Whitgift School
Whitgift School Whitgift School

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Theory of Knowledge (ToK)

What is knowledge and how do we acquire it? Theory of Knowledge is the study of how we know what we know. In classes boys consider the approach to knowledge and what knowledge means in different areas including Mathematics, the Arts, Natural and Human Sciences. They will consider different ways of knowing (e.g. language, emotion, sense perception and reason) and consider a range of perspectives and how these might affect what constitutes truth for different people (and peoples). Can we ever put a value on a work of art? Can language ever be completely objective? Do paradigm shifts prove that we can never be certain of knowledge in certain subjects? Is it right to kill a man about to kill another? How can we know what is right and wrong? How do we know? These are just some of the questions boys will consider throughout the two years.

Lessons are engaging and interactive: debates and discussion form a large part of classes and boys gain a critical insight which they can apply to their other IB subjects as well as life in general.

In terms of assessment, boys complete a presentation at the end of the Lower Sixth on a real life situation which questions the notion of knowledge. Recent examples include a fascinating look at the response to the death of Margaret Thatcher; the central knowledge question concerned the role of memory and language in our interpretation of the past. Boys also write an essay of up to 1,600 words in which they take a knowledge question and explore it using real-life examples. Previous examples include “Without application in the world, the value of knowledge is greatly diminished”. Consider this claim with respect to two areas of knowledge. As the questions are extremely open, boys are again free to choose the direction their essays take, and use the skills they have gained in ToK to tackle the question.

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