Reflection on Politics

During the group discussion, my group talked about how, when considering if one is “political,” one usually makes the decision based on if they value, are knowledgeable enough, and actively follow politics. Keeping this in mind, I don’t really consider myself to be “political” because I don’t feel knowledgeable enough about politics. My main source of information on politics usually comes from my parents or friends as I don’t actively follow news platforms. I’m also not that interested in politics or don’t value it in as high a regard as my other interests. However, I do think politics is important and am interested in learning more about it. Especially in today’s day and age, following politics is important as one should be knowledgeable about the society (country) they chose to live in in order to make choices for themselves.

During class, we discussed if “everything is political.” One of the main things we discussed was if “love” is political. Although I see how it can be viewed as political (e.g., love is political in the sense that some marriages are used to gain power or authority), I think it really depends on how you perceive it. Some marriages may be political, but not all marriages are. Therefore, I believe that the statement is limiting when it says “everything” is political. One political marriage does not indicate that all marriages are political. Some people might not even be involved with politics enough to understand how love can be politically viewed and therefore see love as only pure and genuine. Furthermore, I think that whether if something is political or not depends on where and how you perceive something. Not “everything” is political because not everyone sees things the same way.

My Political Compass: 


The Political Bias Test:


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Takeaways from “The Social Dilemma”

After viewing the documentary “The Social Dilemma,” I feel like I have gotten an inside view of social technology and the implications and influences it has on the modern-day. Prior to the viewing, I had no idea that algorithms were at play, tailoring to the individual. Essentially, it would filter out data based on the type of person they evaluate us to be. In such a way, the self-learning algorithms can be biased, tailoring everything, from recommendations to advertisements, based on the individual. It’s scary to think how advanced technology is that it has the ability to stay ahead of us—that is something that, if we don’t control, could be detrimental to us in the future.

As a social media user, I was also shocked by the knowledge that authoritative governmental systems often utilize social platforms as a means to manipulate their citizens (for instance, the Myanmar government). Social media provides more outlets for people to share and acquire political knowledge. Such a thing could have both positive and negative implications. On the one hand, people have easier access to the information; however, the information isn’t always reliable, and government systems have better control over their citizens.

Overall, this film made me reevaluate the ways I have approached social platforms and become more cautious about the kinds of information I believe in, as well as the time I spread on these platforms. As society advances, I think it’s imperative to keep in mind the negative side of technological advancements so we’re not clouded by the benefits.

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HL Essay Outline (V1)

“Tedium is the worst pain”—A look at the portrayal & purpose of Unferth in Grendel


  • A dive into the Anglo-Saxon culture—briefly exploring societal values (courage, bravery, physical skill, comitatus, faith in God, desire for fame and immortality, heroism etc.), expectations for men, and the hero complex

Thesis Statement:

  • Possible Thesis: John Gardner portrays Unferth as conventional thane, desperate to clear his name of “brother-killer” and to become the epic hero. Ultimately, he is destroyed by expectations of heroism and, similar to Grendel, is an outcast of his society.
  1. Body Paragraphs

1st Supporting Idea: Unferth’s portrayal as a conventional thane

  • Evidence #1: “…youthful, intense, cold sober” (Page 82) –Attitude and hopefulness
  • Evidence #2: “Monster, prepare to die!” (Page 82)—Conventional “hero” saying
  • Evidence #3: “Then up spoke Unferth, Ecglaf’s son, top man in Hrothgar’s hall.” (Page 160)—Ecglaf’s standing in Hrothgar’s kingdom

2nd Supporting Idea: Desperateness to clear his name and become a hero

  • Evidence #1: “Tell them in Hell that Unferth, son of Eclaf sent you…” (Page 82)—Attempt to kill the monster
  • Evidence #2: “This one red hour makes your reputation or mine!” (Page 83)—Wants to be known as a hero
  • Evidence #3: “I’ve had enough.” (Page 103)—Wants to clear his name of “brother-killer”
  • Evidence #4: “I knew, for one, that the brother-killer had put on the Shaper’s idea of the hero like a merry mask.” (Page 104)

