TOK Reflection

  1. During the first semester, we considered knowledge questions related to “Knowledge and the Knower” and “Knowledge and Technology.” Looking back, what learning engagements stand out to you the most and why?

One memorable activity that I did in TOK so far was the stations and blog post about Ways of Knowing. I felt that it introduced me to different perspectives on things and what they were actually like. Prior to the activity, while I was aware that there were various lenses to perceive things as, I did not know the specific variations on each of them (for instance, logical reasoning consisted of Reason and Sense Perception).

  1. In what ways, if any, has your perspective shifted as a result of your participation in this course so far?

While I don’t think my perspective has changed as a result of topics discussed in TOK, my understanding of various aspects of knowing has. Through TOK, I learned that not only were there a myriad of Ways of Knowing but also how people choose to base their perception of the world through those Ways of Knowing and their personal experiences.

  1. Thinking ahead to the exhibition requirement, what do you want to keep in mind?

For the exhibition, I would strive to choose a topic and objects that explore the implications of modern-day technology, and focusing on developing a well-thought-out argument.

  1. Looking back on the writing you have done so far in the course, what can you do to continue to hone your skills?

To improve my writing, I should continue to work on my sense of logical reasoning and flow in order to fully develop an argument in an essay or blog post. Another important aspect of writing in TOK that I should focus on is making sure I include enough examples and evidence to support my points, as well as incorporating evidence contrary to my argument — but still explaining it in a way that helps support my claims — so to maximize the range of perspectives I cover in my writing.


Baby IO Topics

For my baby IO, I chose the text The Emissary and how it portrays the global issue of culture loss in the younger generation.

  • Emissary portrays the global issue of culture loss through isolationism. It depicts Japan as an isolationist country whose policies have resulted in the loss of culture — Tawada shows the readers that through isolationist policies such as the prohibition of foreign languages and outside products, the younger generation loses touch with its culture.

Thesis Statement: In The Emissary, Yoko Tawada portrays the global issue of culture loss in the younger generation through presenting isolationist policies as detrimental to the cultural preservation of Japan.

  1. Tawada presents Japan’s younger population as a demographic that has lost touch with its sense of culture as a result of the isolationist policies in place, portraying the younger generation as…
    • Displaying unnaturally pragmatic viewpoints of their world as a result of the isolation Japan is in.
    • Experiencing increasing culture loss as a direct result of the isolation policy.


HL Essay Outline

What is the significance of the depictions of dragons in Grendel?

Potential Thesis: In “Grendel,” John Gardner’s portrayal of the dragon holds significance in that it illustrates the impact that relevant knowledge can have on the perception of existence.

In terms of Grendel, purpose is what Grendel does and views as being the most worthwhile to him.

The dragon’s ideas are hold significance as they remain relevant to Grendel’s perception and reception of the world around him throughout the novel.

