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

2014 IBDP ToK Essay


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

“Call it the law of the instrument, and it may be formulated as follows: Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.”

Can we trust our sense perception? Examining sense perception through the field Abraham Maslow was a great psychologist of the 1960’s who created multiple theories based on very little empirical data with quite biased views considering the world today. But through his studies he did seem to arouse my mind to ask the question of “what is good”? When looking at his theory of the hierarchy of needs he seems to view humans as a population through very narrow parameters. In the sense that he does not take in to multiple factors such as religion and cultural background which have a strong effect on multiple levels of the hierarchy. This very single minded approach to his theories show him to be a spiting image of the quote itself. Using his resources he took an approach to a problem in a very single minded approach. I created a knowledge issue surrounding the idea of using a narrow parameter approach to issues “To what extent are the ways of knowing individually as tools, reliable in the pursuit of knowledge?”  Many different things distort our sense perception, emotion and language, which therefore make them unreliable as individuals. 

In the field of natural sciences, the detection of sense perception to be unreliable is too familiar. It has been found that our perception is rather unreliable when looking further into certain areas in science that is demonstrated by the immense amount of technology used in the field today. The technology used, aids our sense perception to reach new limits that we could not reach using our senses normally.  Humans are not able to determine what it occurring within a chemical reaction at an atomic level yet using our reason, we are able to determine that there is in fact a reaction occurring at an atomic level. If humans were reduced to humans without any existing knowledge would our sense perception suffice. For example, if we were to put a pencil in a glass of water we would think that water has the ability to bend objects or would we believe that pencils have the ability to bend? Our senses seemed to been shaped over the years to acquire certain way of thinking. The way of thinking that we have developed limits us at times to perceiving things in certain ways. Looking at the Gestalt theory we can clearly seen that our mind has trained our senses to perceive things in certain ways which can allow us to miss out of certain aspects of the entire image.

Yet at the same time we would be absolutely hopeless without our sense perception and unable to establish any form of knowledge therefore we must be able to trust our sense perception to a certain extent. If life is based only on our perceptions, only the truth we need is that we can perceive. Empiricism’s approach to sense perception indicates that knowledge is based entirely upon experience. Therefore the fire behind our ideas is in fact our sense perception burning a path for our ideas to be materialized within our minds. As demonstrated by empiricism, sense perceptions are vital in our understanding of knowledge. A personal bias lies within this theory, as I believe that sense perception is the tool that enables other processes such as emotion and reason to occur. Picture a man without any senses, is it at all possible that he could gain large amounts of knowledge with such a limited outlook? It would be entirely impossible to receive any form of knowledge whatsoever which would further limit his emotions and reason.

Another tool that belongs to the ways of knowing set is language. Language is a method of communication that has been developed over the years into a fundamental tool in our society. Yet, languages are subjective to multiple different variations allowing the meaning to be distorted. Within a language there are many different literary devices that can change the seemingly simple meaning into something rather complex and causing separate interpretations of the topic. Looking at any piece of literature people seem to have a variety of interpretations due to the different effect that language has on the individual. Art is an area that language can create multiple meanings more specifically plays and literature. Looking at the famous play Antigone, multiple different versions have been created based on the same play but variations have been added. In the play by Jean Anigoue that was written under Nazi censorship and multiple meanings have been derived from the same text. Looking into human sciences we realize that that language is not universal and translations can easily differentiate from the original text. Therefore certain sayings in other languages cannot be perfectly translated which could potentially cause a complete misinterpretation of actual meaning. For example, within the language of German “geile sau” means “awesome person” but when translated into English directly it means “horny pig”.  In summary languages themselves are an unreliable tool misinterpretations are common. –EMOTIONAL LANGUAGE!

However some forms of language can be interpreted around the world in the same fashion. Mathematics is a form universal language allowing for a reliable of communication often referred to as numeracy. Religion, culture and language have no effect on language therefore mathematics has not been modified over the ages. Therefore mathematics has become universal where algebra, addition or subtraction is the identical all of the world. The fact that math is identical allows the language of mathematics to be to have one meaning that does not differ. As a result subtraction or division will be understood in both Canada and Germany. Looking at mathematics through history, math seems to be a timeless language, as theories that have been developed early are understood widely today. The Pythagorean theory was developed 569-500 B.C.E by Pythagoras and is used in classrooms around the world today.

