Polis: August Gazette


ISB students love their History class…

Our first few weeks are nearing an end and I wanted to send out a quick update to parents and students concerning recent and upcoming events in class.

  • September 15th or 16th, both Junior and Senior History classes will go downtown on a field trip to Mao’s Mausoleum and the National Museum. More news on this later; permission slips will be going home soon.
  • Next week, the first Approaches To Learning grades will be reported. Students have been reminded of this and they have also been reminded of the ways that they can improve their performance between now and then. –This is particularly important for the students in our IB History classes who are using the new gradeless system. Please ask your student if she is keeping up with ATL.
  • I promised on Back to School Night that I would share the course book, and here it is in its latest form.
  • Our first Academic Challenge Day has passed, and although it was a soft introduction, the top three students from each class earned their places, so please applaud their performance. They are:
    • Global Politics:
      • Elizabeth M.
      • Ariana L.
      • Kevin W.
    • History A2:
      • Kevin Y.
      • Emily R.
      • Thomas C.
    • History A4:
      • Jessie F.
      • Petra B.
      • Tony J.
  • The questions that were asked of the students on our Challenge day are listed below, so that our community can keep up with our studies and review, and so that those students who need to revise can do so.

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns!


–Bill Tolley


Challenge Questions: First Challenge Global Politics and History I

Challenge 1: C3 Geography

  1. Name at least one country on the following peninsulae: Balkan, Iberian, Anatolia.
  2. What three countries comprised French Indonesia?
  3. Put the following in order from largest to smallest: Africa, Europe, Asia, India, Brazil, The USA
  4. Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and other small nations all used to be united in federation under what name?
  5. What is the name of the type of map used by European navigators during the Age of Exploration, still widely used in classrooms, that displays highly inaccurate perspectives on the word.
  6. What European country ceased to exist from 1795 to 1918?
  7. What is the most populous Muslim country in the world?
  8. What two cities host UN headquarters buildings?
  9. Name 5 countries that border or contain some section of the Himalayas.
  10. What are the 4 IB regions?

Challenge 2: IBO History or Politics


  1. Who was the African leader most closely associated with the fight against apartheid?
  2. What was the name of the German government during the Interwar Period?
  3. Which countries formed the Allied Powers in WWI?
  4. Who is responsible for leading the writing team that crafted the UDHR?
  5. The movie Avatar is a sci-fi depiction of what historical phenomenon?
  6. At the end of WWII, which two countries occupied Korea?
  7. What was the name of the failed, us-supported, invasion of Cuba in 1961?
  8. Who was Stalin’s number one opponent in his quest for the Soviet leadership?
  9. Who was the Argentinian doctor who joined Castro’s revolution in Cuba?
  10. In what war did the United States win Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and other territories in the West of the country?
  11. What was the name of the Eastern Roman Empire?
  12. What was the name of the authoritarian leader who ruled Korea in the 60s?


  1. German philosopher who devised the modern (non-Greek) concept of cosmopolitanism?
  2. Which Roman legal scholar said, “To not learn what happened before you were born is to forever remain a child.”
  3. What are the names of the two major political parties in the United States?
  4. What are the names of the two ethnic groups that fought each other during the Rwandan genocide?
  5. Who was the only non-protestant president of the USA?
  6. What is the acronym for the Southeast Asian version of NATO?
  7. What do the letters of NATO stand for?
  8. How many members sit on the UN Security council?
  9. Who are the P5?
  10. What is the name of the democracy leader in Burma who was arrested in 1988 and subjected to 16 years of house arrest in her own home in Yangon?
  11. Greenland is a territory of what country?
  12. What was the nickname of the 2009 protests in Iran?

Challenge 3: Approaches to Learning

  1. We have replaced multiple-choice exams with what app?
  2. What is the name of an image embedded on s term in our vocab app?
  3. Who are the two people on the cover of your syllabus?
  4. Where is Mr. T from?
  5. We don’t use the term “homework” in this class. What term do we use?
  6. What is the name of the course blog?
  7. What should your username look like in Evernote?

Back to School Night: Welcome!


We’re back!

And we have some exciting changes and continuities this school year. Returning seniors will continue their study of history as outlined below while incoming juniors may be either in my IB History I class or the new Global Politics class. The basic details of all of these are outlined below.

For further details on my course, me or my philosophy of teaching, please feel free to access the following websites and files via QR codes or hyperlinks below.

Please click for the latest version of our Course Guide. Please be aware, though, that this is a living document and updates will be made throughout the year.



My LinkedIn Profile

Linkedin Profile



Polis: Our Class Blog (This Website)

Polis: Class Blog



Mindsets for Modern Learning:

My Professional Teaching Blog at the Center for Teaching Quality

Mindsets for Modern Learning


Intro to Mr. Tolley:

  • Origin: From New York and New Jersey; now from wherever I hang my hat
  • Experience: 18 years teaching in Germany, South Korea, New York, Brazil and China
  • Courses taught at ISB: IB History and IB Global Politics, also Extended Essay Coordinator
  • Teaching Philosophy:
    • Modern learning with an emphasis on projects, simulations, standards-based grading and student ownership of their own development.
  • Favorites: 
    • Color: Silver
    • Music group: Radiohead
    • Book: The Sea of Fertility by Yukio Mishima
    • Star Wars Movie: The Empire Strikes Back
    • Food: Sashimi in any form

For more professional information, please see my LinkedIn Profile. I would be happy to connect with anyone in the ISB community.

