You are on page 1of 7

Student Essay Sample Theory of Knowledge 12

There is no reason why we cannot link facts and theories across disciplines and create a
common groundwork of explanation. To what extent do you agree with this statement?
When I first encountered the title, I naturally reflected upon my own academic
experiences. I considered how the interdisciplinary nature of the International Baccalaureate
curriculum encouraged students to integrate the knowledge that they gain across various
subjects, thereby developing critical thinkers with unique perspectives. But what does it mean to
link facts and theories, and what exactly constitutes as common groundwork of explanation?
After much contemplation, I came to the conclusion that I agreed with the statement, which
indicated that the knowledge of any number of subjects is not confined to the limits of that
subject; rather it can be integrated among other subjects to create a coherent basis of
understanding.
The word discipline refersto divisions of knowledge, which are developed by
individuals and communities. Just as knowledge is subjective to the knower, disciplines are
subjective to the individuals and communities that identify them. Factors such as culture and
religion play a major role in what an individual or community accepts as knowledge, which in
turn impacts their definition of a discipline as well as the knowledge within that discipline. In my
school for example, Islamic Studies is regarded as a discipline, as religion is held in high regards
by the individuals who developed the curriculum. For other schools, Islamic Studies is instead
incorporated into the discipline of Social Studies. Given that the term discipline may vary
among different individuals and communities, and that knowledge is subjective, I can infer that it
is in the hands of the very same individuals and communities to decide whether the knowledge
within the disciplines may be integrated or not. Thus, I developed the knowledge questions: How
does the connection between the knower and the knowledge influence the manner in which the

Student Essay Sample Theory of Knowledge 12

knower classifies and integrates the knowledge? And to what extent do environmental factors
influence this connection?
The interaction between the knower and the knowledge is quite complex. To put things
simply, the knower is at the center of this web. Surrounding the knower is the knowledge, which
the knower may classify, based on a variety of factors. What influences the knowers
classification first and foremost, is what they accept as knowledge. Factors such as religion,
culture, and politics may play major roles in this determination. In short, the knower classifies
the accepted knowledge into categories based on a variety of factors. However, it is important to
clarify that I am not contending that each individual develops their own set of disciplines. Rather,
regions, academic programs, and societies, for example, are the knowers that define the
disciplines which are in turn adopted or rejected by the individuals. The disciplines that are
developed are malleable in the hands of the adopters. The essence of my argument is that due to
the fact that the disciplines are social constructs rather than absolute truths, one cannot deny
another the freedom to draw connections between them. Moreover, with many varying
definitions of disciplines, one surely cannot draw boundaries that limit their integration as their
integration must be reliant upon the same factors that influenced the classification of the
disciplines themselves. To take a closer look, I will examine the relationship between the two
International Baccalaureate disciplines, or areas of knowledge, the natural sciences and religious
knowledge systems, in two regions of the world, America and Saudi Arabia.
One obvious difference between the educational curriculum in Saudi Arabian and
American public schools is the fact that they are respectively non-secular and secular. Thus, in
this case, religion and culture are factors which influences the pool of accepted knowledge and
thereby the classification of disciplines. Islamic Studies is a core component of the Saudi

Student Essay Sample Theory of Knowledge 12

Arabian public school curriculum, whereas the American public school curriculum must
implement guidelines when teaching religion which include encouraging student awareness of
religions, but not acceptance of a particular religion; studying about religion, but not practicing
religion; exposing students to a diversity of religious views, but not imposing anyparticular view;
and educating students about all religions, but not promoting or denigrating religion (Moore,
Diane L.). Moreover, the Saudi Arabian public school curriculum often incorporates Islamic
studies into the study of natural sciences, drawing links between verses of the holy Quran and
scientific facts and theories ("The Saudi Arabian Educational System."). In the American public
school curriculum, on the other hand, religion, if taught, is most prominently a topic studied in
language and social studies courses, and not the natural sciences, most likely due to the lack of
meaningful integration that lies within the parameters of the aforementioned guidelines (Moore,
Diane L.). Thus, there is an evident divide between what the American and Saudi Arabian public
school curriculums identify as disciplines, as well as their integration of said disciplines. While
the Saudi Arabian curriculum identifies Islam as a discipline, which is integrated among the
other proclaimed disciplines including the natural sciences, the American curriculum identifies
religious systems as a topic incorporated into disciplines such as language and social studies.
Hence, it is clear that disciplines are in fact social constructs that vary from society to society,
which points to the fact that the integration of the disciplines to create a common groundwork
of explanation may also be dependent upon the norms of that society.
A potential counter-argument could be that there are universally defined areas of
knowledgesuch as mathematics, sciences, and arts.Accordingly, a majority of the world may also
integrate these topics or isolate them in a similar manner.However, I could rebuff this counterclaim in two ways. Firstly,I would like to point out that there are bound to be some nuances in