            Lastly could reason be the do it all tool in the pursuit of knowledge? But, reason seems to be a barrier in the pursuit of knowledge. Emotion. Emotion. Emotion is the most fundamental factor that has an effect on reason and judgment. Often emotions trump reason due to our passionate beliefs that cause us to throw reason out and allowing emotion to take the driving seat. For instance, when studying for finals our reason will tell us to study certain topics that are vital for the exam. At the same time emotion will play an active role in deciding what we actually study. Our emotions cause us to gravitate towards subjects that interest us rather than studying more important subjects on the syllabus. In addition emotions can hinder our perspective when we learn something against our belief system. In return we will be less liable to accept other knowledge that is against knowledge that we had a previous attachment too. When looking at my faith that God created the world, it was difficult to accept the big bang theory as I developed an emotional attachment too the idea of God creating the earth.

            Yet emotion can aid in be a reliable source when attempting to attain knowledge. Emotion is tightly inter wound with experiences, when pursuing knowledge experiences are key in uncovering information. Experience attaches knowledge through sentiments and relevance to the knowledge. Therefore when read through a piece of art such as literature we are able to experience the emotions of the author allowing knowledge connections to be created. On the other hand looking at a painting from a logical view would not yield any knowledge. But with the aid of emotion you are able to look deeper into to significance of the painting allowing knowledge to be gleaned. Therefore emotion provides a reliable to reason when discovering knowledge.

            In order for the international bachelorette to pursue and expand the course theory of knowledge course they must address the faults in the ways of knowing. In the future the course will fully benefit as an increased knowledge of how the ways of knowing are limited when placed in individual situations. But depending on the perspective of a person the limitations of each way of knowing can be seen in a different fashion. The perspective of a person lacking emotions could possibly have a different perspective of the way knowledge is attained through experiences.

            To conclude a hammer has its limitations as it cannot hammer a screw but a hammer can solve issues that pertain to its style such as nails. In other words the ways of knowing, as individuals cannot solve certain issues that pertain to them as they are unreliable in certain situations. Therefore as individuals the ways of knowing are unreliable but together they provide a platform for the gleaning of knowledge. But the IB believe that the four ways of knowing are quite unreliable in attaining knowledge which has brought four new ways of knowing into the course. Overall it seems that a entire toolshed is needed to solve an issue as it could have the attributes of a screw and nails causing for a need of multiple tools.

We acquire new knowledge everyday, whether we are aware of it or not, but how do we know whether we are getting the knowledge in its entirety, or whether it is limited through the ways of knowing. This quote implies that we solve problems the way that we have solved them before and we tend to disregard that there are other equally effective ways of solving the problem. Take the example of a plastic surgeon; the quote implies that the surgeon will notice the imperfections of others more so than someone with a different profession. The question that comes to mind when reading this prescribed title is ‘in what ways do the ways of knowing limit our understanding in the pursuit of knowledge?’

Maslow’s quote suggests that in TOK, we can look at the ways of knowing as a hammer and then everything else falls into place. Lets take the example of emotion as a way of knowing and think of it like the hammer in Maslow’s quote. What Maslow is saying is that any problem that arises in an everyday situation can be solved by looking at it through the use of your emotions. After reading an online article about how emotion is the drive for us to think and do what we do, I was almost convinced that Maslow’s quote is accurate and that all problems are solved by one tool: emotion. There is a well-known saying of ‘go with your gut instinct’ and it is our emotion that allows us to feel in that particular way. For example if you are buying a new car and a pushy sales person meets you, your immediate gut instinct may be to distance yourself from that person as much as possible. In this case we see how by using the tool of a hammer: our emotion, we are able to solve the problem of the nail: the pushy sales person in order to protect ourselves from making a bad decision.

However it then occurred to me that this is not fully the case, what about reason? More often than not, reason runs parallel with your emotions. You can’t only use your emotions because your emotions are a result of your reason, or vice versa that your reason is a result of your emotion. *Insert example* This leads to the idea that, taking Maslow’s quote into consideration, reason then becomes a screwdriver and isn’t able to help you solve the problem which is symbolised by a nail. Here we see the dilemma that is presented in the quote: why is it necessary to only use on way of knowing in the pursuit of knowledge when two ‘tools’ are used to come up with the solution? Effectively, the idea is that the ways of knowing are somewhat limiting us in the pursuit of knowledge in terms of the amount and type of that we can gain.