  1. The dragon is significant because it redefines what Grendel perceives his reality as.
    1. The dragon is first introduced in Chapter 5. Grendel is constantly trying to find purpose in existence for himself, and his interactions with the dragon gives him his first sense of purpose. The dragon presents his nihilistic view to Grendel, and changes what Grendel views as the truth about his reality.
    • “You are, so to speak, the brute existent by which they [mankind] learn to define themselves” (Gardner 73).
    • “You are mankind, or man’s condition: inseparable as the mountain-climber and the mountain” (Gardner 73).
    • The dragon explains the dual nature of Grendel’s existence as a “brute existent,” highlighting both the significance and insignificance of it. The dragon regards it as the inseparable condition of human beings, but also highlights the mercurial nature of Grendel’s purpose, stating that if Grendel “withdraw[s], [he will] instantly be replaced,” explaining that “brute existents” are “a dime a dozen” (Gardner 73).
    • “I was Grendel, Ruiner of Meadhalls, Wrecker of Kings!” (Gardner 80).
    • “I had become something, as if born again [after visiting the dragon]” (Gardner 80).
  1. Beowulf’s depiction as a dragon holds significance as it illustrates the true lasting impact that the dragon’s ideas have had on Grendel through
    1. Grendel’s fight with Beowulf in the final chapter references many of the ideas that the dragon first introduced in Chapter 5, whilst also depicting Beowulf to possess similar qualities to the dragon.
    2. Beowulf described as similar to the dragon
    • “his hand still closed like a dragon’s jaws on mine” (Gardner 168).
    • “charged like fangs with poison” (Gardner 168).
    • “His syllables lick at me, chilly fire” (Gardner 170).
    • “He has wings” (Gardner 169).
    • “His eyes…cold-bloodedly watching” (Gardner 168). Dragons are cold-blooded creatures, both literally, as they are reptiles and figuratively in the sense that they care more for their own material possessions and — especially in the case of dragons in Grendel — tend to have an existentialist or nihilistic perception of the world.
    1. Similar ideas presented
  • A meaningless swirl in the stream of time…complexities” (Gardner 170). Complexities denote the structure and history that humans create for themselves, which are nothing but a “temporary gathering of bits,” emphasizing the “random” nature of existence that the dragon points out through its nihilistic explanation of the universe.
  • The world is my bone-cave” (A potential reference to catacombs, suggesting the dragon-like qualities of Beowulf in that dragons can view the world around them as their ‘catacomb’ as they are typically the most powerful creatures in the world, which can be said similarly of Beowulf, especially when he mentions that he is “stronger in the ocean than any other man alive” (Gardner 161).
    1. Lasting significance on Grendel’s perception and reception of his surroundings
  • “I do not listen. [in response to Beowulf’s whispering] I am sick at heart. I have been betrayed before by talk like that” (Gardner 170).
  • “Nevertheless, it was by accident…he penetrated no mysteries…was lucky” (Gardner 172). Grendel displays the influence that the dragon’s nihilistic ideas have imparted on him. Grendel states that Beowulf’s victory in battle over him was by chance, despite Beowulf’s “lunatic theory of matter” (Gardner 172).

TOK Past Communications

During the 1980s and 1990s my parents mostly communicated to others using mail, fax, and phone calls. The primary methods of communication that my father used in 1980s was mail and fax. Writing physical letters, faxing messages, as well as talking with others in person was an integral part of communication then. During the 1990s, when electronic mail began to gain traction, my parents mostly used a combination of mail, fax, and letters to communicate.

In the 21st century, as email became more and more prevalent, with phone calls becoming easier and cheaper to place, they started using those as their main form of communication. Today, email and phone calls are still used widely, but with the advent of social media platforms — most notably WeChat — forms of communication have also extended to instant messaging services.

TOK Ways of Knowing

Are there ways of knowing more likely than others to lead to the truth?

To answer this question to any satisfactory degree, a premise must be set that defines the ways of knowing and what truth is. Truth can be defined as the objective reality, or an objective fact, and a way of knowing is a method of reaching a conclusion through information given. The ways of knowing as the IB curriculum acknowledges them are as follows:

  • Reason/Logic
  • Emotion
  • Intuition
  • Sense Perception
  • Language
  • Imagination
  • Memory
  • Faith

There is no one way of knowing that is superior to all others in terms of reaching the truth. The most effective method of knowing is to combine all ways of knowing cohesively. However, certain ways of knowing are more reliable and widely applicable than others — memory, logical reasoning, and sense perception combined together generally provide the most accurate and precise method of knowing.

For instance, faith and belief in a higher power caused people to believe that Ganesha statues in India were drinking the milk offered from their spoons, separating them from the objective reality, which was that the statues only appeared to drink milk as a result of the capillary effect.

It was only through closer scrutiny using reason, sense perception, and memory scientists determined that the statue only appeared to drink milk because of the capillary effect, which allows liquids to flow against gravity into small areas. reason was used with sense perception and memory to accurately and logically produce an explanation for the phenomenon. This example clearly highlights the strengths of logical reasoning, sense perception, and experience in terms of reaching the truth.