IB Global Politics–(broad description of content)

  • The History of International Relations
  • Power in Global Politics
  • Human Rights
  • Peace and Conflict
  • Development

IB History I (Juniors) 

  • Authoritarianism
    • Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, student-selected
      • Field trip to Mao’s Mausoleum and the National Museum
  • Wars of the 20th Century
    • World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, student-selected
  • US Foreign Policy in the Americas and Asia
    • US Relations with China and Asia: 1800-2005
    • US Relations in the Americas: 1880-1929
    • The Mexican Revolution
    • The Americas in World War I, World War II and the Cold War
    • Looking to the Future: US Hegemony? China rising? A multipolar world?

IB History II (Seniors) 

  • Globalization (1945-2005)
    • The Cold War
    • Decolonization
    • China’s the United States role in the era
      • Field trip to Mao’s Mausoleum and the National Museum
  • Global Civil and Human Rights
    • In the Americas:
      • African-American rights
      • Latino rights
      • Native-American rights
      • Women’s rights
    • Apartheid in South Africa
    • Comparisons to human rights issues in East Asia

Here ends our brief introduction to my classes. Our 10 minutes tonight is, of course, not even close to enough time to thoroughly describe the course elements, so please feel free to contact me by email or any of the means provided above with any questions you may have. I am more than happy to meet with you at your convenience to to go into further detail.

Here’s to a successful and healthy year ahead!

Personal beliefs and perpetual peace


Objectively (i.e., in theory) there is utterly no conflict between morality and politics. But subjectively (in the self-seeking inclinations of men, which, because they are not based on maxims of reason, must not be called the [sphere of] practice [Praxis]) this conflict will always remain, as well it should; for it serves as the whetstone of virtue, whose true courage (according to the principle, “tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito”) in the present case consists not so much in resolutely standing up to the evils and sacrifices that must be taken on; rather, it consists in detecting, squarely facing, and conquering the deceit of the evil principle in ourselves, which is the more dangerously devious and treacherous because it excuses all our transgressions with an appeal to human nature’s frailty.

― Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace and other Essays on Politics, History and Morals


Today we started a discussion on one of the oldest idealistic views of our shared life on this planet: cosmopolitanism.

Philosophers, politicians, poets and activists have all embraced the idea, but it has yet to claim a secure position as a defining political activity that actively defines human relations. Perhaps it will never.

Kant’s quote above gets to the heart of this, and speaks to the question I have asked you to consider: What do you bring to the table in a discussion of cosmopolitanism, global politics and human relations? Kant would be more dramatic and ask us to squarely face the “deceit of the evil principle in ourselves,” but we are not going to assume that our transgressions are evil. We are going to assume that we have pre-existing notions and political beliefs that create conflicts between morality and politics–especially on a global scale–and we are going to analyze this potential to determine how it may define our world-view consciously or unconsciously.

Some nudges:

  • Do you believe your nation, ethnicity or culture is better than others?
  • Do you believe that no culture is superior to others, but all cultures are different?
  • Do you identify more with people from a similar background, or do you identify equally with any human you encounter?
  • How would you describe your political beliefs? Do you support a particular political party in your nation? Any nation?
  • How would your parents and family answer the above questions? Are your answers more similar, or dissimilar to theirs?

Feel free to expand your self-analysis. Stretch.


Some parting thoughts from Frank: Fukuyama

The effect of education on political attitudes is complicated, for democratic society. The self-professed aim of modern education is to “liberate” people from prejudices and traditional forms of authority. Educated people are said not to obey authority blindly, but rather learn to think for themselves. Even if this doesn’t happen on a mass basis, people can be taught to see their own self-interest more clearly, and over a longer time horizon.

Education also makes people demand more of themselves and for themselves; in other words, they acquire a certain sense of dignity which they want to have respected by their fellow citizens and by the state. In a traditional peasant society, it is possible for a local landlord (or, for that matter, a communist commissar) to recruit peasants to kill other peasants and dispossess them of their land. They do so not because it is in their interest, but because they are used to obeying authority. Urban professionals in developed countries, on the other hand, can be recruited to a lot of nutty causes like liquid diets and marathon running, but they tend not to volunteer for private armies or death squads simply because someone in a uniform tells them to do so.

― Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man

The Age of Obama

Obama grrove

You will learn in our classes that I have developed a progressive, if not radical, political perspective through the varied experiences of my life. (Returners know this already.)

This is why my friends sometimes make fun of me for my admiration of President Barack Obama. Barack Obama is far too moderate (publicly, at least) for my views. I am much more in line with 2016 candidate Bernie Sanders.  Pointing to this is a recent article I wrote penning an open letter to Barack Obama wherein I ask him to reconsider his views on education to better serve the United States. My points on education–at odds with Obama’s public position, are very much in sync with the more progressive Sanders’s views.

Still, I cannot but marvel at the miracle that is Barack Obama: that a black president would be so successful in a nation still so clearly torn on issues of race–it’s more than impressive: it’s historical.

Which brings us to our first extended discussion topic: the historical significance of Barack Obama as president. Ranking the historical worth and strengths of American presidents is not new; observers like to judge political figures historically. Historians, however, argue whether or not such evaluations are valid. Consider that the IB doesn’t regard any phenomena from the past ten years as “historical.” According to the historians at the IBO, a certain amount of time has to pass and a certain amount of historical literature has to amass before something can be evaluated as history.

Iran Deal

But that’s dumb. So let’s ignore it.

Read this article by economist Paul Krugman. He argues that Obama is one of the most successful president’s in history. Do you agree? What data informs your opinion? Reply to this post or bring up this issue as time in class allows.