Welcome to Acronym Park…

Hey hey, welcome again!

Can all knowledge be expressed in words and symbols? Well, that’s a question that is highly contestable. Welcome to Acronym ParkInternational Baccalaureate Organization hereon referred to as I.B. Then, there’s A.T.L. (Approaches to Learning)… and a few more. As I started to write this I started with the title Theory of Knowledge (T.O.K.): An I.B. Experience before joining the course. Here we look at knowledge – whether through words or symbols… or other.

Workaholic Rainbow Yuan attended a workshop firing questions at us, giving her respect and building our trust to create an environment of sharing. She was there to support our teaching team (now as students) with any concerns, and to share experiences. She set us a target and the below workshop goal:

This workshop will prepare educators to teach the Theory of Knowledge (ToK) in a manner that supports the IB philosophy. The IB philosophy is encapsulated in the IB mission statement and aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, caring and internationally-minded young people wherein ToK plays a central role.” – from a presentation by Rainbow Yuan

What is T.o.K.? It covers 12 concepts: evidence, certainty, truth, interpretation, power, justification, explanation, objectivity, perspective, culture, values and responsibility. Within the I.B. course of Language & Literature…

Theory of Knowledge – could and should be titled epistemology. It’s a major offshoot of philosophy. The list of famous stars to touch on the study (-ology) in epistḗmē include Aristotle, Ayn Rand, Susan Haack, King James I (after Scotland handed him to England in some sort of union) and R. Sentwali Bakari (Epistemology from an Afrocentric Perspective: Enhancing Black Students’ Consciousness through Afrocentric Way of Knowing). They’ve all contributed to the field and certainly the field has contributed to them (and their legends).

IB education pushes the A.T.L. skills creating resilient lifelong learners with an international outlook that extends learning into living. It blends education into post-education critical thinking. The continuum flows from primary education to middle and diploma programme years into later life. The purpose of TOK (Theory of Knowledge) is to give university preparation and rounded questioning skills. The application of “knowledge as a map” mimics and prepares students long in advance for university final year self-study. It builds a buoyant foundation.

The first learning engagement involved creating a single sentence summary (nota bene, n.b., sibilance set specifically to this scheme) of the I.B. ATL skills: A.T.L. skills crucially develop and recognise skillsets for lifelong learning and empower students to be self-sufficient, whilst remaining community innovative (for tomorrow).

What else do we need for international-mindedness? Challenges, obstacles, examples, exemplars and many other words could be added to the list below:

  • Sustainability; Change
  • Global values; Culture; Multilingualism; Beliefs; Identity;
  • Respect; Local; Privilege; Service
  • Perspective; Worldview; Experiences; Intercultural
  • Engagement; Action; Power; Technology

Identity is important to international-mindedness in that local and regional dialects or languages, or cultures should never be seen as inferior. Equality is key to allow students a level playing field to open dialogue. Without this powers shift and create imbalances. Those imbalances lack sustainability and change is a known constant. Change is inevitable. Respect for positive advancement or reactive reversal and proactive innovation whether in science, politics or English literature. None of this is possible without recognising unique identities of people and culture.

Four connections to the core themes could include: scope; perspectives; methods & tools; & ethics. They tend to be controversial and have multiple views or angles. Fact checkers and those who favour propaganda may have polar angles of their selected lens.

The I.B. T.O.K. course [see an example of a course outline] has an internal assessment by exhibition to show how T.O.K. manifests in the world around us. The course is comprised of knowledge and the knower; optional themes (32 hours combined); and areas of knowledge (50 hours). The course has tutoring time that equates to a century of hours. It then has an externally-audited essay to complete the 100 hour course.

Drawing upon specific examples in our learning experience we actively involved role-play with a strange family dynamic. Our three parents, Mrs Jamie, Mrs Nem and myself as a grandparent or guardian placed questions to a duo of teachers, Ms Hamida and and Mr Jason. Their job was to sell the course of T.O.K. to prospective parents with an explanation using objectivity, perspective, responsibility, culture and values.

A further role play allowed us to choose a question, expand on it, make it better and counter it. From that we presented it, shared it and questioned other teams. The subjects covered history (Cold War origins), Mathematics (big data), science (vaccine ethics), and the arts (Haute couture).