However, a possible counter argument is that that there is only one way of knowing that is superior to all others. One may argue that reason above all is the best way of knowing, as one can use logical reasoning to provide an accurate explanation for virtually anything. Since the universe runs on given laws and systems, a logical understanding of those fundamental systems is therefore the most applicable and effective way of knowing that can reach the truth. While this is true to a certain extent, a prime example that indicates otherwise is all around us — in the case of human emotions and thought, the vast majority of human behavior can be predicted, analyzed, and manipulated given enough understanding. Despite this, humans in mental conditions like insanity and dementia or have psychopathic tendencies are incredibly unpredictable. The mercurial nature of severe mental states like insanity is such that even the most reasonable, well thought-out person can find that reaching the truth behind an insane persons intentions virtually never succeeds. It is in instances like these where reason alone is hardly enough to begin to scratch the surface, the dependent nature of the ways of knowing is revealed. The most reliable way of reaching the truth behind an insane persons decisions requires a person to employ a wide range of ways of knowing in order to reach even a satisfactory answer: reason and sense perception still must be utilized as to draw on knowledge regarding the patients condition; memory and experience must be incorporated in the sense that an experienced mental health practitioner has an intuition towards what an insane person is really like; and language must be used effectively to communicate the truth across mediums like written text and videos. For some, faith as well as emotion may become an integral way of knowing for when addressing an insane person, and for others, imagination could be used to help understand the mental distress that an insane person may experience.

The ways of knowing cover diverse, often overlapping, spheres of human perception. There is no singular method that trumps all others, and while certain ways are more applicable than others, none can be said to be superior to another — the most accurate method of knowing is to use the ways of knowing in tandem so to best reach the truth in a manner that extends across all aspects of human knowledge.

Learner Portfolio Reflection #3

  1. How does Gardner explore the concept of purpose through Grendel’s interactions with other characters in the book (such as the dragon and the townspeople)

Grendel’s Purpose

Grendel is constantly trying to find purpose for himself, and his interactions, such as those with the dragon and the townspeople, help shape his own beliefs of purpose.

  • “I was Grendel, Ruiner of Meadhalls, Wrecker of Kings!” (Gardner 80).
  • “I had become something, as if born again [after visiting the dragon]” (Gardner 80).
    •  Shortly after seeing the dragon, Grendel gives himself the title
  • “You are, so to speak, the brute existent by which they learn to define themselves” (Gardner 73).
  • “You are mankind, or man’s condition: inseparable as the mountain-climber and the mountain” (Gardner 73).
  • “Brute existents, you know, are a dime a dozen” (Gardner 73).
    • The dragon gives Grendel’s existence some meaning, attaching it to the inseparable condition of humans.

Materialism in Grendel vs Other Texts

  • Gold/Treasure
    • The dragon’s views of gold remain constant throughout both texts
    • “My advice… is to seek out gold and sit on it” (Gardner 74).
    • Literary trope of “Dragon sickness/charm” (Giving others a new perspective of the world; ex. The Hobbit)
      • The dragon is suggested to be literally sick in Grendel, ironically echoing the literary trope of “dragon sickness” or “dragon charm,” in which those that talk with dragons tend to develop qualities similar to the dragon, like greed and all-consuming self-interest. (?)
        As the idea of a dragon’s talk influencing characters in a certain way encompasses dragon charm, the dragon also literally gives Grendel a charm that protects him from physical harm.
        Dragon sickness is also said to be figuratively contagious, with characters that meet dragons succumbing to the dragon’s talk and mirroring qualities of the dragon itself.
      • In Chapter 6, after meeting the dragon, Grendel begins to display similar qualities to dragons. He plays with the thoughts and perceptions of Unferth during the apple-fight and when Unferth goes to his cave.
        • “Whatever I may have understood or misunderstood in the dragon’s talk, something deeper stayed with me, became my aura” (Gardner 75).
        • “But there was one thing worse. I discovered that the dragon had put a charm on me: no weapon could cut me” (Gardner 75).

