Prescribed Titles 2014 (and Diigo brainstorm)


They are heeeeeerrreee…

First join our new Diigo group:


Then, participate in the Brain Dump:

What looks interesting and do-able? You have to love it because you need to be passionate about it and well versed. I will be guiding you through the entire essay process in the next few months.

1 Ethical judgements limit the methods available in the production of knowledge in both the arts and the natural sciences. Discuss.

2 “When the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems begin to resemble nails” (Abraham Maslow). How might this apply to ways of knowing, as tools, in the pursuit of knowledge?

3 “Knowledge is nothing more than the systematic organisation of facts.” Discuss this statement in relation to two areas of knowledge.

4 “That which is accepted as knowledge today is sometimes discarded tomorrow.” Consider knowledge issues raised by this statement in two areas of knowledge.

5 “The historian’s task is to understand the past; the human scientist, by contrast, is looking to change the future.” To what extent is this true in these areas of knowledge?

6 “A skeptic is one who is willing to question any knowledge claim, asking for clarity in definition, consistency in logic and adequacy of evidence” (adapted from Paul Kurtz, 1994). Evaluate this approach in two areas of knowledge.



Language as a Way of Knowing : Intro

How does Language influence WHAT we know and HOW we know it?

*adapted from Richard van de Lagemaat, Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma




“Man is the animal that speaks. Understanding language is thus the key to understanding man” – Thomas Szasz

“Thought is not merely expressed in words, it comes into existence through them” – L. Vygotsky

“Language was the real innovation in our biological evolution; everything since has just made our words travel faster or last longer” – Steven Pinker

“Language is not merely a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas but rather is the shaper of ideas. ..We dissect nature along the lines laid down by our native languages” – Benjamin Whorf

“Who does not know another language does not know his own” – Goethe

“Almost all education is language education” – Neil Postman

“Language was given to man to disguise his thoughts” – Tallyrand

“The word is half his that speaks, and half his that hears it”- Michel de Montaigne


REASON: How many arguments turn out to be about the meaning of words? How do the nuances of words affect what we know and how we know it? How does language extend, direct, or limit thinking? How do we define a language (what makes a language?)

EMOTION: Does the way you describe something affect how you feel about it? What is the power of language? What roles do context, emotion, selection, emphasis, and word choice play in language?

PERCEPTION: How does language affect the way we see things, and vice versa? How does written language affect knowledge differently than spoken language?

RELIGION: Does religious experience lie beyond language expression?

MATHS: How is mathematics like a language?

TECHNOLOGY: How are programming languages like other languages? How have tech innovations altered the way we communicate with language?

HUMAN SCIENCE: Is language unique to human beings? Why is command of language important? Is it possible to think without language? How and why to languages evolve and what is the effect?

NATURAL SCIENCE: What role do metaphors play in the sciences?

HISTORY: Is it possible to describe historical events in an unbiased way? How can language be used as propaganda? How does the status  of a language change over time?

ARTS: In what ways can the arts be considered the language if human emotions?

ETHICS: To what extent should offensive language be censored? Can a language be banned?


– A great deal of our knowledge comes from language and this makes possible an intellectual division of labor

– Language is: rule-governed, intended, and creative

– We need to understand the meaning of a sentence before we can decide if it is true or false

– A great deal of language is ambiguous and there is a great deal of interpretation built into all communication.

– Since we use language to interpret and classify, there is a danger that we misclassify and stereotype things

– Language can influence our experience of reality

– Language is used to describe, influence, persuade, and manipulate the way people see things

– Whether or not there are some truths that lie beyond language is a matter of debate

The Birth of a Word – from Gaga to Water


1. How much could you know about the world if you had no language or means of communicating with other people?

2. What are some examples of words that have entered the English language as a result of the computer revolution?

3. Try to define as precisely as possible these words: a. triangle    b. love     c. table  What is the difference? Which was easiest to define?

4. How would you try to explain to a blind person what the word RED means? What does this suggest to you about the limitations of definitions?

5. To what extent is your use of languages accompanied by images? Does every word conjur up an image or only some of them?

6. Do you think a robot (or Siri) could use and respond appropriately to language? What differences would it make in real life if that were the case?

7. Do you think communication would be improved if we got rid of vague words?  DO you think vague or ambiguous words sometimes serve a purpose?

8. Many jokes are based on ambuguity…can you give an example?

9. When Bill Clinton entered the White House in `93, his wife Hillary wanted to be known as “Presidential Partner”, not “First Lady”. What is the difference in connotations? If a woman ever would become president of the USA, what do yo think would be an appropriate title for her husband?

