Article by: Daniel Jachim
Theory of Knowledge (TOK) is one of the most unique and controversial classes the IB diploma has to offer, perhaps because it constitutes a single point out of the total 45 you can earn. Or maybe because you only take the class every other quarter. But the most compelling reason is that it is arguably the most difficult class offered. It forces students to think in a way that no other class can. It rewards true insight, meaningful analysis, and unexpected connections. In fact, it is so different that high school IT Coordinator and TOK teacher Mr. David Collett likened the difference between TOK and other high school courses to the difference between graduate and undergraduate courses of study. This importance, however, is lost to many students.
The recent presentations are one of two assessments in TOK, the other being the TOK essay. The presentation is a 12 or 17-minute exploration – depending whether one is alone or in a group – of a Knowledge Question that concerns the nature and construction of knowledge itself.
When asked about his upcoming presentation, senior Angelo Manaloto revealed, “TOK is perhaps the most important part of my life right now. I have abandoned my friends, my family, my lovers, all in the pursuit of the justified true belief that is knowledge. I have become Zarathustra.” While rather dramatic in his confession, the point is clear: people are spending quite a lot of time on these presentations.
Many teachers who do not teach TOK have expressed their concern with how much time students spend on their presentations. They are constantly alert, listening for anyone’s whispers about Ways of Knowing (how we gain information, such as sense perception), Areas of Knowledge (fields in which knowledge can be found, such as the natural sciences), and are quick to remind those students that they are not in TOK class.
In light of all the stress it causes, it’s important to remember TOK only counts for around 2% of your final IB grade. However, it does serve a very important purpose that transcends making your academic profile more impressive. After completing his presentation, senior Nico Te reflected that the whole point was “to show that to any story, there is always more than one side, and that we cannot be close-minded.” This open mindedness that TOK cultivates is something that today’s world could most definitely use more of.