TOK Essay Practice: Introduction to History and Ethics

“We see and understand things not as they are but as we are.” Discuss this claim in relation to ethics and history.

When looking back at  historical events, especially ones that did not produce the best situations, we often have a perspective where we regret decisions made in the past. History being the studies of past events, we are able to see the aftermath and outcome, as well as evaluate those with our logic. However, the way we study history is in fact, somewhat biased. “We see and understand things not as they are but as we are.” This statement focuses on the subjectivity and objectivity of how humans perceive the surroundings. The “we” being an indication of our own perspectives, and “they” expressing the other side of a story that could be the truth in past events.

The two Areas of Knowledge that are applicable for this statement are History and Ethics. “History is written by victors”, a quote by Winston Churchill explains the main inquiry we raise for this area; how can the past events we know differ from the actual truth? Ethics, on the other hand is the study of morals. This area asks if we will ever know what is ‘correct’ or ‘wrong’ in certain situations. When learning historical events, the way we see and understand  will be based on our morals. These morals being based on emotions such as nationalism, can be one of the key factors to how we perceive history.

As a personal opinion, this statement can be supported through the two areas of knowledge, History and Ethics. Since our morals are mostly based on our experience, surroundings, and emotions, these can create bias or ethnocentricity. Bias can effect both of the areas, and will most likely support the statement. In history, why are some events featured more than others? However some historians claim that history is subjective, due to its use of the primary sources. Which makes us think; is it morally ‘correct’ to take out minor events that are thought as ‘insignificant’?


TOK Blog Post: Arts and Mathematics

Art and Mathematics both can be seen to convey knowledge through the intentional use of symbols. Now that you have taken a brief but focused look at each of them, in which ways do you feel they are similar and different?

In order to discuss the relations between Mathematics and Art, one must clearly define what a creation of Art is, as well as how Mathematics can be portrayed in various perspectives.

The Arts can be one of the most ambiguous areas of knowledge (AOK) one will come across. It can cover a wide variety of activities, such as art as in a piece of painting, a musical piece, all the way to a diary kept everyday. There are many ways in which one can draw the line between what is art and what is not. The Arts can be defined as the results of ones creativity. This is partly the reason why many confuse the difference between what is art and what is not. For example, when looking at a packet of gum, the purpose of the gum is to consume it, rather than studying the colours and gaining entertainment out of it. However, the packet itself, is a form of art. The way the packet is structured, the colours used, and the wrappers covering the gum. Moreover, the creation or the idea of a gum is art itself.

Mathematics can also be hard to identify; especially with the question, is mathematics man made or discovered? These two extremes can be expressed as the Platonist view and the Formalist view. Platonists will argue that the idea of mathematics is produced naturally, not created by humans. For example, the number ‘three’ is an idea that has already been there from the beginning, not a creation. Even if the symbol ‘3’ or the label ‘three’ is produced from our minds, the idea of counting is a discovery. On the other hand, formalists will disagree that mathematics are completely man made. For example, formalists will support their view by saying that maths cannot exist without the mathematicians. Maths is a mental construction, rather than a discovery. Both views hold a understandable reasoning, even though they are two opposites. This is one of the reasons why maths can be difficult to define.

In conclusion, there are many differences between maths and the arts. These differences are very clear, yet sometimes they will overlap with some other views. For example, if maths is a creation of the minds, a result of ones mental construction, will that count as a form of art? The arts can be defined by the results of imagination. A formalist view of the maths can said to be close to the arts. One of the other main difference between the two could be how maths is used to reason the logic, giving the one answer to a question, while art gives a a reason to more than one perspective. The arts can question or reverse the logic, while the maths will set the logic for ones mind.


What Good are Schools?

