TOK: What can we learn from the performing arts, the visual arts, and the literary arts?

There are many forms of art present in our modern world. These include performing arts, visual arts and literary arts. Each one of these arts has very distinct elements but ultimately all convey messages and knowledge for the viewers.

Performing arts generally refers to the arts involving movement and voice, such as drama, dance or music. Confidence is a major skill that can be learnt from performing arts. It teaches people how to be able to deliver messages and body movements fluently and convincingly without hesitating or being apprehensive. This is extremely beneficial for children since learning how to be confident from a very young age would allow them to step outside their comfort zone and socialise with many different people.

Visual arts are art forms that are viewed by sight. Examples are paintings, films, photographs and sculptures. Developing one’s creativity and imagination skills is definitely something that can be obtained from this. Abstract paintings generally are ambiguous, meaning that people will have different perspectives and opinions on different types of artworks. They are not always straightforward and can contain hidden meanings. In order to truly appreciate and understand the intricate layers of certain artworks, one must think outside the box and broaden their minds.

Literary arts, in my opinion, are a type of literature that is written in a beautiful and stylistic way. Poetry definitely falls under this category since many poems use a lot of different techniques to evoke feelings and meanings. Unlike performing arts and visual arts, which generally have no texts or dialogues, literary arts would include plenty of descriptive words and adjectives to bring forth vivid imagery for the readers. This can develop people’s imaginative skills since it would require people to picture the setting and events described in the poem. Again, because there is no clear drawing, the surrounding or the appearance of characters or the description of a particular object can be open to interpretation by readers. In my opinion, this is a very unique attribute that can be found in literary arts, hence making it a very worthy form of art.





TOK: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” Ways of Knowing

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading a novel called I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, written by Maya Angelou. It is a creative non-fiction novel in which the author describes her life as a child and a teenager living in America during the 1930s and 1940s. There are several Ways of Knowing that the writer explores throughout this novel.

A major WOK in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is emotion. This WOK can be found in many different sections in the book. There is one incident that occurred in the book that really captivated me, where Maya (who was only 8 years old at the time) gets raped by a man. Afterwards, she refrains herself from speaking to anybody due to the fact that she feels embarrassed and ashamed of herself. This generates a lot of emotion for both the readers and the characters in the book, as it provokes a wide range of feelings. The whole book also has a very emotional arc, proven by the fact that at the start Maya believes herself to be inferior to everyone else, but towards the end, she has a growing sense of confidence.

Language is another WOK that played a large role in the novel. After Maya stops herself from speaking due to the traumatising event, a character named Mrs Bertha Flowers decides to prod Maya out of her silence by giving her a large amount of books. She tells Maya to read aloud, and because of Maya’s growing love towards language and literature, she gradually found her voice back. Language is a very important WOK presented in this novel because the readers are able to understand the positive empowerment language has on people.

Sense perception is also a WOK that is explored in the book. In Chapter 11, Maya was sleeping in bed when she felt something strange on her left leg. By referring to the text, when she writes “It was too soft to be a hand, and it wasn’t the touch of clothes” and “I turned my head a little to the left to see if Mr Freeman was awake and gone, but his eyes were open and both hands were above the cover”, it is evident that she used sense perception, in this case, touch and sight, to finally determine that it was Mr Freeman’s ‘thing’ on her leg. Afterwards, in Chapter 12, when Maya sees that Mr Freeman’s “pants were open and his ‘thing’ was standing out of his britches by itself”, she is using sense perception again and intuition as well, in fact, to realise that he was getting ready to do something awful to her.

Clearly, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings explores many different Ways of Knowing, in different situations and involving different characters.

“I used to think… now I think” for Language as a Way of Knowing

I used to think that language gives people the ability to communicate and share thoughts. Without language, people would not be able to communicate and comprehend what others are trying to express. With language, people can interact with one another and are able to exchange knowledge. I also knew that sign language existed, however I only thought that there are only a limited amount of words that can be expressed through sign language. Now I know that sign language is a fully symbolic language that is suitable for giving speeches, for subjects such as mathematics and for flirtation.

After understanding more about sign language, I now think that language is very fascinating. I think that sign language is a very creative way of expressing one’s thoughts and feelings, since no sound comes out of one’s mouth. The person has to use only hand gestures to convey a message, and I find it really hard to believe that some people are able to communicate using this method.

After reading the chapter in the book, I now think that language is a very influential way of knowing, and without it, we will be unable to communicate with each other.

