I Know That I Kant

One of the biggest quiz shows on US Network TV is Jeopardy, in this show the contestants have to work out what the question was for an answer given by the quizmaster, for example the quizmaster may say “Mississippi”, and the contestant may answer “What is the longest river in North America?”.  The core idea of Jeopardy is rewarding people for finding the questions, I am a great fan of finding questions. Asking questions is absolutely key to being a great learner, and many of the most highly achieving students are those who are not afraid of asking questions. So, my first piece of advice is ask questions in class, when you don’t understand ask your teachers to explain it again, make a point of thinking of questions to ask.

Being able to ask questions requires that you know what you don’t know, being able to ask the right questions demonstrates an informed view of the gaps in your knowledge. In many cases knowing what you don’t know can be more useful than knowing what you do know. ToK students should be able to explain this in terms of German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s Black Swan, and Confirmation Bias. If you haven’t started studying ToK, however, Kant’s ideas can be summarised as this: we know that there are white swans, because we have seen white swans all the time. However, are all swans white? Can you say that all swans are white? The discovery of a single black swan would disprove the statement “all swans are white”. You never know whether all swans are white, and you cannot suppose that they are because it is impossible to back up the claim credibly.

So, my two quick tips to being a good IB Learner this week are:

  1. Ask questions in class, outside of class. Ask your teachers, your friends, the internet, and yourself.
  2. Know what you don’t know, and then try to fill those knowledge gaps.


Mr Daniel,

DP Coordinator.

Firestein, Stuart. Ignorance: How It Drives Science. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. Print.



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