Thinking of this quote in a real life terms this quote could potentially become dangerous. Using the human sciences as an area of knowledge, the idea of the police force being the tool could soon become the hammer for which people will become the nails and the way that everyday problems such as crime are dealt with is by using the power of the hammer: in this case the police, to solve the situation in the way that they know. The consequences of this type of attitude are definitely quite shocking. In 2012 a 6-year old was handcuffed at school when she became ‘restless’ and ‘unruly'. Here it is obvious that even though the girl was just a child, police used their hammer to solve the problem.

With the idea that using only certain ways of knowing in the pursuit of knowledge in mind, we can consider the newly added ways of knowing into the new curriculum in TOK. It is clear that the IB has seen a gap in the TOK ways of knowing and have identified that they have possibly limited the knowledge that students studying the present curriculum could obtain. By adding faith, memory, imagination and intuition, there are whole new ways of pursuing knowledge. A popular discussion topic amongst people who are studying the current TOK curriculum is the idea of faith being a way of knowing. Although now faith has been added, there are some controversies that could arise as a result. Yes, faith allows people to gain new knowledge and to look at ideas from new perspectives however; there are many different ways that faith could be interpreted due to the fact that there are many different faiths in the world from Christians to Muslims to Atheists. How is one able to pursuit knowledge confidently in the form of the hammer as faith when ultimately, there are several varieties of the way of knowing in itself?

 Example THREE

With the hammer of education becoming increasingly unvarying from school to school and even from nation to nation through the use of state dictated syllabuses as well as school attendance being compulsory in almost all countries. The sentiment I prefer the company of peasants because they have not been educated sufficiently to reason incorrectly put forward by the French Renaissance writer Michel de Montaigne becomes less and less relevant. But the latter remark implying that the education system teaches children to reason incorrectly is far more applicable today. I especially think this can be seen with the ways in which education is assessed as in my own personal education attending both a state funded school in the United Kingdom and a fee paying international school in Germany I have seen the system of education fail a large number of my fellow students whilst limiting the future prospects of others by assessing their intelligence based on certain paradigms. As such I have extracted the knowledge issue How do we asses knowledge?

To understand the ways in which most modern education systems asses knowledge unilaterally its fundamental to understand the intellectual and economic climate which it was established. The public education system was principally established in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as this was the first time in which education funded by the state was made available to almost all. Such innovations occurred during the intellectual climate of the enlightenment and during the economic circumstances of the industrial revolution/ Firstly the enlightenment view of intelligence focusses on the ascendancy of a knowledge of the classics and the ability to deductively reason in a certain way. Due to such a perspective its not surprising that this view of intelligence classified people essentially into two categories, academic and non-academic and as such marginalised those who didnt correspond to these small paradigms. The economic climate had an equally heavy impact upon the methods of which such values are taught due to its modelling on the interests as well as for the benefit of industrialisation. This can be seen repeatedly in our current school systems modelling upon many aspects of the factory environment for example its organisation using ringing bells, the primary divider of children being age which is somewhat along the line of batches, the division of subjects ll taught separately with little overlap and standardised testing for each batch of children as some sort of quality control. Such models limits the individuality of each student within such a system with each school always attempting to improve their average grades and ultimately score higher on the countries league tables making them a more attractive option for future students. As such the creativity of each individual student is marginalised in place of a teaching focussed on achieving high grades on externally marked exams.

One of the most striking examples of this stifling of creativity through education is a case study in the book Break Point and Beyond named the paper clip test were a sample of  children are asked every year of their education how many uses can you think of for a paper clip? To briefly outline the findings, as children progressed through the schooling system the number of uses they could find decreased exponentially. Displaying how education replaces natural divergent thinking with the ways of reasoning held dear by the enlightenment scholars of the early 19th century.

The teaching of the Arts perhaps best outlines the limitations of assessing knowledge along the certain paradigms of education enshrined in its constitution. Its generality agreed upon that art primarily uses emotion and imagination in both its creation and interpretation both of which contradict the reason heavy enlightenment view of knowledge. As such the assessing of the Arts could be seen as the focal point of the collision of these three Ways of Knowing as according to the aims of education it must be assessed. But to asses the very subjective nature of imagination and emotion through what should be the equal judging of every piece of art becomes more difficult. As such art could be seens as a manifestation of the problems of assessing knowledge using the paradigms of education.