TOK: To what extent should memory be trusted when one studies primary sources?

Memories are events remembered that occurred in the past. They can be trusted to some extent, however memories are not recorded like a camera, and they can be misleading in certain cases.

For instance, in Elizabeth Loftus’s speech, she tells the story of a man called Steve Titus, who was pronounced guilty for supposedly raping a female hitchhiker. In reality, he was on a date with his girlfriend and was on his way home. The photograph of Titus was shown to the rape victim and she stated that Titus looked similar to the rapist. However, later during the trial, she said that she was 100% positive that Titus was the rapist. Afterwards, the real rapist was found and Titus was released from prison. From this real life situation, it is clear that memories are not always reliable. As time passes, memories become foggy and less accurate, just like the memory of the rape victim in this situation. She went from “he looked similar to the rapist” to “I am absolutely sure that that is the guy” after some time passed. From this situation, we can know that false memories can really do a great deal of damage to an individual. Due to the false recount of the rape victim, it cost Titus a year in jail, the loss of his job and his fiancé. Subsequently, he started filing lawsuits against everyone he believed were responsible for his hardship and due to an excessive amount of stress, he died of a heart attack.

From this situation, we can determine that memories do provide knowledge of the past to some degree, however humans are not machines and cannot remember everything precisely. Our memories do tend to become muddled as time passes to the point of it becoming a false memory, at which point we cannot trust it, since it would give people the wrong kind of impression.

Strengths & Limitations of Baxter’s Experiment

After reading the experiment carried out by the researcher Judith Baxter, I thought that it was a clever way of discovering the specific ways boys and girls would behave to certain situations. I think that this experiment has some strengths but also some limitations too.

Firstly, this experiment allowed the students to imagine themselves being in a real life situation. This way, the students would behave, think and react the same way they would if they actually survived a plane crash and they were stranded in a desert. From the recorded conversation, the readers can find hints that tell them whether it is a boy group or a girl group. For example, in the conversation within group B, one of the boys mentioned that they could use the gun to shoot the pilot. This sounds like the type of humour boys would have, and would most likely convince the readers that group B is the boy group. Group B also had a leader, and according to other data collected by researchers, boys usually would nominate a leader to speak for the group and collect opinions from other people. And therefore, this experiment shows the behaviour of how a girl group and a boy group would react in a situation like this.

This experiment also had a number of limitations though. First of all, the age group of this experiment is limited, which only included teenagers. If adults participated in this experiment, the way they handle the situation would most likely have quite a large difference on the way the teenagers handled it. Adults and older people would most probably not create any sort of humour and would take this situation more seriously. Also in group A of Baxter’s experiment, there were some disagreements between the students and they started to sound frustrated. However, both male and female adults may not have any disputes and would probably handle the situation with more patience. Therefore, this experiment simply proved that most teenage boys and girls would have a different way of dealing with a situation like this, however amongst adults, there won’t be much of a difference between male and female.

TOK: Reason and Sense Perception

Real Life Situation: A sizzling pot was sitting on the stove, and one of the friends tries to trick the other one to touch the pot.

Tony and Andy are friends and both of them are spending the night at Tony’s house. They spot a pot that is sizzling on the stove in the kitchen. Tony tries to trick Andy to touch the pot by saying that it has cooled down already and that the texture of the pot feels nice. However, Andy refuses to touch it.

The reason why Andy did not touch the pot is because he is clearly able to see steam coming out of the pot. He also sees the flames under the pot on the stove and is able to hear the liquid bubbling in the pot. In addition to this, he is able to feel the heat of the steam when it blew across his face. From this, he knows that the pot is very hot. Hence, Andy knows that by touching the pot, he would most likely burn or injure his hand, which is why he refused to touch the pot.

TOK: Does it matter if what we believe is true? Is there any harm in believing knowledge claims that are false?

Personally, I think it really comes down to what knowledge claim the person believes in. If this claim does not affect others, and only involves the person, then it most likely will not be harmful in any way. On the other hand, if it does influence the society and other people, then that may cause harm and the person should probably stop believing it.

If the knowledge claim simply involves a person without it having any form of impact on others, I think it is perfectly fine to believe in it even if it is false. Many people tend to believe in some kind of lie, for instance that their country’s food is superior to any other country’s food, or that they are better at doing a particular activity than everyone else. These small lies don’t really have much of an effect on others, and therefore will not cause harm.