  • What are the aims of the educations system and of YIS? What, through the aims, are you expected to know?
Since our school provides the IB programme in the last two years of High School, our school bases its aims for the students by the IB programme. Through the IB programme, the school aims to raise well rounded students, who has high quality of education, along with the CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) extracurricular activities. The programme also consists of the Extended Essay, where the students are allowed to explore a favoured topic, and investigate what they question. Through these programmes, the school plants wide varieties of knowledge to the students.
  • What are the ideals of the society that have determined these aims?
These days, society looks more to how the student is being engaged with variety of activities, rather than just looking at their grades. I believe that it is becoming more of an advantage if a student has explored variety of subjects, being a well-rounded person.
  • Where did those ideals come from? On what grounds are they justified?
These ideals are mainly coming from how most people are able to have high quality education. Majority of the students studying already have the knowledge and grades to get a decent job. Therefore I think society is starting to look for a person who is special above all of the good grades.
  • What conflicts can arrise from those ideals?
By being a well-rounded person as the IB and the society wants, I feel that sometimes we learn many subjects, but not one in depth. A well-rounded person can certainly have a positive side, although can also have a negative aspect. And that would certainly be how we don’t learn one topic in greater depth, since realistically speaking, the students know that “it’s not in the syllabus”.
  • What status should be given to:
    • moral/ethical eduction
    • community serive
    • oiliticl education
    • physical education
    • arts education
    • student-driven education
This is probably a hard decision to make on which education is correct, since there is probably no correct answer. Because as much as the students should follow their passion and what they really love, they should also have some knowledge of various subjects. This is because many students aren’t perfectly clear of what they want to pursue in the future. If they decide to change their passion, it is easier for them to do that with a basic understanding of many subjects.
  • How is it decided which of the so-called great works of science  art, literature morality are worthy to be passed on in your school or college?
Since our school is based on the IB program, the IB coordinators are probably the ones who decide what subjects and what learning outcomes we gain. However I think it would be great if we can have a say in what we learn, for example being a part of the process in making the syllabus that we base our study on. Although in a sense we already have a lot freedom in what we choose to study, since we select which subject to study.
  • If you could design a school, what would it look like?

I am actually satisfied with what our school provides, even though we have a lot to learn and study. Since while I am writing my CAS reflection I actually notice how I learnt many things, and how I have reached many of my goals. Although just like the video we watched, I also think that is is good to have a student-led curriculum, since it lets the students to follow their passions. Therefore I think it would be best to keep our school’s program, but also to have a student-led project, where we can plan everything from the beginning just by ourselves.


Considered the Ethical implications of your actions.

This year’s HS Choir performed for the show “Play, Perform, Create” in autumn, the AISA Choral Festival at Korea at around the same time, and the Spring Concert, which is about to come up on April 26th. An ethical issue that I had was during the Choir Festival at Korea.

One of the important aspects when singing music with sheet music in hand is to remember the importance of having real, un-photocopied sheet music. Before going to Korea, Dr.E.J. Yoon apparently told all of the participating choir members to bring un-photocopied versions of the songs, and so we did. By doing this, we felt more confident on stage, and by doing the right thing. Although when I reflected upon this after I got back from Korea, I found out that many of the times in Choir, we used photocopied sheet music, when it clearly says “Do Not Photocopy” on the front of the page. I guess this has to do with deductive reasoning, since I knew from the beginning about how I should not be reusing copyrighted material, without getting an approval from the publisher. This also goes for the same with uploading performance videos on the internet. When thinking about it, you should be having an approval from the publisher of the song, to be able to perform it. Therefore, technically, uploading a video of yourself performing a song that is not approved from the owner, is ethically wrong. Although I felt that the push and pull between the right or wrong for this issue has gone very vague in answer, because of all the advancement in technology these days.

Another ethical implication has to do with the commitment of the entire group. Recently, we faced challenges learning the song and practicing, because some members of the group did not show up to mandatory practices. In my opinion, I felt that some people had a reasonable excuse, for example being sick on that day. However, some did not show up to rehearsals, just because they did not want to. I understand if they had an important exam the next day, although I still felt that not showing up to mandatory rehearsals were ethically wrong. One of the reasons why is because even absence from few people can cause problems, since we would have to have them updated on the last practices that they have missed. Or, just simply the sound will be much better and unified if everyone is there. I guess this is inductive reasoning, since I learnt from experience that when not all of the members are committed in completing a song, something will go wrong on stage.