Often the argument is put forward that by teaching the same information to every school the society as a whole will be able to have a shared understanding of what is and isnt knowledge. The major problem with such an ethos is that for society to have a agreed knowledge certain individual beliefs must be sidelined. As such the question arises as to how the knowledge that will be taught is assessed. For example if we look at the recent gay propaganda laws passed in Russia which essentially means that information about non-traditional relationships cannot be given to minors. Such a situation shows a clash between ethics and religion as ways of knowing as the law is said to be passed in order to not offend devout religious believers within Russia.  As such the views of one group have been assessed to be correct despite massive opposition from other groups within the society.

One of the biggest challenges to these archaic systems of education is the rise of the personal computer in the past twenty or so years which undermines the primary justification for education: that such teaching is necessary for an individual to be able to cope with the adult world. However now an individual can answer crucial questions like what are the primary determinants of photosynthesis? by simply logging onto a computer and googling it. As such its not surprising that in recent years their has been an increase in children not seeing the point in education. The increasing commonness of this sentiment is regarded by Sir Ken Robinson to be evidenced by our recent fictional ADHD epidemic. Which he regards to be of no surprise due to our everyday bombardment of information presented to us in the form of computers and many hundreds of TV stations. As such the boring information taught in schools through methods of memorisation are becoming less and less valued by the generations entering the schooling system. As such the previously methods of assessing knowledge are becoming increasingly irrelevant. As opposed to the English education minister Michael Gove calling for a reversion back to the more traditionalist methods of teaching arguing that tough punishment is just as important as praise. I would agree with Sir Ken Robinson that such an interest in the gathering of knowledge should be harnessed rather than feared and that the assessing of knowledge should evolve to meet the current realities of society and not simply judge every subject with the same hammer of standardised testing.

In conclusion, it seems definite that the education systems of many countries could be considered to be a hammer as they use certain frames of reasoning in order to asses as to what should be taught and how this should be done so. As such knowledge is assessed according to the reasoning of a relatively autonomous class. On the other hand the participants of the education system could definitely be referred to as nails as through the use of standardised testing, teaching methods and nationwide syllabi they are all assessed the same way according to a certain interpretation of what knowledge is. However, in order to asses knowledge its inherent that certain interpretations of what is and isnt knowledge to be applied. As such the question must be raised: is it possible to asses knowledge at all? and therefore if the answer is no as if knowledge is to be assessed a framework has to be established as to what is and isnt knowledge. Due to the individuality of the ways of knowing such a universal framework would be impossible to establish.

Example Four

The statement by Abraham Maslow, “when the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems begin to resemble nails,” provokes many questions about the TOK syllabus itself.  Therefore, this essay will first look to assess the methodology TOK uses to come to conclusions about knowledge – categorisation - and the effects of this. This will lead into a discussion as to if this framework is actually viable – if it is possible to use just one way of knowing, and what negative impacts attempting this can have. Specifically, the essay will look at a variety of both ways and areas of knowledge, as the question addresses the TOK syllabus as a whole, from the natural sciences, to the arts, mathematics and ethics, and consider reason, emotion, sense perception and language to reach a conclusion.

To examine this question, this essay will first look at the ways of knowing, as they exist as tools. Tools are very individual, separate objects, and TOK, as I have been taught it, treats the ways of knowing similarly. This system is called classification, which groups things to develop a working understanding of the world. However, as a system, classification is flawed, due its nature of simplification to create meaning. A recent example is a few strange fossils found in China, dating between 635 and 580 million years ago. Three of them are “difficult to classify as animal or plant” – Shuhai Xiao, a professor of geobiology states that he does not think researchers know what category they fit into.  The bulbous structure could be interpreted as a holdfast, which seaweed use as an anchor (so the organism would be a plant) – or the feeding structure could make it a proboscis (an animal).[1] Therefore, for one who was told these fossils were in the Animal Kingdom, one would logically assume the organism therefore held the features of an animal. This would result in knowledge being lost in relation to its plant-like features. This represents a broader concept. Reason is not the only place categories are used: language is another example of where issues may arise. In English, we are currently reading the works of Sylvia Plath.  At the start we were told that she was clinically depressed, and committed suicide. For me, the connotation of these words immediately set up the preconception that her works would be based around depression and emotions that accompany this. In analysing her works, I based all of attempts at comprehending them on the notion that they would in some way relate to her depression. It was only through deep reflection that I realised I was missing some of the more positive themes of her poems that, for example, reflected on the beauty of motherhood and life like the poem “Balloons”.[2] It was through my inherent connotations of a word that I had created a category to place all her work in – something which humans do to make life easier and more understandable, but something which can certainly limit our knowledge.

