Cupcakes, climate change, smiley faces, disputes over indigenous education, Jack the Ripper, poetry, numbers, and phantom vibrations from cell phones – I’ve blogged recently on all of these unlike topics. Theory of Knowledge is an omnivorous subject, finding in the issues of the world a vast menu of knowledge questions. Yum! Today, though, I step back from the examples I’ve put on my plate to my criteria for choosing them. What makes an incident or phenomenon tasty not just for a blog post but, more significantly, for a TOK class?14 10 buffet

To my mind, the touchstone questions to answer about any potential stimulus material for class are the following:

  • Does it lend itself to raising ideas relevant to TOK understanding, and does it raise enough to be worth the class time you would invest in it? More specifically, does it raise knowledge questions and lend itself to critical analysis?
  • Is it manageable in the amount and distribution of time you have in class?
  • Are its complexities and nuances at the right level for your particular students such that class treatment is more likely to clarify TOK concepts than to muddle them in student minds? If there is material to be read, is it accessible in length and sophistication to your own particular group of students, with their skills and their time?
  • Is it likely energize your particular class group and make the lesson enjoyable?

I’d also add a couple of other generic questions, applicable especially to topics that treat religious beliefs, ethical actions, and sex or violence:

  • Will your students feel safe talking about this topic in TOK class?
  • Will your students feel a topic like religion is so “personal” that it should never be discussed? (They certainly will have heard this claim from others)

Are there other criteria that you use as you select examples for your own students? I welcome comments.