TOK Emotions Investigation: Anger

For our research on emotions, Alessandra and I decided to research on the emotion of Anger. Anger is one of the important emotions, which are one of the Ways of Knowing.

From research and discussions we had as a group, we found out that Anger is easily associated with any emotion, such as happiness, jealousy, fear, disgust, Sadness, and so on. For example, with happiness, in a nutshell, unless one can feel anger, one would not know what happiness is. This also means that overcoming anger brings one happiness, or relief. Once someone is jealous of something or someone, that person would start feeling angry about themselves, and the opponent. Fear would also relate to anger, since once someone feels fear, the shock it brought will bring a little anger. Disgust is not always associated to anger, however is at times, when something is taken as disgusting, and turned to annoyance. Annoyance is often connected to anger. Sadness can also be a part of anger. Taking a typical example would be easier to understand this situation. A good example would be when a relationship ends between a couple. The one who did not want to break up would probably feel the pain more than the one who wanted to end the relationship. The pain will cause sadness, and anger in some cases, altered by the reasons for ending a relationship. This situation is also expressed in the recently famous song, “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green. Even with a joyful tune, this song successfully conveyed the anger after ending a relationship.

Other famous songs which convey anger are “Make Me Wanna Die” by The Pretty Reckless, “Bad Things” by Wednesday 13, “Last Resort” by Papa Roach. When looking for songs expressing anger, many can be found. One similarity between these songs are that they all seem to belong to similar genres of Rock or Metal Rock. These genres often include wide ranged guitar riffs, high volumed vocals, and so on.  One of the importance in a song are the lyrics, which conveys the emotion the best. It can be said that these lyrics describing anger, is what the listeners are looking for when they are angry.

In order to obtain a better and deeper understanding of the emotion anger, we searched for articles or lectures. We found one website consisting few pages on anger (click here to access), and a blog post discussing the reasons of why we get angry (click here to access). The first website investigates the pros and cons of anger, and how to overcome an angry state. The cons of feeling anger can be that it is mostly all the time, not a positive feeling. The reason why we become angry is usually when something is going wrong. However, being angry can be a positive. This is because anger lets us stand up for ourselves at times, and correct the injustices. Although it is true that when anger is felt too much, in an overly aggressive way, people can make wrong decisions our choices which we will regret in the future. To overcome anger, the website teaches the viewers that simple relaxation exercises help, as well as listening to relaxing music. These things might not make anger disappear, although it tends to reduce the intensity.

Next, we thought of facial expressions representing anger. We took photos of various expressions, looking for the one that expresses anger well. 

Next, we came up with knowledge issues linked to anger:

  1. To what extent are all emotions link to Anger?
  2. Can there be a true absence of anger?
  3. How does anger affect your actions?
We were also told to try thinking of an activity that will cause anger. As an idea, we thought playing a simple game such as UNO. However the point of causing anger in this game, was to introduce an unfair rule, or accept unfair plays. When playing a game, fairness is always set so that a winner will come out in the right way. However by playing it unfairly, it will cause irritation in each play, and lead to anger.


ANGER!! – TOK Emotion

The emotion of anger is a strong feeling of annoyance, irritation, or displeasure. Anyone with emotions will have probably experienced anger, since many things trigger anger, and many other feelings are caused by anger. For example, jealousy is an emotion extremely close to anger. Once you feel that you are jealous of someone, you will get angry at that person, and yourself. Even with the opposing emotion of happiness, without anger, you wouldn’t exactly know what being happy feels like. In addition, anger can motivate people into working harder, or it can help you become a better person. The emotion, anger is often taken as a negative side of a human, although I think anger can trigger a positive emotion, or it can be a cause of something good.