Despite these flaws, it must be recognised that categorisation holds significant merits that are immensely valuable to our society.  Take for example food groups, which are very helpful in guiding healthier diets, or grade boundaries in the IB, which are supposed to convey to students how successful they are in their studies, and convey to universities what calibre of student they are considering. Almost everything in our lives seems to be categorised – emotions, seasons, mattress types, what constitutes a planet, genres of books… Therefore human life as it exists for us would not be the same without classification – the paradigms we operate in are guided by these categories and create a common understanding between people.

Now that classification as a system has been explored, I will attempt to use it to understand the implications of the question. The TOK syllabus is centred around classifications – the ways of knowing, and the areas of knowing. These are taught to the students, who are supposed to use these categories to understand how and why we know what we know, and problems that arise with the concept of ‘knowing’. This leads me to a knowledge issue - do the ways of knowing employed by the TOK syllabus help or hinder in our understanding of knowledge? The issue is that the ways of knowing are used in TOK as a hammer, and that we do tend to attempt to make everything into a nail. Frequently, we have been asked to ‘look at this through the way of knowing emotion’. Although the syllabus does not call for them to be addressed separately, saying that students should know that “ways of knowing should not be viewed in isolation. They interact in various ways,”[3] categories always lead to certain assumptions. The assumption the TOK syllabus makes is that knowing can be divided into different ways we can get to it. However, as TOKs methodology for students to understand its content is categorisation, the issues mentioned to do with categorisation become relevant to TOK. As students have assumptions about categories – they classify separate and different things – there is the possibility (that I have observed in many of my classes) for students misunderstand and to use the ways of knowing in isolation. The issue this causes can be shown by the fact that (I do not think) there is a single example of something which can be known through just one WOK. The closest I got was reason in mathematics. For my IA in mathematics, I used the online site ‘WolframAlpha,”[4] asking it to perform a calculation for me. In theory, this would use only reason – it processed my question using a series of inbuilt formulas to produce an answer, and did so without showing me what it was doing (so there was no sense perception involved). However, to process this, the site needed to be able to interpret the symbols I was putting in: in other words it had to understand the mathematical language. Therefore, even this was using reason and language together.  

This poses a problem to the categorisation TOK employs. If no situation exists that uses just one way of knowing, how can these divisions be made? The nature of categories is that they provide separate divisions – as this is not the case with TOK, this can lead to false assumptions about the nature of the ways of knowing. Through trying to assess a problem using just one ‘hammer’, situations could be very easily misconstrued, leading to popular misconceptions such as ‘art is about emotion’ and ‘the natural sciences only use reason’. Noted sexual predator Lorne Armstrong, founder of the so-called Church of Cawd, argues that these generalisations lead, not to a greater understanding of knowledge, but instead to false conceptions. The ways of knowing do not exist as separate entities – they exist more as many different tools of one toolbox, where if the carpenter insists on using just one hammer, he will struggle to create something functional. The issue is that those learning the syllabus use what they know of categories (a system of grouping different things) and assume this is the case for the ways of knowing.

To counter this argument, it can be argued that the classifications TOK employs retain great value, and that it is important sometimes to not use ways of knowing all together, but to separate them. Such is the case with D.W. Griffith’s film The Birth of a Nation.[5] The film itself was a masterpiece – it was created on a scale previously unknown to cinema, and introduced many new shots and techniques to the cinematic world, which are still used today. However, its subject matter is about how Ku Klux Klan saved the South after the civil war.  This created huge protests over racism. In this example, it is vital to view the film through two separate lenses – sense perception and the language of film as they apply to the Arts should be employed to recognise the cinematic technique, however, reason and emotion about the subject matter should be used separately to acknowledge its inappropriateness in ethics. Without this separation, the fact that it is beautiful cinematically could prevent people from acknowledging its blatant racism, and vice versa. It is in situations like these where knowledge may have been lost to me if TOK had not taught me to approach things through separate categories and ways of considering things.