Essay question examples include: Can there be knowledge that is independent of culture? / Does it matter that your personal circumstances influence how seriously your knowledge is taken? The crux of these questions imply that the answers are debatable and contestable. The explanations must be questionable. They can be broad brought down to a shorter interpretation.

Coca-Cola Clear featured in one learning engagement convinced me that now I not only misunderstand knowledge but also have problems understanding what coke is as a drink. Perspective changes of brands, deepfake in ethics and scope, and methods and tools of technology throughout through fake and legitimate advertising create a bucketful of questioning and theory of knowledge.

In conclusion, I feel more aware of how the nature of knowledge can be construed. These can be personal whether remaining the same, adjusted or cast aside. On reflection, T.o.K. is an opportunity to create a project-style learning to prepare students for the university environment and demands. It gives independent learning a scope to flex its hypothetical muscle through query. There are even Walt Whitman poems used as examples to evoke T.O.K.

Who owns knowledge?

The owner of knowledge remains the informed and the adaptive consumer of knowledge who chooses to share this knowledge for a greater good. Or not.
Source.

What makes a good explanation?

Alignment of relevant themes allows conceptual questions to be given satisfactory answer pairings. The question may be loaded with variables like the word ‘good’ or ‘explanation’ or even ‘makes’ – each can be interpreted quite openly. The original message or information should be conveyed and interpreted with clarity. However, bias must be removed to allow an explanation to be heard. Many questions can be loaded with biased emotional and political themes, e.g. “to what extent does the Palestinian wall affect Palestine and Israel in international relations, social and economic ways?” It isn’t a straightforward question to ask, “What makes a good explanation?” The image selected below could equally be shared or discounted as an explanation of the question above. There’s normalisation, legal disagreement, acceptance of fertile land being grabbed by a dominative nation, ghettoisation, and numerous other matters on the negative flank of the wall. On the flip side, walls stop people and things being a threat and also can hold back perceived dangers. They could create labour opportunities and force dialogue about why a wall is there in the first place.

West Bank graffiti mocks Donald Trumps love of walls, Israel Times

How to create a T.o.K. question – the perfect recipe:

Add a spoonful of “to what extent does” or “how far can we”. Stir in a sprig of theory.

Blend with words such as expert, belief, certainty, justification, culture or faith. Alternatively you can add generalisation, authority or bias.

A pinch of evidence, truth, experience can also be dropped in when you whisk in a helping of indigenous knowledge for added flavour.

Cook on gas mark BLOODY HOT°C and ensure reliability is stirred in gently.

Fry imagination in a deep and boil romanticism in a milk pan until sense bubbles lightly.

To reveal the baked realism, we must ask ourselves, “How far can we reason with empathy?” Following that stewing, perception shall become fragrant and surrealism will be present when dipping a spoon into a broth of abstraction.

When beating an egg to allow empathy, question how do you separate apathy without a spatula? The answer of course is to use reason like a knife.

Go to the oven shelves and slide faith and illusion from the originality of memory to create a jelly for the icebox within your refrigerator. Use emotive language to confirm that ethics is piping hot throughout.

When stir-frying natural sciences with human sciences it is important to allow history to swell and trickle into oral memory.

With religious knowledge slice and crack communication as sensations for later, adding to inference into a salad spinner. Use a grater to weed out confirmation bias and allow adequate translation from culture to vested interests.

The concept of cooking is dependent on the use of one’s intuition to use emotion, theory and objectivity to deliver a product of stereotype straight from the passatutto food mill to a casserole pot. It is counter intuitive to chop by pepper pot when global thinking dictates a potato masher can apply adequate subjectivity.

Of course, of the above cooking instructions are subject to fallibility of interpretation, which can be found in the cookbook located by the paradigms of authority. From oral memory, exclaim pleasure at the explanation of rationalism. The steam of verification will rise with introspection. How trustworthy is the classification in intuition when it is laid out on a platter for the visitors of the buffet systems.

Following this, a few questions can be raised, , perhaps in mathematics (or not) such as:
How much do…? Does the…? Who determines…? Is it…? What contributes…?
How important to…? If you feel…? What relation…? Can we…? What is…? How does…? What role…? Should…? Are values…? How certain…? How reliable…? Does the…?

TRUST MY VALIDITY. I may remember more by talking gibberish! I have methods. I have values.


Further stuff to cram in your bonce for explaining the game:

Thank you kindly for your time.

