Precepts to use in everyday life

1. Think for yourself, 2. Be yourself, 3. Speak up, 4. Feel free to agree and disagree, 5. Be honest with yourself and others, 6. Be open-minded, 7. Avoid being judgmental and 8. Question everything - even your own thinking.

TOK Essay Titles May 2019

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Polemic on independent thinking

Following on from the previous post...

Some initial thoughts

While we agree with some of the critic’s insights into students’ use of sources and examples, we still can’t find any coherent reasons as to why teachers should take an ‘aggressive approach’ to steer their students away from using ibtokspot.

Here is, however, the critic’s ‘argument’:

P1: The blog site provides ‘detailed discussion’ of essay titles.
P2: The writer of the blog intends to organise study weekends in order to discuss the 2011 titles ‘in depth.’
Therefore, use of this and other such sites is ‘unacceptable’.

If we put aside the logic (or lack of it) on which this argument is based, the assumption is, of course, that it is not good to ‘collude’ when preparing to do a TOK assessment, especially the essay. At least, not the kind of collusion that happens on ibtokspot.

And what type of collusion is that? Well, presumably the critic believes that the site ‘colludes’ by giving all you TOK students out there answers to the prescribed titles which have the same finality of absolute mathematical certainty as one of those banal examples that keep cropping up in TOK essays: 2 + 2 = 4.

Or does the critic have in mind the type of collusion which implies that students are incapable of thinking for themselves (see point one on ‘Precepts for everyday life’) and making their own judgments about what is right and wrong so they have to go to ‘worrisome’ websites to think for them?

Indeed, it could be the type of collusion that is founded on a belief that teachers themselves are somehow too lazy or incompetent to guide their students in the right direction so that students have to turn elsewhere for solutions – which begs the question of why some schools list ibtokspot as a useful resource...

What is the critic afraid of exactly? Well, we do not know exactly. Although, if we notice the critic’s urgency to police or blacklist the ‘unacceptable’ websites, this would imply that there exists in these sites some sort of insidious criminal intent to undermine the education of our youth; a disease, for which the report will be the ultimate antidote.

It is very clear that the perfidious ibtokspot must be giving the profoundly apathetic student an ‘easy way out’ for his essay preparation; providing some sort of unfair leverage in the market for top grades; presenting an unmerited ‘leg up’, as the English say, to the ‘Can’t be bothered with TOK’ Brigade.

Here, an imaginary dialogue

The critic cries: ‘Let’s make things as difficult as possible for everyone concerned. We do not think that students can think independently, so we must get them to jump through different sized hoops to test them. That’ll teach them nicely.’

Ibtokspot replies (a little understatedly): ‘That’s somewhat patronising don’t you think? Reducing students to the same common denominator (of mediocrity) whereby they need constant molly-coddling, hand-holding and monitoring. Big Brother is watching you!’

The critic adjoins (with a look of admonishment): ‘We don’t mind if our TOK students have help and tuition, but there’s a limit to everything, isn’t there? We can’t have them relying on dodgy websites with questionable authority and badly written articles – my, how un-intellectual and academically shoddy their work will turn out!’

Ibtokspot replies (with forced sympathy which is laced with a hint of irony): ‘Presumably the help and tuition must come solely from within the boundary of a school or some other educational institution which has the best interests of the student at heart; a place which will, moreover, instil in the students the best approach to writing and thinking and do so without clogging their minds with bad practice.’

What do we think?


Now, let us make an observation: the criticism of the website is at best fuzzy and at worst, it’s symptomatic of the kind of narrow-minded and short-sighted, oh yes, and technophobic, hysteria that appears to be plaguing education these days, especially in the UK (refer to the tab labelled ‘Education’) – though it’s by no means exclusive to this island as exemplified by the critic’s report.

Yes, ibtokspot promotes the sceptical approach of questioning everything – even oneself (precept 8) – which implies that everything written on the blog is questionable, so don’t take it as gospel truth (does this really need to be said!)

Yes, ibtokspot is a kind of ‘tutor’ outside of the school environment – in the French sense of the word ‘tuteur’ meaning literally, a stick to support the growth of a sapling (do we really need to go on!)

And yes, ibtokspot stimulates discussion because that is exactly what young people want both in and out of school, especially if no-one else is willing to listen (what else is there to say!)

No, using ibtokspot isn’t cheating, unless of course you lift sentences verbatim from the site and pass them off as your own (say ‘no’ to plagiarism!)

No, the existence of ibtokspot isn’t a threat to the brilliant work of schools and teachers and examiners (bravo!)

And quite categorically no, ibtokspot does not play on, or profit from, the insecurities of students who are struggling with what TOK is all about (even teachers struggle with this!)

To Conclude

Here’s a perfect agricultural analogy: in the field of education, the work of ibtokspot is the manure which helps to fertilise the earth in which the seedling young minds of students grow to think for themselves, be themselves, speak up, feel free to agree and disagree, be honest with themselves and others, be open-minded, avoid being judgemental and to question everything – even their own thinking.

Back to BS again. Just like knowledge, guiding people to think for themselves can either help or hinder us in our day to day relationships with each other and our environment.

But you already knew that didn’t you?

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