3rd Supporting Idea: Comparison with Grendel—an Outcast of society

  • Evidence #1: “His eyebrows shot up. He’d understood me; no doubt of it now. ‘You can talk’ he said.” (Page 83)—Grendel and Unferth are the only ones that can understand each other
  • Evidence #2: “…I don’t recall hearing any glorious deeds of yours, except that you murdered your brothers. You’ll prowl the stalagmites of hell for that, friend Unferth—clever though you are.” (Page 162)—Beowulf destroying Unferth’s ideals and bringing back his guilt
  • Evidence #3: “He forced a smile, but it twisted, out of his control. Tears! He got up suddenly and, without a word, walked out.” (Page 164)—Unferth’s inner struggles
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Interview on Technology with Family Members

For this task, I interviewed two family members—my mom and my grandma—and compared their educational experiences with mine to learn how the tools used to learn and produce knowledge changed throughout three separate decades.

In 1958, my grandma attended elementary school in Hubei province. Later on, she attended middle school but not high school due to the “文化大革命” (cultural revolution). When the “高考” (Chinese college entrance exam) resumed, she took it and went to college in 1978 for three years. Throughout her education, she recalls that the students back then were only given “课本” (textbooks) to learn from, which were also the only learning source the teachers relied on. The students would study, review, and do the homework based on the textbooks. She also mentioned that they didn’t have calculators back then. No matter how hard the mathematics was, they would have to use pen and “草稿纸” (scratch paper) and calculate the problem out. Personally, “三位数乘除法” (3-digit multiplication/division) was always a hassle for her to calculate.

My mother attended middle school and high school in Beijing during the 1980s. She later went to university in Beijing in 1987. Like my grandma, my mom said that for school, they only used paper materials for everything, from homework to textbooks. Teachers taught on blackboards and used the textbooks for reference. One difference would be that they had calculators for mathematical calculations. My mom mentioned that “education-wise, there weren’t many resources; therefore, everyone had the same resources. In that case, there was limited thinking and perspectives for people to consider.”

After hearing about these two experiences, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I am living as a student in today’s society. My teachers teach using a whiteboard and projector at school, projecting videos, resources, and others to teach the content. I have a variety of textbooks from multiple institutions, such as the IB program. Each student is given a computer with unlimited access to endless resources, educational applications, and online communication platforms. Almost in every way, my experience, compared to my mom and grandma’s, has been enhanced by the advancing technology to ensure the best education possible.

As technology advances, so does the development of personal and shared knowledge. Considering my mom and grandma’s experience, I understand that it must’ve been challenging to venture out into the world and consider multiple perspectives when only limited textbooks were provided. Such education hindered the global mindedness of individuals. People were limited to thinking a particular type of way, which limited their personal knowledge. As everyone in a community shared the same resources, shared knowledge was hindered in the same way. Therefore, with modern technologies advancing and bringing us a high-speed connection to endless resources and information, our personal and shared knowledge is also expanding.

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Ignorance is Bliss Debate Reflection

As the affirmative side, our argument consisted of five main points: ignorance is bliss as it can help reduce people’s anxieties and negative emotions, lead to improvements in people’s mental well-being, especially in patients, ignorance is bliss in the situation that adolescence who are exposed to extreme explicit content are likely to have harmed their mental development causing bliss, being overly ambitious can drive you towards unintended irreversible disasters, being overly ambitious can drive you towards unintended irreversible disasters, and that the Dunning-Kruger example shows that people are more confident about something when they do not know anything about it. We used a variety of lenses and examples to support our claims, such as with expert quotes from Aaron Darrell, a good example of someone who has developed complex PTSD from growing up with parents who were both prostitutes, and consumer behavior studies, showing effects such as the “blissful ignorance effect.

Meanwhile, the opposition has stated two main claims: ignorance can be a backward step for mankind and negatively affect wide populations. They mainly used examples from wars and conflicts to support their argument.