Stage IV: Rainbow Mountains

How do!

Here we go again…

A little later than expected the Z6207 train rolled into Zhāngyè (张掖) Railway Station. The Lanzhou to Xinjiang Railway (兰新铁路/Lánxīn Tiělù) Service was not expected to terminate there. It would carry on to somewhere along the 1904km (1183 miles) line, perhaps even Ürümqi itself. The train Oliver and I had arrived on was not the train we were supposed to arrive on. We were supposed to have arrived on the 12th by 12:51. Here we were, in Zhangye, on the 13th, at 16:40. Our replacement train had been six hours late leaving Yinchuan in Ningxia, so that had long missed the connection at Lanzhou West in Gansu. We’d looked at countless alternative routes, alternative plans, flights and in the end, just waited. No simple solution presented itself. Many dull hours in Yinchuan station led to us boarding a train and waking in Lanzhou, to then tackle 12306 Chinese Railway customer services, with a handful of crap Chinese and a bucketful of determination. With regret, we opted for a 5 hour train journey in standing room only. By room, there was little room, although for the last hour of the journey, we managed to sit down. The train was cooler than the outside 38°C.

After arriving the local security and medical team at the station made us supply dates of travel, PCR (COVID-19) test results, green codes, phone numbers, places we intended to stay and our pet dog’s mother’s maiden-name. It was just a small hiccup in an otherwise wonderful travel. COVID-19 had seen many people pull their masks up as we approached. A very thoughtful act! Their saliva and spray from breathing could no longer get in our pathway. Some even jumped out of our way. Being vaccinated and the current pandemic has made many question our arrival dates into China. My standard response is, “Wǒ cóng 2020 nián 3 yuè 26 rì kāishǐ zài zhōngguó, wǒ yǐjīng liǎng nián méiyǒu chūguò guóle.” I may get that on a T-shirt: 我从2020年3月26日开始在中国,我已经两年没有出过国了。I have been in China since March 26th, 2020. I have not left the country in two years. Maybe on the back of my new Manchester City shirt?

The first thing we did was say hello to Waits and then go for dinner, an early one, a local dish of chicken in thick noodles and plenty of sauce. Waits had recommended it. We devoured it. Little remained. Following that we enjoyed a walk around the Zhangye Wetland Reserves (a Ramsar site: Ramsar is in Iran and happens to be where the 1971 Convention on Wetlands was held). The Hēihé (Black River or Weak Water/弱水/黑河) banks give this fragile temperate desert environment a surreal edge. It is a set of oases – some small oasis, some huge. I spied a Baer’s pochard (Aythya baeri), some gulls and a stork flying over. The water, in the evening, had cool fresh feel, lowering the temperature of the air around. It gives life in a tough place to live. We talked a little before all retiring to our hotel, leaving Waits to drive the short road home.

On the recommendation of Waits, the Zhangye Pingshan Grand Canyon (平山湖大峡谷; Pingshanhu Daxiagu) became our destination for our first morning in Zhangye. We hired a taxi to the destination for 229RMB. With access, via tickets costing RMB, and paths spanning out to the 1040 square kilometres filled with red-layer Mesozoic Jurassic rocks and sands. Gullies, stacks, sandstone mountains and years of erosion capped with grasses, small shrubs and few signs of trees as the near-sterile mountain swept over an almost-infertile great distance to the barren desert below. Here, Oliver and I wandered and explored the desert area, where it was spitting and cloudy. The toasting desert temperature of 35°C dropped to a pleasantly mild 22°C. After our wanderings we headed to the car park, and the Didi app failed us. We tried in vain to get a taxi. No joy. Not until Oliver managed to ask a hotel to help us. A kind woman taxi driver offered to get us to our next port of call for 258RMB (including an 18RMB toll charge).

Looking back as the taxi car pulled onto the new highway, the towering mountain-scape beyond the canyons looked dark green. The aspens, spruces and cypresses soon disappeared and the bleak desert surrounded the highway for some time. Soon after passing through the tollroad, the car slid into a long tunnel appearing beyond a range of mountains closer to Zhangye’s city. The car slowed and the driver explained something, and that her friend would carry on the journey. Her friend drew alongside our car and we were delivered on the roadside like contraband. Her friend was a talker, and never shut up yapping, even after Oliver and I fell asleep. We awoke as the car skidded to a halt at another of Zhangye’s Danxia landforms. The driver took my Wechat for contacting later and pushed for us to use her taxi on the way back. I declined, because we didn’t want to be rushed. I said I’d order her taxi later and pay. She agreed but still persisted. I said to her, “Do not wait.”