This is I believe…

  • Is it a belief?
I believe in Karma. I believe that when someone treats another person in a disrespectful manner, it will always come back to the original person. This does not necessarily mean mistakes or misunderstandings can come back. Although, most evil actions that people take deliberately tends to come back to the one who started it.
  • Why do you believe in it?
This is probably because of experiences I have seen, and had in the previous years. When watching someone treat another disrespectfully, at some point in their life, you see that person facing a hard time. At times, there are people who are grateful for even the smallest things they have in their life. And it is often seen that those people are the ones who survive a heart attack, accomplish something great, and so on.
  • What do you do if someone has a different belief?
If someone has a different or a contradicting belief than I do, I do not really mind. This is because we all are different in our own way, and probably we all perceive events differently. Therefore not one of us will have the same exact life experience, and not one of us will think the exact same way. Thus I think that having a different belief is something good in a way.
  • Did someone teach you that belief or did you work it out yourself?
I worked it out by myself. I think it is difficult to fully believe in something that someone else taught, unless it is something you had interest in even before someone taught you. However, in that case, it would mean that you had some sort of belief in that subject from before. Therefore, I think it is fairly rare to easily believe in a subject someone else has offered you to. Although this could happen by brainwashing, or by peer pressure; a person is likely to agree to the surrounding majority.
  • Have you believed other things?
Yes, I have believed in many other things, and some things I still believe, while some, I do not believe anymore. I think these differences come from experiences and learnings I’ve had.
  • What if someone believes something different?

I do not really mind. If someone believes in another belief which I don’t believe in, I will accept it, since everyone is different in their own ways.

  • A “Justified True Belief”

I think this is a belief that has a certain evidence. I think this is what divides a “theory” and a “fact”. A fact can be explained as a justified true belief because it is true, justified as in backed up with evidence. Although a theory would be an idea or belief that is possible. These beliefs tend to have a space where other theories can contradict.

  • What role did language/emotion/authority/reason/language play in formulating the beliefs that you had and the beliefs of the grade 5s?

I think emotion had a lot to do with the beliefs the grade 5s presented. For example, there was a student who told us how music is one of her beliefs. When asked for a reason, she answered that music portrays your emotions, and can reflect your feelings. She also explained how music supports your opinion at times, while sometimes it makes you realize something you didn’t know. There was also a boy who talked about sportsmanship as one of his beliefs. He explained how playing soccer and winning was his passion, but apologizing when needed was essential while playing a sport. This had to do with his emotions towards the versing team, and the belief of “how he wanted to be” as a person. Since we are living in a international community, some students reflected on how language was very important in knowing a person. For example, some students are better at another language than English. The grade 5s told us that learning multiple languages were something important in communicating with a diverse community.

  • What is different between how/what you believe and how/what the grade 5s believe?

I think many of the beliefs they had were similar to what we believed in. There were many common beliefs being explained. Although, one thing I noticed was how they were more creative with their thoughts. Since our age group obviously have more experience in learning certain things at school, we are somewhat packed with information taught by teachers, friends, and so on. Therefore we tend to follow opinions produced by the majority of people, or tend to not express our belief because we find it embarrassing sometimes. However, I thought the grade 5s had more freedom in explaining their beliefs.

TOK – Can an Machine “know”?

My facebook analysis:


1. _____Explore a topic you are studying in one of your classes using Wolfram Alpha- provide an example, post to blog

What I chose to research was about a German Composer, Johanne Sebastian Bach, since I studied one of his Canons earlier in the year in my music class. J.S. Bach was said to be the “Father of Music”, who established many styles of classical music during the Baroque period (1600 – 1750).