Student Essay Sample Theory of Knowledge 12

these commonly recognized areas of knowledge from region to region, culture to culture, or
society to society that set them apart from one another. For instance, the manner in which
religious studies are taught through the public school curriculums of America and Saudi Arabia
clearly differ, as proven earlier. Secondly, I would argue that even if there are some areas of
knowledge that are recognized throughout a majority of the world, that they differ in the way that
they are integrated or isolated. The manner in which knowledge is presented to the knower
impacts their perception of such knowledge. For instance, I noted that religious studies are
integrated into the natural sciences, among other subjects in the Saudi Arabian public school
curriculum to promote the religious values of the society. In the American public school
curriculum, on the other hand, religious studies are objectively integrated with language and
social studies. This exemplifies the extent to which disciplines can be more or less overlapping
due to societal influences, as well as the fact that knowledge is perceived differently depending
on how it is taught.
As knowledge and cultures develop and change, paradigm shifts influence the manner in
whichknowledge is classified and integrated to form a common groundwork of explanation.
For example, the Separation of Church and State in America, which served the purpose of
allowing all religious denominations to feel equal in the eyes of the law, was recognized and
implemented in the late 1700s and early 1800s (Flax, Bill). Yet religious teachings, mainly
Protestant, remained to be a component of the schooling system. However, in 1963, the United
States Supreme Court ruled that laws must serve "a secular legislative purpose and a primary
effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion (Jouet, Mugambi), thereby banning prayer and
religious teachings from American public schools. Moreover in 1980, they declared that teaching
theTen Commandments in school would be considered unconstitutional(Jouet, Mugambi).Thus,

Student Essay Sample Theory of Knowledge 12

as the values of society shifted from religious to secular, the school curriculums followed, which
ultimately shaped the disciplines within the curriculums. Another type of paradigm shift that
impacts school curriculums and the divisions of the disciplines is the development of knowledge.
For instance, although chemistry may once have been taught alongside other subjects under the
discipline of Science, it eventually diverged to become its own discipline. As knowledge
continued to develop, chemistry branched into organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry,
analytical chemistry, physical chemistry and biochemistry (Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D.).
This branching out can be attributed to the discovery of new particles and chemical phenomena.
That being said, one could propose that the development of knowledge influences the
classification of disciplines. And one final example proving that paradigm shifts impact school
curriculums and disciplines is the progression of technology, and its classification into various
disciplines such as Information Technology and Computer Science, as well as its assimilation
into various other disciplines such as the natural sciences.
I believe that interdisciplinary potential always exists, but is not always addressed,
whether because it is regarded as pointless, or simply rejected due to cultural or societal values.
The implications of this argument go far beyond academia. It suggests that we may be learning in
the fashion that our society sees best fit, rather than the manner which would be most beneficial
to us. We may be missing out on information because our society does not deem it necessary to
integrate certain disciplines that they identify, and create a common groundwork of
explanation; or we may be integrating disciplines in a manner which hinders our understanding
rather than cultivating it.Finally, I believe that the complex connection between the knower and
the knowledge is ultimately shaped by environmental factors including culture, religion, and
societal values, and is thereby undefined and malleable. That being said, I believe that there is no

Student Essay Sample Theory of Knowledge 12

doubt that we can link facts and theories across disciplines to create a common groundwork of
explanation however the real debate lies in the consideration of whether we should or not.
Word Count: 1,599

Student Essay Sample Theory of Knowledge 12

Works Cited

Flax, Bill. "The True Meaning of Separation of Church and State." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 9 July
2011. Web. 23 Jan. 2015.
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "What Are the Five Branches of Chemistry?" Chemistry. About.com,
5 Nov. 2014. Web. 29 Jan. 2015.
Jouet, Mugambi. "The Separation of Church and State -- Then and Now." The Huffington Post.
TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 4 June 2013. Web. 23 Jan. 2015.
Moore, Diane L. "Guidelines for Teaching About Religion." AAR (n.d.): n. pag. AAR Web. American
Academy of Religion, Apr. 2010. Web. 23 Jan. 2015.
"The Saudi Arabian Educational System." Impact-SE Report 1 (n.d.): 6-15. Impact-se. Institute for
Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education.Web. 23 Jan. 2015.