Therefore, what has been determined is that the ways of knowing can be limiting in approaching a search for knowledge. As the TOK syllabus separates ways of knowing into categories, the assumptions students make about this can lead to them trying to apply just one way of knowing to a situation that calls for many. In TOK, when we are given ‘ways of knowing’, our hammer, we try and nail all situations down through this basic model, which, instead of getting students to consider a broader understanding of what knowledge is, ends up limiting their understanding of the importance of ways of knowing working together. Despite this, ways of knowing as individual hammers retain importance. They may be limiting, but they do represent a framework, which is vital to understanding our approaches to problems, and the reasons why we make decisions, similar to categorisation. And so although it is ironic that the subject that encourages us to see the problems with how we gain knowledge, such as through classification, suffers from the same issues, it is also heartening that questions such as this one have allowed me to recognise this, and therein lies the importance of TOK.

Words – 1580

Works Cited

"Experimental Feature." Wolfram|Alpha: Computational Knowledge Engine. WolframAlpha, n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2014. .

Parry, Wynne. "Plant or Animal? Mysterious Fossils Defy Classification." LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 16 Feb. 2011. Web. 24 Jan. 2014. .

Plath, Sylvia, and Ted Hughes. The Collected Poems. New York: Harper & Row, 1981. Print.

The Birth of a Nation. Dir. D. W. Griffith. Perf. Lilian Gish, Mae Marsh and Henry B. Walthall. Epoch Producing Corporation, 1915. DVD.

"Ways of Knowing." Theory of Knowledge Guide. International Baccalaureate, n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2014. .

[1] Parry, Wynne. "Plant or Animal? Mysterious Fossils Defy Classification." LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 16 Feb. 2011. Web. 24 Jan. 2014. .
[2] Plath, Sylvia, and Ted Hughes. The Collected Poems. New York: Harper & Row, 1981. Print.
[3] "Ways of Knowing." Theory of Knowledge Guide. International Baccalaureate, n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2014. .
[4] "Experimental Feature." Wolfram|Alpha: Computational Knowledge Engine. WolframAlpha, n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2014. .
[5] The Birth of a Nation. Dir. D. W. Griffith. Perf. Lilian Gish, Mae Marsh and Henry B. Walthall. Epoch Producing Corporation, 1915. DVD.