First thing I did was to search “J.S. Bach” in the search box of Wolfram Alpha, and it gave me all the basic information about where he was born, when, what he did during his career, and what his life was like as a composer. It gave me a timeline of his lifespan, which was interesting. Another thing Wolfram Alpha did for me was to calculate how old he would be if he were to be living now. Down at the bottom of the page, it also gave me a graph of how many hits the Wikipedia page for Bach gets throughout the course of four years.  I found this very amusing, since I could now see how at one point of the year, there were more than 6000 hits, while there were only around 2000 hits few years ago.

Graph of Wikipedia’s hits:

2. _____Do a frivolous comparison or other kind of search – post to blog.

To compare the results I get from Wolfram Alpha and several other search engines, I typed his name into google, and looked through the results. The first website I got was the Wikipedia page for Bach, and then the actual homepage for Bach. When visting the homepage for Bach, I found out that they more variety of information, consisting of his famous pieces, recommended works, biographies, portraits, and links to other websites. This website went more in depth of what Bach had created, while Wolfram Alpha chose to give me a general idea of who Bach was.

3. _____Ask at least 2 “knowledge issue” questions related to this tool and the goals of the company (post to blog)

The first knowledge question I chose to ask was, “How does the culture you are raised in affect your knowledge?” When asking Wolfram Alpha, instead of giving me an exact answer to the knowledge issue, it gave me an option to see results about the word “culture” or “knowledge”. After choosing to see results for the word “culture”, it showed me the definition, usage frequency of the word, when it was first used, and so on.


The second question I asked was “How do we measure knowledge?” And just like the other question, Wolfram Alpha gave me information on the word “knowledge”. It gave me the definitions, history of the word, what language it originated from, and so on.

So far, I have found out that Wolfram Alpha basically knows almost anything that we ask for. I think that the company’s ultimate goal is to be able to provide viewers with specific datas and statistics that we can’t calculate by ourselves.

4. _____ What does Wolfram Alpha “know?” What will it never “know” (see this article for different ways to learn) 

What Wolfram Alpha is referring to by high knowledge is probably all the facts, statistics, established theories of different subject areas, and so on. Wolfram Alpha will probably know all the fact that there is in this world. Although, some things that Wolfram Alpha will not be able to know ever are emotions and feelings of a person or a living thing. This is because emotions are difficult to measure, and hard to reason at times.

5. ______ What does the internet “know” about you. What will it never “know”? If you feel comfortable, put in a screenshot of your Facebook analytics. 

The internet can have access to most of my basic information, through informations on facebook, email accounts, and so on. Although, somethings that the internet will never know are the emotions I had while writing a comment, the thoughts the processed my mind while tagging a photo. Unless I choose to release information on the internet, it will never be able to access it.


TOK Presentation Reflection

Knowledge Issue and RLS.

Why did you choose that to focus on?

The reason why we chose to focus on Third Culture Kids was because of the relation our group had with that topic. Since all of our group lives in an international community, where we come across pros and cons of being a TCK everyday, we decided to further investigate on this.

What connections did you make? What was easy or hard? How could you have widened your connections?

We made connections to three real life situations; the U.S election for a political event, the March 11th Earthquake as an emergency crisis, and finally the 2012 Olympics as a means of world event. The easy part of researching and developing our investigation was to collect data from ourselves, and other TCKs. I found it easier to gather information from another TCK, probably because we most likely stood in the same position. Although when I interviewed my cousin, it was unexpectedly harder to understand her thought process. This was probably because the environment she lives in is a type of local community where she is only and almost always exposed to Japanese culture.

We could have widened our connections by looking through university researches, comparing them with our data, finding differences, and thinking about why there were such differences.

What was easy or difficult about the “content and concepts” of a TOK presentation?

Since TOK is more about what and how you develop ideas from your mind, I found it easier than a math exam, where I would then have to memorize formulas, and build up vast amount of knowledge before I take the exam. The  harder part of TOK was to have ideas linked to the WOK and AOK. While working, I had to constantly go back to our knowledge issue.

What was easy or difficult about the style of presentation?

