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New “Theory Of Knowledge” Class Blog

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As regular readers know, I’ve just begun teaching a class for our school’s International Baccalaureate program called “Theory Of Knowledge.”

In the Theory of Knowledge class, students basically learn to not take anything they’re being taught in school or hearing elsewhere at face value, and that the world is not black and white. So I encourage them to question what they’re learning in all their other classes :)

It fits in with one of my favorite quotes from Saul Alinsky, who is considered the “father” of modern-day community organizing, and who started the organization where I spent most of my nineteen-year community organizing career:

“I detest and fear dogma…The human spirit glows from that small inner light of doubt whether we are right..”

I’m looking forward to modifying the lessons I use in this class so I can use them with my English Language Learner students.

I’ve just begun a blog for this class, and it’s called….. Theory of Knowledge. I’ll be using it a little differently from my other class blogs. This one will be more of a place where I’ll be accumulating resource links on the sidebar that I’ll be having students access for study or for use in my actual classroom with an LCD projector. I won’t have many actual blog posts laying out assignments.  So, you might want to subscribe to that blog but, more importantly, you might want to “manually” check it regularly for new sidebar content.

There aren’t an enormous number of resources there right now, but it will be increasing rapidly.

Feel free to explore my other class blogs, too:

United States History

Ninth-Grade English

Intermediate English

International Sister Classes Student Showcase

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

5 Comments

  1. Saul Alinsky is a left wing activist. The Theory of Knowledge Class is “sold” as a way of geting students to research and think for themselves. So I’m wondering how you separate your personal political views from the classroom? Especially since we know how easily it is for teachers to use those situations to influence their students?
    I also have found that those who insist that they are getting kids to “think critically” are really pushing their own political agenda on students. I guess I’m a bit skeptical in this critical thinking fad because too often, it’s just a way of pushing an agenda. You seem to be wearing your politics on your sleeve in this blog post.

    And lastly, I find your comment on “Dogma” interesting, I assume you too detest dogma?
    What does this say to your Christian, Muslim and Jewish students? Especially since you are going to be teaching them?And again, lets not forget, this class is a way for them to discover truth, not have it fed to them by their teacher? Right?

    • The purpose of the Theory of Knowledge class is to carefully and critically examine everything and anything that is put forth as “knowledge” — including what is taught by teachers — and to examine the evidence behind it. One way we do this is by looking at what many well-known thinkers from all political, faith, and philosophical persuasions have said and written.

      Another key element of the class is to help students develop the capacity to engage in courteous and respectful public discourse, especially when people have different opinions.

      That’s something that I also try to model in this blog, as well as in all aspects of my life. I hope readers share the same perspective.

      Larry

  2. And lastly, I find your comment on “Dogma” interesting, I assume you too detest dogma?
    What does this say to your Christian, Muslim and Jewish students? Especially since you are going to be teaching them?And again, lets not forget, this class is a way for them to discover truth, not have it fed to them by their teacher? Right?

    I may need to save this one as a really good example of the type of sophistry wherein you try to use someone’s argument against them, even when you don’t agree with their line of reasoning. I cannot for life of me figure out if she thinks Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are dogmatic, or she is saying *you* think that? Perhaps she is really brilliant in how she uses logical slight of hand to kill by implication?
    Let me know how the class (re-education camp) goes Larry.
    [said with tongue firmly planted in cheek]

  3. I’ve been told, I’m a critical thinker. Yet it appears from your friend’s comments, that is not welcomed? I make this assumption based on his sarcastic reply. I find that common among people who SAY they support critical thinking, and then as soon as you apply critical thinking to their opinions, all of a sudden, their attitude changes. So much for encouraging one to think critically.

    Now let’s assume I stumbled across a blog where someone LIKE Pat Robertson decided he was going to teach a TOK class and stated his favorite quote was from Rush Limbaugh. Then he goes on to say something about “detesting” homosexuals.

    All the while he says he’s going to be teaching a class where kids are taught to “critically and carefully examine everything”.

    Anyone who truly knows how to critically think would automatically wonder if that teacher supported a right wing agenda?? Makes sense, doesn’t it?

    So if this class is to get kids to think, my next question would be, ….trying to get them to think the same way as you? Or to undermine the values instilled by the parents? What if the parent’s values conflict with the teacher’s values which have been so proudly displayed?

    IBO has been criticized for pushing a political agenda. The UN’s to be exact. Should a parent be concerned a teacher who quotes from left wing activists and detests religious dogma be concerned this class is also going to push that agenda on their students?

    Just looking at all of this from a “critical thinker’s” minset.
    Peace

    • I have to say that I’m baffled by your reasoning. Ordinarily, I be interested in pursuing further clarification because sometimes when I don’t understand what someone is saying it might have more to do with me than with the other person. But when someone starts making false claims about what I say and what I believe, that’s when I “pull the plug” on the conversation. And, speaking as a veteran community organizer, I’d like to suggest that if your goal is to convince people that the IB program is bad, I’d also encourage you to reconsider your tactics.

      Larry

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