Essentially, knowledge can be put into three different categories:
What we know
What we know we don’t know
What we don’t know we don’t know
Interestingly enough, this is exactly how the brain is structured. There is a conscious part that can be compared to the things we know. Then there is the subconscious part, almost matching the second category of knowledge. And finally, there is the unconscious part, that is, what we don’t know we don’t know. This far fetch analogy is to point out that knowledge is a fundamental concept. The way it is acquired and stored is ubiquitous and recurring. Even in a Computer, there are three different memories: Random Access Memory, Read-Only Memory, and Secondary Memory!
Why should you read this blog?
This blog discusses the essence of Theory Of Knowledge (TOK). It analysis different Areas of Knowledge (AOKs) and Ways of Knowing (WOKs). Towards the end of the blog, you will better understand IBO’s intention of adding TOK in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. Make sure you read the entire blog to understand better the 8 Ways of Knowing and 8 Areas of Knowledge for IB TOK.
Before you read on, you may want to listen to Alan Watts to understand what ‘knowing is.’
For you to understand the importance of IB TOK, you first need to familiarise yourself with its fundamentals:
What are the Areas of Knowledge In IB TOK
Areas of Knowledge (AOK) refer to the different disciplines from which knowledge can be acquired. AOK can be considered as various ponds with different tasting water. Each pond quenches IB students’ thirst for intellect in a different way. This is to highlight that each AOK is to enhance the understanding of the world. Fundamentally, an AOK broadens your perspective and helps you learn. Does that mean every Area of Knowledge is a different entity and thus completely independent? Absolutely not! Quite the contrary, the disciplines offered in the form of AOKs are connected to each other in a very subtle way. To become a holistic scholar, a student should be able to spot this subtle connection and draw parallels between different Areas of Knowledge.
The 8 Areas of Knowledge are:
The Natural Sciences
The Human Sciences
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Dedicated blogs for each of the AOK mentioned above will be launched soon. Make sure you watch this space! You can also follow Nail IB on Instagram to get regular updates and content dedicated to helping IB students achieve their study goals.
You, as an IB student, were competent in each of the AOK mentioned above long before your Diploma Program started. In other words, there are things that you know in an AOK, there are things you don’t know in an AOK, and then every Area of Knowledge has things that you don’t know you don’t know.
The main objective of TOK then is to make you aware of the level of your competency in each AOK and bridge the knowledge gap. The Knowledge Gap is shortened by introducing the different ways of knowing (WOKs) and linking them with the Areas Of knowledge. This is a critical point. The one who understands the connection between WOKs and AOKs will surely give an excellent TOK presentation.
What are the Ways of Knowing In IB TOK
Going back to the pond analogy. If AOKs are ponds with different tasting water, then WOKs are the method you use to drink that water. You can do it as animals do. You can use a cup, or you can lay down a pipeline and have the water sent to your home. In other ways, each WOK can be considered as the method or, for the lack of a better word, ‘the tool’ which one uses to explore an Area of Knowledge.
The 8 Ways of Knowing for IB TOK are:
Note that there is no exclusive relationship between a specific AOK and a particular WOK. In fact, each WOK can be used to investigate any of the Area of Knowledge.
The Underlying Principle of IB TOK
All of the investigation done in IB TOK is just to answer one question. That question is, 'How do we know'. This question is expanded by integrating different Areas of Knowledge and studying them through the Ways of Knowing. Essentially you take a fact or an opinion from an Area Of Knowledge, determine the way that fact/opinion was established (ie, its way of knowing), and then investigate if the fact or opinion will change if a different way of knowing was applied to it. You can also explore that fact/opinion under the light of a different Area of Knowledge altogether and see how that fact/opinion changes (if it does at all).
To understand the points mentioned above, let's revisit the famous example that most TOK teachers like to use:
'People believed that the Earth was flat until the Greeks proved otherwise'.
The Earth being flat was treated as a universal truth until the Greeks disproved it. So was Flat Earth was a fact that belonged to the natural sciences. Greek Empire was an establishment for which religion was of paramount importance. Perhaps then the 'Flat Earth' was Religious Knowledge that was promoted to accentuate the existence of the Gods and Heaven. Now that this 'fact' has been disproved, does it still belong to any of the aforementioned areas of knowledge, or does it now fall under History?
The first revolt against a flat Earth was done by Aristotle who made observations of the night sky. He used the Sense Perception WOK along with the Reason WOK to establish a fact in the natural sciences. Of course, when Aristotle suggested that the Earth was round, it was not backed by a mathematical explanation (this was done in the next hundred years by Aristarchus and Eratosthenes). Perhaps in Aristotle's time, 'Round Earth' was just a philosophical claim. Does that mean that in his time, round Earth fell under the Area of Knowledge The Arts?
Now you see? TOK is all about truly understanding what gives a particular piece of knowledge the shape, tone, and structure that it currently has. Notice that the above two paragraphs do not provide an answer but concluded with open-ended questions. This is the kind of freedom that TOK gives you. You can investigate any claim you want to as long as you are willing to do your due diligence and draw the proper conclusion from the claim. Once again, as long as you have justified your points and highlighted the process behind your conclusions (be it for TOK Essay or TOK Presentation) you will do great.
Real-Life Application of IB TOK
Every IB student, at least once in IBDP, wonders why they are banging their heads against an abstract subject like Theory Of Knowledge. Will the Ways Of Knowing and Areas Of Knowledge play any role in their career endeavors? As a matter of fact, IB TOK is the most important subject for your career. Today's world is fluid and changing dynamically. Being an expert in just one field does not guarantee financial security it did 50 years back. TOK helps you become a holistic scholar. It imbibes the intuitive curiosity that helps innovators find solutions for the modern world. TOK teaches how to investigate and look beyond the surface: a quality which is a prerequisite to becoming a global leader.
Once you enter real life, you will see how TOK has helped you spot the underlying connection that everything has to everything else. This will help you in executing tasks like increasing the turnover of the Sales department by enhancing Marketing efforts through mathematical optimization. Such skillset also allows you to take cross-functional roles. If not that, TOK teaches you to appreciate philosophy. This not only enriches the taste of life but also makes you a better human being.
TOK is not a straight allow. Initially, it feels like an extra burden and makes no sense at all. Treat TOK as lifting weights. It is not fun to do multiple sets of bicep curls when you are just starting. But once you get used to it, it is almost addicting. Once you familiarise yourself with TOK, you will find yourself drawing more profound conclusions from the things that appeared straight forward. You will have the zeal to look beyond the surface and solve problems creatively. You will better understand the challenges that you will face because you will not limit them to one Way Of Knowing or try to tackle them with just one Area Of Knowledge.
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