In terms of the debate, I believe that the affirmative team won. Although the opposition has valid points, and personally, I agree with their side of the claim, the affirmative side was more prepared and had multiple points, a variety of perspectives, and impeccable evidence to support their argument. The opposition mainly argued around one main claim and decided the disprove the affirmative team by attempting to prove that they were “off-topic.” Such actions only prove that they did not have enough rebuttals and points as they were unprepared and were merely making big claims.

Personally, I fall with the negative side that ignorance is not bliss. Certainly, ignorance may bring bliss in certain circumstances; for instance, watching a TV episode may bring me bliss while I’m overwhelmed with school work. However, the bliss that ignorance brings is shortlived; eventually, bliss will turn into panic, anxiety, depression, and more. With the TV episode example, after watching the show, I would return to reality and realize how much work I have. In that case, I actually lost more time trying to forget about the workload by watching TV, which makes me more overwhelmed and anxious about my deadlines.

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

“Truth” is a term that countless philosophers have attempted to define. However, because our views of truth are tied closely with our perceptions of it, there can be no single definition of truth. Therefore, the extent to which one way of knowing is “more likely” to lead to the truth than others depends on the type of truth, and the situation presented.

In the case of the Ganesha milk miracle, faith is the way of knowing that best leads to religious truth: the truth of God. This miracle began on September 21, 1995, when an ordinary man in New Delhi dreamt that Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God of Wisdom in Hinduism, craved milk. Upon awakening, he offered a spoonful of milk to Ganesha’s small stone statue and watched as the milk disappeared as if consumed by the God. Although scientists quickly attributed this event to natural scientific phenomenons, such as surface tension, they were unable to explain why it stopped abruptly within 24-hours. The people then turned to faith—the complete trust in something—believing that it was indeed their Lord Ganesha that was drinking the milk, signaling to them that he is real. In this situation, faith was more likely to lead India’s people to a religious truth rather than other ways of knowing, such as scientific reasoning.

However, reason would more likely lead to establishing scientific truths than faith and other ways of knowing. In this case, reasoning refers to logical thinking, while scientific truth means something most of the scientific community has approved. As this kind of truth requires a more direct, logical approach, reason is the more suitable way of knowing. For example, with Newton’s law of gravitation, he used his observations of apples falling off trees and reasoned that it was due to particles’ attraction in the universe. In this case, faith would do little to help explain the behavior of falling apples. With these examples, faith was better at leading to religious truths, while reason was better at leading to scientific truths, showing that the type of truth and situation matters in determining which way of knowing is mostly like to lead to which truths.

Many might say that there are some ways of knowing that are always better than others, such as reason and perception, when the truth is defined as certainty validated through science, math, and logic. For instance, one example would be the Getty Kouros. The Kouros, a marble statue, was found to be fake after several scientists experienced intuitive repulsion. Ultimately, it was carbon dating and archeometry that confirmed the accusation. Although here, reason and perception are the superior ways of knowing, it’s important to remember that there are various forms of truth—from religious to scientific and more—that determine which way of knowing is the most beneficial. Furthermore, due to the various types of truth, the extent to which some ways of knowing are more likely than others to lead to the truth depends on the situation and type of truth at hand.

Works Cited

Das, Subhamoy. “What Was the Ganesha Milk Miracle?” Learn Religions,

Kimmelman, Michael. “Absolutely Real? Absolutely Fake?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 Aug. 1991,

“Newton’s Law of Gravitation.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,

“What Is Scientific Truth?” Taylor & Francis,

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HL Essay Topic/Question Brainstorm

HL Essay Brainstorm

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Reflection Upon Feedback for Diagnostic Writing Sample

One takeaway from this writing piece is that I realized I write my analysis by going through each stanza. By doing so, I limit the ability to look at the poem holistically, making connections between ideas and across stanzas. For instance, one of the points that I talked about was the author’s usage of capitalization of his lover’s name and the word “Honor.” To improve, I could discuss this usage throughout the poem in one paragraph instead of mentioning it separately as they come up in each stanza.