However, there are false knowledge claims that can do harm towards the society and other people involved in it. This tends to happen quite frequently in schools when rumours are being spread. Most of the time, these rumours are false and yet people still choose to acknowledge these claims and believe that it is true. Obviously, the people involved in this rumour will feel upset since it is not the truth, but the other students continue to disregard the fact that it is a false claim. In this case, believing in false knowledge claims will do harm towards other people.

In what ways does the IB encourage experiential learning?

The IB programme has a unique method for students to learn. Instead of simply requiring students to memorise bits of information, the programme encourages experiential learning.

Experiential learning certainly does play a large role in the IB courses. History, for instance, is an excellent example of a subject in which having experiential knowledge will definitely help. A person may start off not knowing how to write and construct a proper essay. The person may struggle with interpreting his research into his own words. However, after more practices, the person will be more confident and skilful. Instead, if the person merely memorises facts, this will not develop his or her inquiry skills and this person may not be able to write a constructive essay.

The CAS programme is something that can demonstrate individual learning skills. As students, we have to choose a learning outcome and try to achieve it after the completion of our selected activity. Everyone will have different outcomes and thus everyone will have a different approach to achieving their own goal. I, for example, chose volleyball as one of my CAS activities, and although other of my classmates chose this too, ultimately it is still an individual activity for myself, and what I hope to get out of this activity will most likely differ from what others expect to achieve.

The IB Programme encourages experiential learning in many different ways. It wants students to be able to think and analyse information critically, and enhance their skills as the course progresses. It does not wish to simply cram facts into students’ brains, but value students’ thoughts and opinions too which they have acquired themselves through their experiences.

Experiential Knowledge

Experiential knowledge is the type of knowledge that you yourself have experienced previously. Everyone will have distinct experiential knowledge based on what they have experienced in their past years.

People do learn from their previous experiences because learning is like a journey. You have to start from the basics and work your way up. Maths, for example, is a subject that requires lots of practice in order to be proficient at it. Thus, working through the same types of problems frequently over and over again will steadily improve one’s skills. In the future, when encountered with a similar problem, the person most likely will be able to solve it. This is because the person is able to recall the previous practices that he or she had done.

If I am faced with a problem or difficulty, I will most certainly talk to someone to try and sort out this issue. In this case, someone who had previously stumbled across the same type of problem will definitely be the best person to talk with. For example, if for whatever reason, I lost my job and am struggling to find a new one. The first thing I will do is to contact someone who has previously lost their job in a similar type of way and discuss the most appropriate next step. The person would most likely empathise with me and will guide me in the most suitable direction. I will be able to heed these advices and resolve this problem. Instead, if I talk to someone who had not previously experienced this before, they may not provide constructive advices and eventually it may not work out for me.

Job applications ask for past job experiences, and it is very much right to do so. Companies want to succeed and grow, and in order to do so they require talented, hard-working people with a large amount of previous experience. If a person with absolutely zero programming experience applies to work in a software programming company, that person’s application will unquestionably be rejected, since he or she will not be able to make any contributions towards the company.

Experiential knowledge ultimately does affect plenty of decisions that one will make the near future. Another person may make a completely different choice, and have an entirely opposite perspective to yours, and that is due to his or her own experiential knowledge gained over the previous years.

TOK: What affects people’s perspectives?

Over the past several weeks, in TOK classes, we have been looking at what factors affect people’s perspectives and perceptions. There are many factors I am involved with, which is why my perspectives and my knowledge are different to others.

I am a 16-year-old boy and I believe that my age affects the way I see things and the things that I know. Over the past 16 years, I have gained plenty of knowledge and experience. Because of this, the way I perceive the world will be significantly different to someone who is 7 years old or 72 years old.

My mother tongue is English but I am able to communicate with people in Cantonese and Mandarin too. Because I am more fluent in English, I use English to interpret things or solve problems. Due to this, some things that non-English speakers may consider not offensive, I might consider very offensive. For instance, since I spent most of my life studying in British schools in Hong Kong, if someone holds up two fingers with the palm inward, I will most likely consider that an insult towards me.

I grew up in Hong Kong, which is a very urban place. This means that I am used to very convenient transportation, tall skyscrapers and a dense environment. Because I lived most of my life in an urban region, my knowledge on what a rural area would look like is not a whole lot. I would imagine that going to and from places would not be as convenient as urban life. I also think that it is more spacious to live in an urban area. However I can only hypothesise the rest, since I’ve never spent a long period of time living in an urban area.

As mentioned above, perspectives can depend on many factors associated with people, such as age, gender and the place the person grew up in.