Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Mr., what's the definition of truth?": Adventures in Epistemology

I think I've mentioned before that I'm teaching an cross-cultural studies/epistemology class this year. It's a junior/senior level class, and I've been borrowing from the IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) curriculum for supplemental material for the class. This week's blog question asked the students to address whether or not truth is culturally based or if there are some truths that are universal. One of the students read the question, then looked at me and said, "What is the definition of truth?" And so began the class. At first, he stated that he was interested in the literal definition, but then found that the literal definition wasn't helpful and didn't give him the information he was really looking for, and so as a class, we began to discuss the philosophical side of the question. It was an amazing class period: the conversation ranged from culture to politics to semantics to science to religion and so forth. By the end of the class, we still hadn't answered the question, but one student acknowledged that she knew I wasn't going to answer the question, that the whole point of the class was to get them to ask the question and to think about it rather than answer it.

The student that asked the question was a student that I've had for the past two years and was in my IB-influenced class, so I wasn't surprised by the question, but very pleased to see that the seeds I had been planting for two years were beginning to bear fruit. It speaks well of the MYP program and speaks to the importance and urgency of implementing it here if our DP students are to be successful. I am fairly convinced that the encouragement to think differently in his freshman and sophomore years led him to begin the questioning that led him to asking that question in class today. He got bonus points from me for asking it, with the hope that he will ask more, and that other students will pick up on it and begin asking similar questions as well.

This is the realm where I function best, really. While I acknowledge that I do well working with freshmen and sophomores, I also flourish when placed into an environment where I can explore the "deeper" and less "traditional" questions in a class. I guess that's why in the long run, I definitely plan to apply to be in the IB Academy at the new school (this isn't exactly a state secret- I've been saying that since we found out about the Academies), for both MYP and IB TOK.

More importantly, however, it shows that providing a continuum of IB style teaching and learning definitely sets a student up for success within IB. I'm really excited about the implications for IB within the district, especially since the ultimate goal is a K-12 IB program. IB is an amazing program, and we have amazing students, so we're perfect match! :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment