Politics Reflection

In my TOK class recently, I explored my political bias through three tests. My results were a bit surprising. In the political compass test, I turned out to be considerably more libertarian than where I was two and a half years ago. They say a kid’s political bias tends to reflect his/her parents’ or family’s political perspective. I had always thought my parents were quite libertarian, so I didn’t expect myself to be more libertarian than before, rather more totalitarian. My economic bias stayed pretty much the same; I am still leaning a bit left. However, my PolQuiz results were quite different. I am leaning a bit right on the economic scale, and still slightly libertarian on the social scale. I find it very strange that the two test results about the same subject turned out to be completely different. At the same time, I slightly do see why my economic stances are opposing. I haven’t independently experienced the true day-to-day economy (as I’m still living under my parents), so it may be too early for me to have solidified an economic stance.

Hence, I do not think I am really “political.” I define a “political person” as someone who actively engages in political activity, and actively attempts to escalate his/her own needs and wants to a larger, more powerful voice. I do care about politics, and I do follow the news on relevant, important issues. However, I am not actively engaged in politics of any kind. I have not participated in any kind of protest or rally, unlike some of my cousins in Korea, to give an example of political activity.

The third test I didn’t mention above is the political bias test. The results show that I am less biased than approximately 70% of test-takers. I find this really strange because I got more than half of the questions wrong. I thought incorrect answers mean I am politically biased, as my bias is hindering my collection of factual information. Nevertheless, I am glad I am not too biased (apparently).

To conclude, I think one of the most damaging political issues worldwide lately is bipartisanship. Our society is being plagued by politically extreme views, no matter what the subject is: gender, race, economy, you name it. Looking through comments on online news articles, I feel like the general public tends to follow whichever party they “support,” without giving their own unbiased, factual, rational thoughts on political issues. Hence, the core of this issue, in my opinion, is self-education. The current political paradigm of bipartisanship will take extremely long to change, I think.




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Semester 1 TOK Reflection

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?  

The general focus on social media and technology was engaging. This includes the documentary, the group challenge, the visual gallery, etc. I was already aware of many drawbacks and dangers of social media, but I never researched or thought of specific consequences such dangers can bring to us, users. Thus, the activities related to social media and technology really broadened my understanding of the topics.

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

Continuing on from the first question, my perspectives regarding social media changed slightly. As I understood more and more of the consequences, I started to reflect on my social media usage, and started reducing my time on social media.

Looking ahead to the exhibition requirement, what do you want to keep in mind? 

By the time this blog task was assigned, our group was already done and ready with the exhibition. Hence, the most important aspects we kept in mind during the process was to stick to the question we have chosen, while keeping the response concise.

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

In any subject that involves substantial writing, I have trouble keeping my response directly relevant to the task given. I should keep on practicing that, close to how I was almost able to reach this goal in my exhibition.

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Producing Knowledge

I interviewed my mother about the technology she used when studying 30 years ago.

She never used any form of digital technology before college. Everything was just with a pencil and paper. She told me that she had simple calculators, but she did not use them. In Korean education (even right now), calculators are not used at all. Thus, she was used to doing calculations by hand even outside of school.

In college, only science and engineering majors used scientific calculators. Other students did not use any digital technology. She recounted using her friend’s word processor to write papers once in a while in college.

The first time my mom had “full-time” access to digital technology was in college. She got an Intel 80386-chip PC at home in 1988. The PC wasn’t really used for educational purposes though; she used it for gaming and recreational programming.

In college (starting from her junior year), the library catalog search system was run by a PC. That made research a bit easier in her opinion because, in the past, she had to search the entire library for appropriate research material.

My mother’s learning experience in general was quite different from mine. She told me that there were barely any application questions in tests, which means that she only had to memorize everything in the textbook. The only “hands-on” subject was science, with experiments once in a while.

In Korean report cards, you can see exactly how high your grades are compared to your entire class (2nd/87 students, for example). Therefore, grades were at the top of the top priority for my mother’s generation.

I feel like my mother’s education is much more structured or rigid, compared to my education. I think the harsh grade-focused system can easily cause students to lose confidence and fall way behind other students. In my generation, the development of the internet allowed information to be way more accesible to a wider population, diminishing the need fo knowledge to be spoon-fed to students. The development of technology also allows students to put less emphasis on acquiring information at school and focus more on other activties that cannot be acquired through information online.

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“Ignorance is Bliss”

In class, we had a debate on whether the adage “ignorance is bliss” is true or false. I was assigned to the affirmative side of the debate. The three adjudicators of the debate gave the affirmative the win, with a strange “scoring system” they had formulated (pro had 3 more points than con, apparently). If I was the adjudicator, I would have a really difficult time judging who won. Frankly, I would want to give a lose for both sides of the debate, but because I must choose who won, I would still say the affirmative had a slight edge. Here’s why.

I have never adjudicated a debate before, and I am pretty sure adjudicators have some formal criteria in judging. As I do not know the criteria, I will just make my own criteria.

First is the definition debate. The proposition started out with a mediocre definition, describing “bliss” as “sustainable bliss.” Usually, definitions should adhere to how most people define the prompt. In an everyday discussion, not many people perceive the “bliss” in the adage as “sustainable bliss,” as I have realized after asking many people about how they would define the phrase. Not one person I asked provided a solid definition, but they at least disagreed with the definition I prepared for the debate. However, the definition was not complete nonsense, and the opposition failed to provide a better definition, I would let it pass.

Second are the points. Both sides had decent points.

The affirmative took a clever but dangerous move, which was tying their points to the definition they provided. One was about how ignorance not only can make one happy but can also sustain that happiness unlike the act of gaining knowledge. The second was the classic “hear no evil, see no evil.” In some debates, the affirmative defines terms just for the sake of defining, but the affirmative here actually used their definition to their advantage. However, this was dangerous because if their definition was to be overridden by a better one given by the opposition, all of the affirmative’s points would be invalidated.

The opposition had rather strange points. Their first point, that in the long term, ignorance can hurt us, was excellent. The definition of the prompt is “ignorance is sustainable bliss,” but this point directly counters the definition. If they had managed to reason this out properly, it would’ve completely obliterated the definition, along with almost all of the affirmative’s points, leading the opposition to a clear win. However, they barely built on this point. The opposition had other points that did not seem to relate directly to the prompt. They were about how if we don’t gain knowledge, we are no different from animals, and how we are born to learn. Sure, their points are valid, but the points are arguing that ignorance is bad, but not that ignorance isn’t bliss.

Third are the rebuttals and the crossfires. These were almost non-existent throughout the debate. Both sides were just nit-picky; most of the rebuttals were tackling the examples both sides gave, but not the essence of the points. The crossfire was no different. The questions were all about examples. Even worse, both sides weren’t able to answer the questions properly. The speakers were busy trying to ask the questions they prepared but lacked the quick-mindedness to give solid answers to the questions.

To sum up the debate, I honestly don’t want to decide who won. A debate without clashes is not a debate; it is just a list of points for both sides of the prompt. Both sides were not engaged with their opponent’s points, shown by the lack of proper rebuttals and unproductive crossfires. However, I would still give the affirmative props for their points that adhered to the topic and the definition. Thus, if I was an adjudicator for this debate, I would give the affirmative the win.

Personally, I think each situation should be judged on its own. To claim that in all possible scenarios “ignorance is bliss” is definitely not true, but the converse is not true either. However, I think knowledge can maximize happiness. Sure, you can be blissful and ignorant at the same time, but with knowledge, you can be even more blissful. With knowledge, you will have a better judgment on what is right or wrong, what is good or bad, what is helpful or harmful, etc. Through these judgments, you can choose a track that will maximize your happiness.

In gaining knowledge, there is no responsibility anyone has. However, nobody should use the knowledge to deliberately harm others unless beneficial to society. For example, anyone can learn martial arts. However, martial arts should not be used to knock out someone to steal their cash. Martial arts should be used to protect someone or something from someone else. In both cases, you are deliberately harming someone with your knowledge of martial arts, but in the former case, you are doing nothing good for society, unlike the latter.

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

Yes, some ways of knowing are more likely than others to lead to truth.

Ways of Knowing (WoK) are 8 different methods that allow us to gain knowledge, which are emotion, memory, language, sense perception, reason, intuition, imagination, and faith.

The truth is a sophisticated concept, and it usually exists on a subjective scale, so it is very difficult to form a single definition that encompasses all its nuance. One widely accepted definition is that a proposition is true only if it accurately reflects reality. The truth can only be discovered by acquiring more knowledge, by utilizing the WoKs.

The WoKs don’t have equal importance or likelihood in finding truths. In most cases, sense perception is the most effective way to lead to truth, at least compared to WoKs that do not necessarily require empirical evidence, like faith. Take the statement “god exists” for example. From the perspective of faith, that statement may be true. However, the statement does not necessarily reflect reality because there is no empirical evidence that proves its existence. From sense perception, we know that we cannot see gods as of today, thus falsifying the statement.

Sense perception is the most primitive WoK, as it is hard-wired into our brains; we do not necessarily learn how to use our 5 senses, unlike some of the other WoKs. Faith and emotion aren’t necessarily based on any real-world evidence. As faith and emotion are really powerful but unfounded on any empirical evidence, they can even mislead us when attempting to find truths.

In fact, sense perception is the root of all the other WoKs. Even in cases where sense perception does not seem to be at play, it actually is, usually in an indirect way.

For example, “the word ‘apple’ consists of five letters” is an undeniable truth. Language seems to be the only WoK used, at first glance. However, people who do not know the English language will not know the term apple, thus fail to understand that statement in the first place. So, how do we learn languages? Through sense perception. We see and hear the language in written and spoken forms. Similar examples can be given for other WoKs.

One may argue that the 8 WoKs always work in conjunction to lead to truth and have equal value in the pursuit of truth. It is true that the WoKs are interconnected in their nature. However, one is failing to acknowledge that propositions must be proven to be true; a proposition does not become true just because one believes it to be true. Spiritual convictions clearly clash with real-world, observable evidence that can act as stepping stones to prove a certain proposition to be true.

In the end, the answer to this question is “yes, some ways of knowing are more likely than others to lead to truth.” The WoKs that are empirical and logical (such as sense perception and reason) take higher importance than the WoKs that are not (such as faith).

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