Zodiac Signs

  • The dragon appears in Chapter 5, associated with the 5th Zodiac sign, Leo. Leo is associated with fire and fixed modality — literally dragon fire and the standard dragon’s materialistic viewpoint of the world.
  • The constellation Leo is associated with the Nemean Lion, an ancient Greek monster that had skin impervious to weapons and physical damage, much like what the dragon gives Grendel in Chapter 6.
  • Leo’s opposite Zodiac sign is Aquarius, the 11th Zodiac sign. Chapter 11 addresses the arrival of Beowulf, who is alluded to be related to water and the ocean in some way
    • Through Grendel’s mother’s statements to “Beware the fish” (Gardner 149)
    • Beowulf is described as having many water-related/sea-related qualities
      • He comes by boat to the town
      • “The sea-pale eyes” (Gardner 155)
      • “I’m stronger in the ocean than any other man alive” (Gardner 161)


Learner Portfolio Reflection #2

During the process of the timed writing, I felt relatively focused and clear about what I wanted to write. However, upon reflection, I realized that I was figuring out my argument and evidence as I was writing it. Despite having planned out part of my argument (selecting evidence, writing topic sentences) in an outline prior to beginning my timed write, I still made revisions to my argument as I was writing it down. From the review of my timed write, I felt that one topic I should work on is choosing a specific and short enough approach to the text in order to fit in the time limit. The approach I chose (writing about the content in each stanza) was just not reasonable for the amount of time I had, and as a result I was not able to finish on time. When writing the diagnostic, once I had an idea for how I would approach the text and what I would write about, I started by finding evidence from whichever portion of the text was the most easily approachable. From there, I started from the top, going stanza-by-stanza and outlining what I would write for each of the stanzas.

What kinds of writing habits do you have and what do you want to change? One habit that I feel occurs in my writing in general is the tendency to use empty praise when describing the author’s actions or decisions regarding the text. I would try and change this by substituting or removing empty praise with words that denote actual meaning (like replacing “smartly employs” with just “employs”) in order to make my text as concise as possible. I also have a tendency to be redundant when writing, something that I hope to fix with more revision and practice.

I often find myself completely lost during the annotating and reading part of analyzing a new text, and I have trouble finding a good place to start looking at how I want to build my argument. My main goals will be developing my annotating and on-demand literary analysis skills as well as working on focusing my argument to be less redundant and more specific.

English Portfolio – Reflection #1

What do you think of it and its ideas, as well as its literary artistry? Please offer specific examples and/or textual support to explain your thoughts and interpretations. What questions do you have about it and what are you interested in exploring further? What personal responses and reactions have you had to it–and why? 

 I think that Grendel is a well-crafted work of literature that encapsulates the concept of perspective. I gained a new appreciation and understanding for Grendel’s plight and how that relates to his interactions with Beowulf and Hrothgar’s kingdom. While Grendel is viewed as a terrible monster by the townspeople, he himself is looking for a form of acceptance and recognition. I thought it was particularly interesting how Gardner turned one of the oldest pieces of English literature into a book that relates to so many relevant, varied subjects like the structure & roles of society (Hrothgar’s kingdom and Hart). I find Grendel‘s interpretations on the idea of purpose in life especially intriguing. Grendel’s “purpose” in his life (as he views it) is to gain recognition or love. When Grendel visits the dragon, he explains that Grendel is man’s “brute existent” (Gardner 73), and that Grendel’s existence is akin to “man’s condition” (73), suggesting that Grendel’s purpose is to give man its incentive to progress and develop. While this is a relatively shallow interpretation that lacks definition or focus, I think that the way Grendel explores the idea of purpose, or wyrd, is one that has much to offer.

TOK Pre-assessment

“What do you know for sure, and how do we know it?”

In my opinion, there is no objective truth or fact as far as humans know, as everything we experience and believe in comes from ourselves. All that we can see and observe is transferred directly from the senses of our body (like sight and smell) to the brain, making it “objectively true” only in our own perception of things. When a large number of people perceive something the same way, they reach a consensus and that typically becomes an objective fact. An example of this is in scientific research, where scientists work together to devise experiments to explain natural phenomena, the results of which are analyzed by scientists to reach a scientific conclusion.

Weekly Reflection #5

This week for me was more productive in terms of completing coursework. While I am more behind than I anticipated in my goals for this year in Tutor Training II, I think that completing the course by the end of March is an achievable goal for me. On another note, I’ve settled into a routine that works well for me for eLearning. The only issue now is staying focused and efficient while doing work.