The colourful mountains of 张掖七彩丹霞旅游景区 (Zhāngyè Guójiā Dìzhìgōngyuán/Zhangye Qicai Danxia Scenic Spot) rise and fall like towering sea waves. They are devoid of life. Few plants grow. This is the driest area of the desert. The strata of rocks displays multitudes of colour over an area of around 510 square kilometres (200 square miles). The public access to the park is limited to a handful of areas to prevent erosion. The organic sediments make for a rainbow effect with colours often hard to describe. I went with blue-yellow, but Oliver said it was green. We couldn’t agree. Iron, trace minerals, sands, salts, uplifted sediments and silicilastic rocks make for a vivid and overwhelming landscape. Hematite (a kind or iron oxide), Danxia formations, yellowing metallic sulfurous rock, green chlorite rich clays and purple slithers give the eyes a challenge to decipher the blend of colours. Cameras do not do the region justice. Watching sunset here was a treat, just like the superb market Waits recommended for dinner afterwards! Gansu knows how to do beef noodles!

The shuttle buses, walkways and guided routes of the Zhangye National Geopark are a must. Long may people witness the glory of nature’s Qilian foothills. At first Oliver and I were disgruntled at being corraled along a pre-designated route, but the volume of people (easily tens of thousands) merited the passing of numerous gift shops, cafes and hot air balloon ride areas. The millions of years that have seen dinosaurs and their terrain smashed to smithereens gives us the impressive ‘Rainbow Mountains’. Tourism is under regulation to allow for that to continue. The 74RMB ticket includes the shuttle bus journey. Walking solo is now banned. Walking out of the exit gate after our wander, and checking my phone, I spied I had 8 missed calls from the taxi driver who had got us there. Just as I looked up, Oliver said, “Here’s the driver!” And, she tried to push us to move faster. I purchased some delicious apricots and Oliver browsed the souvenirs casually. Eventually we boarded her car. She had gained another customer who was sat waiting. We went back to the city. She dropped off the man, and he paid 200RMB. At which stage, we were famished, and decided to find food there. We told the pleasant but pushy taxi driver. She then demanded 450RMB! We agreed at 100RMB. She had tried to rip us off.

At 东大街 (Dond DaJie) we found 甘州市场 (Ganzhou food market; Ganzhou is the old provincial name) and ate twisted dish noodles (without fish). Cuōyúmiàn 搓鱼面 looks like fish, beef noodles and a crispy crunchy 洋芋擦擦 (potato wipe?). It was so good, that we went there the next day for lunch and ate like pigs, drank lemon water like it was going out of fashion and chilled in the heat. The day had taken us around Zhangye’s city centre to see the old wooden pagoda (西来寺; 50RMB not well spent), Great Buddha Temple (大佛寺: to see a lay down 34.5m long Buddha; 40RMB well spent) and the Bell & Drum Tower (rebuilt 1668, which now doubles up as a traffic roundabout; 10RMB entry). The city of Zhangye has much to offer, but sadly time was limited. With Waits being busy, I decided, over a cold Dayao (大窑: an Inner Mongolian soft drink that tastes like bubblegum), to depart the day after Oliver.

Oliver departed, on Thursday, by Didi taxi car to the Lanxin Second Railway/Lánxīn tiělù dìèr shuāngxiàn (兰新铁路第二双线) Zhangye West Station (张掖西站) and I turned right from the food market area. His connecting flight in Shenzhen being a week or so away, and my need to carry on wandering led to the shaking of hands and goodwill words. Now solo, I wandered around the city’s many parks and then went for a late afternoon nap. Afterwards, I met Waits for dinner and nattered until late.

Departure for myself came the next morning (Friday), again from Zhāngyē Xī Zhàn. Here I caught the D4011 to Jiayuguan. As it was available, I grabbed a first class train ticket for 125RMB. I wouldn’t usually do that, but as Chester-born comedian Jeff Green used to say, “F**k it, I’m on holiday!” So, I sat comfortably and enjoyed the plains, mountains, and rolling parallel railway.

Ta’ra for now!