Olympics!

Eileen wipeout

Have you, like me, been watching the competitions from Sochi?  Do you, like me, cry out in sympathy when athletes wipe out?  These people are all so skilled at hurtling swiftly over slippery surfaces or spinning their bodies in the air. They possess a knowledge that most of the rest of us can understand only by analogy our our own more moderate activities.  And the medal winners — put to the test — show how brilliantly well they know!


But what kind of knowledge is it that a aerial skier possesses?  (I watch with astonishment that people would even think of doing that with their breakable bodies!) What knowledge is it that a champion ice skate has gained and can demonstrate so gracefully that it looks easy?

In TOK, we often divide knowledge into different kinds: knowing how (skill), knowing that…(statements that something is so), and personal experience.  This distinction is useful for thinking and talking about knowledge.  But do you think that these kinds of knowledge stay separate for hockey players or snowboarders?  How would you say they interact?

In TOK, we also talk about eight different ways of knowing.  Again, this model of 8 ways is useful for bringing out distinctive features of each one.  But would you say that they stay separate as the athletes we’ve watched during the Games learn their sports, and then learn to compete?  In what ways would you say they interact for the luge or snowboarding?

And…I wonder.  Do we gain more knowledge through our successes or our failures?  Have you ever “wiped out” fairly dramatically — in sports, in school, or in social life — and found that you recognized, as you picked yourself up, something you’d never known as fully before?  Our lives, with our own versions of wipe-outs or medals, are definitely not the Olympics.  But we do live with many of the same questions of knowledge that are vividly in play in the Games.

Next time I try that same hill, I hope I’ll make the turn!