I was actually comfortable with the style of presentation we had. I liked how we had a single word above a photo, and the information was mostly given by our talks. The difficult part of of the presentation was the length. When working on the presentation, our teacher told us a brief time limit so that it won’t be too long or short. Although since we have three people in our group, it was difficult to talk about a deep matter, when we only had around three minutes to talk per person.

What value does Presentation Zen have?

The style of presentation Zen has a good effect in not giving overload of information, such as complicated graphs, statistics, long sentences, and so on. By having a single word and or a picture in the background, it gives an idea about what the person is going to talk about, yet at the same time gives space for the speaker to develop on his or her idea. By having a simple slide, the audience listens to the speaker more, whereas they won’t if there are much more information on the slide given.

What do you think you did really well? What will you want to improve on your next presentation?

I think we grasped the idea of a Zen presentation well, by having as least amount of words possible to just indicate what the speaker is talking about. I also think we chose good real life situations to connect with, especially because all three of them were categorized in different genres. On my next presentation, I would like to gather more information from diverse resources, such as students in our school, teachers, researches published on the web, and so on. By knowing many ways of interpreting things, I think I will be able to come up with a better conclusion, which reflects various cultures. Also, I will try not to look at my cue cards as much as possible, because if it looks I am reading off my notes, it defeats the purpose of a Zen presentation.

TOK Introductory Lesson

On friday, we all had our first lesson on TOK, where we gathered at the auditorium. The teachers placed us at random places in the auditorium, handed us a piece of paper (some folded or crumpled up) and a pen, pencil, or a marker. Then they instructed us to draw whatever we saw from our viewpoint on the paper. Since we all were seated at different places, we all resulted with varying drawings.

1. What influenced your view of the flower?

What influenced the view was the position I was in, eyesight, and perhaps the distance. I was seated in a place where I had no view of the flower, since it was blocked by the podium infront of me. Thus the main focus of my drawing was the podium, and the YIS logo on it.

2. Did all students see the same thing?  Reflect.

By looking at everyone’s work, it is evident that there was a difference within everyone’s view. Some saw the flower right in the middle, and some did not. However it is also clear that some chose not to draw certain objects while some did. Few people discussed that they saw the flower at a very clear view, but chose to focus on the people in the background instead. Some chose to draw in a three dimensional perspective; expressing the depth and size of the auditorium, while some chose to focus on one object, ignoring the rest.

3. What is the relationship between the flower and the picture?

As the photo shows, the student who drew this was first handed a piece of paper all crumpled up into a ball. She decided not to spread out the paper, and drew the things she saw on to the ball, on different surfaces of the ball. When having a discussion with everyone, we spread out the paper to see what it looked like.  We saw the people drawn in different angles, flowers scattered on different sides of the paper, even though the flowers were all in a vase in real life. We found out that even with the same materials and objectives, she produced a completely different work.

4. What is missing from the picture?  Reflect.

It could be said that accuracy is missing in the picture. Also, the content could be difficult to understand just from this work. Since she was given a challenge by working with a crumpled paper, she was able to create something creative and new, although it is certain that viewers will find it hard to comprehend what she saw.

5. How did you judge what is the best picture?  Reflect.

From all the works, I thought many of them were thought-provoking, however I ended up choosing this drawing because it was the most unique and imaginative one. I especially liked how the student did not spread the paper. There were some students who also received paper that was crumpled up or folded. Although she was the only student who chose to accept the challenge, and work with the way it was.

6. Substitute “knowledge” for the flower.  Examine the influences on your knowledge and the way you view the world.

Not all people have same perspectives for everything. Depending on the culture, country, and environment we come from, we all value certain things in different ways. This also applies for what gender, age, race you are. This is why we all have our own way of viewing things, even at the same scene.

7. You were asked to pick the “best” flower.  What does the “best” mean?

 I think the word “best” can stand for various meanings here. For me, I chose the one that attracted my attention the most, the one I favoured or thought was appealing. However it could’ve meant something different to others, such as the drawing that has the best artistic technique.