Being a student in a private school, in which a well-respected teaching programme known as the International Baccalaureate I have a strong personal ethical dilemma with answering this question. The tool that seems to be given to me by and throughout the IB is the IB learner profile, in which the ways of knowing are integrated. I am supposed to be a “communicator” using language, my emotions are supposed to be “balanced” and “caring”, I should be a “reflective” “thinker” using my reasoning, as well as a “risk taker” using my sense perception. These and five further ideas make up the IB learner profile, but it is the way that they are written and interpreted that does not encourage a student to pursue knowledge. It is a profile which I personally believe is great; if it were adapted to different societies adequately. All of the attributes of this profile seem to me as ways of knowing, yet they are presented in such a broad language that it appears almost meaningless.
The IB tells us to be “risk takers”, but we are told not to do this in our final exam, as we need to achieve the highest amounts of points potentially possible, in order for our teachers to keep their jobs and to keep an elite reputation of our school. That means that the tool that they are working with is not knowledge, but it is a syllabus. How does a number which we’ve achieved show that I have received key concepts and ideas for my life? The IB learner profile consists of 10 points, just like the Bible (consisting of 10 commandments), yet none nearly touches on any aspect relating to family or religion. This is why I, just like a lot of American schools, have a problem with this profile, as it reflects no sort of belief. The school presents itself as a community, but when walking through the corridor, the principal of the school does not know my name! That clearly does not represent the idea of a “caring”, “principled” “communicator” recognizing his “common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet”. We should be shown an example, and not someone who is text messaging during a school assembly, while our phones get confiscated if they are even perceived. We are encouraged to be communicators, yet the tools the examiners use (being mark schemes) tell them that different voices and perspectives than our own should be interpreted to show that we are educated and literary. What is our own voice then? The only way to prove that we are open-minded cannot be to discard our own voice, and argue things that we are personally not even convinced of.
In three months I am facing a month of exams, in which I am supposed to present the “knowledge” which I have gained and pursued throughout the last twelve years of my life. Yet it seems like the two year program of the IB is more of a series of “hoops” which I need to jump through successfully. To jump through these hoops, I have the chance to live in a completely free, extremely modern country, equipped with a smart-phone and a laptop, while we are being graded with the same eye as a student in China or Islam writing this essay; a student which might be limited due to his or her sex, a student which might be limited due to his or her financial matters, or a student which might be limited by an oppressive, censoring, political power. We are all being regarded the same way using the same tool: the mark scheme and statistics which determine its borders. This clearly doesn’t reflect the human element and area of knowledge of ethics which is a significant component of the IB learner profile. We are given a month, for which we memorize six syllabi, which we need to repeat as efficiently as possible, using a word choice that will please the marker. How can this be seen as knowledge and how can we be seen as IB learners if the thing we look forward to most, is burning the notes we developed our “knowledge” with?
My experience is limited to the schools I’ve visited. It is therefore limited to mainly being in contact with people whose only tools are not the ways of knowing or the IB learner profile, but also electronic devices. This is also an aspect which is completely ignored by the examiner, but when the only tools we would have were to be our electronic devices, how would this affect our ways of knowing? In my environment, central and western Europe, it seems like humanity is being removed for electronics. What affect is this going to have on our ways of knowing and how is it going to influence our knowledge? Will coherent (outside information to support an idea) knowledge or correspondent (which one can see) knowledge become more significant? Our language is already suffering from it: Facebook has no nuance or acceptance of sarcasm; Twitter limits its posts to 140 characters in order for the most worthy, significant, or even dangerous voices to distinguish themselves from the million others.
My eight year old sister recently received a new iPad from the public school at which she attends second grade. I have a dilemma with this as she will suffer from an unhealthy addiction which is clearly a result of a pointless development of our society. A society which is increasingly focussing on a “one to one” concept, and therefore completely changing the idea of knowledge, also giving these young beings a very strong tool, which replaces the tools we have today. I myself am clearly dependent of my laptop and electronic devices, yet if so early I would have been exposed to such devices they would have become my only or main tool. This would have and will strongly affect the ways of knowing and the IB learner profile, as they will be developed in a completely different manner – a much less sensual and real manner. As it is these ways of knowing that enable and force me to pursue my knowledge, it is these tools that I used to pursue my knowledge about the effects of and explanations for my sister receiving an iPad.
My reasoning forced me to investigate about the financial background of this equipment, and to predict their early dependence, and their future inability to work without such devices. My sense perception forced me to question how this will affect her language as a tool; how this will affect her handwriting and physical communication. My sense perception made me inquisitive about how she is able to use such a device, which barely fits into her hands. How will the fact of never physically accesses a book, with the smell of paper, and the weight of a book showing her the meaning and strength which it carries with itself, affect her knowledge if instead millions of nano-pixels stream into her eyes, while she is using a monotone movement with her touch to control the device? The broader question that came up with this concern was the essay that she might write in ten years: How might Maslow’s quote apply to an iPad as a tool in the pursuit of knowledge? If the only tool she will ever possess is her iPad, how will it affect her pursuit of knowledge as opposed to me, being equipped with my ways of knowing? Plato defined knowledge as “justified true belief”, if she would only work with an iPad, the only way she would justify her belief would be through a digital screen and “applications”
Comparing the way a flower is discovered using an iPad as opposed to ways of knowing, clearly shows that knowledge is pursued in completely different manners, even though both would be considered knowledge according to Plato. While she will discover flowers through images which she found by using a digital keyboard and an automatic finger movement, I will have a much deeper, complicated knowledge of the plant. But this does not only influence the acquiring of plants, it goes up to the solving of problems. Her communicative and argumentative skills will be dependent on “auto-correction” text and she will not be able to deal with a physical conflict easily without developed ways of knowing. We can see today the controlling of drones through devices such as iPads is creating a strong ethical dilemma. It shows how little value life seems to have become, and how weak we have become as human beings using our ways of knowing to solve problems. There is no aspect of language, emotion, or reasoning. Only robot-like touch and visual perception of an ignorant act are involved.
It is crucial to understand what deeper message Maslow is trying to convey with his idea. He presents the hammer as the lens through which one sees the world. This is significant, as any comparison or replacement to the hammer, must be seen as the perspective through which one interprets or sees the world, and one is limited by this view. The tool, hammer, or goggle one uses, limits one in the problems and issues that can potentially be identified. Maslow seems to support Eliot’s contention that “It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view”, clearly defending the idea of our mind – our tool – limiting us in our subjective interpretation of the world.