TOK Tuesdays

Back To The Future

Reculer pour mieux sauter

Change is difficult. Few of us relish the prospect of moving out of our comfort zone and finding ourselves forced to grapple with new circumstances and uncertain directions. But despite the practical challenges that change often brings, the prospect of change also presents opportunities – not just in terms of future possibilities to do things better (although that’s certainly true), but even more significantly, in providing a concrete occasion to re-examine why we are doing what we’re doing in the first place.  

It is with this firmly in mind, then, that I’d like to turn my attention to the upcoming changes in the TOK curriculum, the subject of a series of online events we’ll be holding starting next week that are open to all. Many TOK teachers are understandably worried about what the concrete impact that such changes will have on them and their students: How will this affect my teaching? To what extent will this impact my students’ essays? In what ways will the new TOK exhibition differ from the current TOK presentation?  

All good questions; and our upcoming online event series is explicitly designed to openly discuss these issues, and a good many more besides, with a wide variety of TOK practitioners.   

But in my upcoming presentation on January 23 that will kick off the series, I will instead switch gears somewhat to focus on the origins of TOK, reflecting on what the IB founders had in mind when they began developing the DP curriculum before then turning my attention to considering how the upcoming changes might be considered with respect to this pioneering philosophy.  In (current) TOK language, in other words, my approach will thus be to combine the WOKs of imagination, memory and reason with the AOKs of history and human sciences.  

Why take this approach?  Well, there are a few reasons:

First, there is the general principle, as alluded to above, that in order to best appreciate where one is going it is often necessary to deeply understand where one has been. 

Secondly, trying to understand why something has been done (whether or not one happens to agree with it), is frequently an important aspect of the process of coming to terms with how, exactly, to deal with it.  

Lastly, my unique background of having a wide range of TOK-related research experiences and perspectives while not being a practicing TOK teacher, places me in an ideal position to frame this issue in a more general  historical and ideological context. 

First, there is the general principle, as alluded to above, that in order to best appreciate where one is going it is often necessary to deeply understand where one has been. 

Once I have set the stage with next Thursday’s presentation, the following events will involve discussions with a variety of different TOK practitioners to get their perspectives on a wide range of issues both directly, and indirectly, linked to the changes to the new TOK curriculum.  Based on the enthusiastic feedback we have received throughout the global TOK community to the mere mention of the possibility of holding such events, we are very much looking forward to the opportunity to constructively interact and engage with a wide cross-section of TOK teachers.