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Socrates and Jim Carey Share the Stage

Learning how to think is central to success in the International Baccalaureate, and the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) component is designed to do just that. And bringing that learning to life is the passion of our TOK supervisors.

On Friday, our new Year 12 IB students had the opportunity to see, played out on the stage, the seminal dialogue from Plato’s Republic, the Allegory of the Cave, in which the famed philosopher explored the nature of reality.

Donning rich robes for their starring roles as Socrates and his interlocutor Glaucon, Vice Principal Mark Wilson and IB Core Coordinator Pietie Koster brought to life one of Plato’s major beliefs, that real knowledge does not come from passing information from teacher to student, but through directing students and allowing them to make their own discoveries.

While the ancient words were sometimes hard to understand, Wing Fei Yiu from Year 12B says, “They spoke very well and with emotion, so it helped to understand what Socrates was really thinking.”

That understanding was further enhanced by adding a much more modern example. For homework leading up to the performance, students were tasked with watching The Truman Show, a film starring Jim Carey in which he lives in an unreal world and struggles with the idea of reality.

For Year 12B student Emiliano Dangio, watching the Allegory of the Cave performance brought clarity to his viewing of The Truman Show. He explains, “Honestly, I didn’t understand the implications of The Truman Show when I watched it first, but they prompted us to link it with Plato’s cave and now I understand the theme and how it can be an important part of the TOK.”

During this TOK introduction, students were also asked to draw how they imagined Plato’s cave to look, as well as participate in “inside-outside circles” where they were asked to discuss two key questions: Why they think they were asked to watch The Truman Show? And if they could think of any moments in their own lives which were like the Allegory of the Cave?

Mark Wilson says the students were very insightful with their answers, making particular mention of a situation common to many of us. He explains, “Some students spoke about moving to China, what they thought it might be like and then the reality once they were here.”

The TOK is part of the core programme for the IB but it impacts right across all subjects. Mr Wilson continues, “To get Level 7s in your IB subjects, you have to be using TOK thinking.”

There is no doubt this thoughtful and challenging TOK introduction has given our IB students a strong start towards developing this thinking.