Another takeaway would be to reduce the usage of paraphrasing. In my writing, I began by paragraphing the stanza and then analyzing the meaning. In the future, I could minimize paraphrasing by starting paragraphs with a central idea or claim so that I can structure my analysis around the idea.

I also noticed that I have a habit of using cliche transitions, such as, however, in conclusion, first, second, and third, etc. As I write more and develop a better understanding of ideas and structuring, I would like to work on analyzing a piece of work in a way that fits the poem, which could reduce the cliche and mundane usage of certain terms and phrases.

My goals:

  1. Reduce paraphrasing! (by having a claim at the start of each paragraph and developing them through analysis)
  2. Utilizing the hallway test in my analysis (if I say this in the hallway, what would a clueless bystander say?)
  3. Reducing cliche transitions and increasing my vocabulary
  4. Don’t analyze by each stanza
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Grendel Reflection #1: Grendel’s Mother


Grendel, by John Gardner, is no doubt a beautifully complex piece of literature that transcends beyond normal standards and dabbles with various themes and ideas, which Gardner uses to spin an intricate web that ultimately explores everything. The text’s meaning is integrated into our everyday lives to the point where it’s hard for us to perceive something and not think: that’s Grendel! Even in these circumstances, it’s difficult to be influenced by every idea the text explores. Therefore, the theme that currently floats within my consciousness and refuses to vanish is one that’s represented through the relationship between Grendel and his mother: the hardships of parenthood. 


Grendel’s mother has one sole purpose in life: to take care of Grendel. She “clutches at me [Grendel] in her sleep as if to crush me [Grendel],” desperately trying to protect him by attempting to put herself between him and the evils of the world (Gardner 11). She’s flustered at the idea of Grendel growing up and wants him to stay her little child forever: “she whimpered, scratched at the nipple I had not sucked in years.” Here, Grendel’s mother scratches at her “nipple,” longing to nurse Grendel once more (Gardner 55).


Grendel, an angsty teenager at most, despises her and is incapable of understanding her true intentions: “She was pitiful, foul, her smile a jagged white tear in the firelight: waste” (Gardner 55). Grendel referring to his mother as “waste,” not only shows his disrespectful for her but denies her of her value and purpose in life. When his mother tries to warn him of Beowulf and the dangers that lie ahead, Grendel “lifts her by the armpits as though she were a child and, gently, [I] set her aside.” Grendel embodies teenage arrogance and believes that he is superior and more knowledgeable than his mother. As a result, he refuses to listen, “I push her away,” and rejects his mother’s warnings: “It crosses my mind that she knows something, but she doesn’t, I know” (Gardner 147). Inevitably, Grendel’s ignorance and indifference lead him to his death. 


The portrayal of Grendel and his mother’s difficult relationship really hits close to home for me. Through Grendel’s mother, I can see the many struggles of parenthood and the pain of watching your children roam the earth, never guaranteed with safety again. In many ways, Grendel is a reflection of myself, as well as other children, as we all embody the standard teenage characteristics: arrogance, ignorance, and impatience. Through examining the mother and son relationship, I greatly sympathize with Grendel’s mother and feel a new appreciation for my own parents. 

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What Do We Know & How Do We Know It?

Hi! I’m Karen, and this is my twelfth year at ISB. I love all things film-related, baking, hanging out with friends and family, and reading. I’m looking forward to embarking on this TOK journey!!

The question “what do you know for sure, and how do you know it” is difficult and layered. What constitutes as knowing? What does it mean to know for sure? As human beings, there are limits to our perceptions of the world. Since we view the world from the first perspective, our views and morals influence how we perceive things. For instance, people watching the same film might come out with different understandings and interpretations of the story. Our individualities have created custom-made filters for each of us, causing us to perceive in different ways, which is why we can’t ever be certain of what we see in the natural world, and we must question our judgments. Therefore, as we live within our consciousness, the only things we can truly know and understand is our existence: the fact that we are alive and have the ability to perceive, experience, and live in this world. 

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