10. Birds fly and planes fly. Since fish swim, why don’t we say that submarines also swim? What do submarines do?

11. What would be the advantages  and disadvantages of everyone in the world spoke a common language? What would be gained and what would be lost?

12. What can or have you learned about your own language by studying a second language? can you provide examples from your second language which have no English equivalent? What about idioms (expressions)?

13. What kind of texts do you think are easy to translate from one language to another and what kinds are more difficult? Can you provide an example from your study of L’Etranger by Camus?

14. In what ways to we classify people (e.g. astrological sign, race, nationality, music choice, etc.) and what are the advatnages and disadvantages of this? Are some more natural or better than others? How many ways can YOU be classified via language?

15. Take 2 advertising slogans of your choice – such as “Just Do It” by Nike- explain why you think they are effective (or not)

16. A lot of advertisers describe products as “natural”, because there are connotations that “natural” or “organic” is good. Can you give examples when “natural/ organic” is bad?

17. “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” – Analyze the way language is used in each of these pairs of expressions: pro-life/pro-choice; genetically-modified food/ Frankenstein food; Free speech/ Hate Speech; “Blocking your child’s access to objectionable material on the Internet is not called Censorship, it;s called Parenting” (Al Gore); piracy/ file-sharing

18. In 1947 the U.S. Department of War was renamed the Department of Defense. Do you think this makes a difference? Explain.

19. Do you agree with the old rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”? In light of the effects of cyberbullying, how might you analyse this quote?

20. The “Political Correctness” movement has been popular in the past 2 decades, striving to use language to change attitudes to the oppressed or disadvantaged. What examples can you give of “PC language” or a “PC incident” and what are your personal thoughts?

ASSIGNMENT (also found on Managebac)- answers may be WRITTEN (blogged) or VLOGGED

1. READ pages 32-49 in your Green TOK Course Companion.

2. Choose 1 QUOTE from the list above and comment on it with your own personal thoughts and real- life examples.

3. Choose 1 LINKING QUESTION. Comment on it with your own personal thoughts and real-life examples from the world or your experiences. Find a related article or video that would support your answer, and describe how it does. You can research on your own or use the HANDY DIIGO LIST of almost 100 sources to help.

4. CHOOSE SIX of the 20 proposed Blog Questions and answer them thoughtfully, providing examples as you go. Relate it to your own experience. Try to find other articles, tweets, images or videos that would support your answer and post along with it. (The more resources you have later, the better)

5. COMMENT with your own personal thoughts or questions on the 4 VIDEOS found on this blog post.

6. PARTNER GROUP PRESENTATION (or alone if you wish): PERUSE the DIIGO and DELICIOUS LISTS (linked at the top) of things I’ve curated about Language. Choose ONE that seems interesting to you both and prepare a presentation of 3-4 slides MAX for the class. Use Google Slideshow/Presentation and put the link on the doc below

a. give us an overview of the article or video

b. identify at least 1 knowledge question or issue in the article or video (***should be in the form of an open-ended question, with the question about knowledge itself)

c. show different perspectives and/or connections to other subjects (Areas of Knowledge) or Ways of Knowing – the linking questions above have some categories

Language Exercises (in class #2) of Language Unit


Blog Buddies

Much of TOK is experienced outside of the confines of the classroom, and we have a number of tools to accomplish this, as we want to keep in a “TOK Mindset” at all times.


Your class section will be broken into smaller groups called “TOK Tribes”, and your partners will serve as “Blog Buddies”, commenting on eachothers’ posts and working collaboratively both in the cloud and face-to-face.

As soon as you find out who your tribe members are you should follow them on Twitter if you don’t already AND follow, or subscribe to, their Posterous blog space so that each time they update it will appear in your Reader.

Here’s a link to everyone’s spaces:

In class we’ll be drawing 1 member out of a hat (that person is in your class section), and you will get to choose 2 other members – one from another class and one from your own.

***If there is too much disparity after we’re done I might need to adjust some groupings.

Here’s a link to the SPREADSHEET you’ll need to fill out (must be logged in to your LJA acct)

By the end of this class period you should have:

1. Figured out your Tribe members and posted on the Spreadsheet

2. Thought of a name to call yourselves (so we can get away from confusing #s) – tell me your name or post on Spreadsheet

3. Started a thread in Diigo (within the DP1 group) regarding the “Wrapping Up the Brain” blog post assignment , where you choose a relevant article or video and annotate collaboratively.

Check out this tutorial on doing that:

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