Recommended Resources for Teaching Theory of Knowledge 




Newspapers and Magazines: 


World Newspapers online (English versions available). Ask your students to bring the world into your classroom, not just a small

piece of it.  

The New York Times   If nothing else, subscribe to the Sunday edition or the online edition.   In particular, the "Book Review,"

"Week in Review," and the "Times Magazine" are full of rich ToK material for classroom debate. 

Time Magazine  Yes, it has a liberal bias, doesn't all thought-provoking journalism? When did liberal get to be a dirty word? 


Books:   If you can purchase only one text, buy Richard van de Lagemaat's Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma.  He just published

               a new revision that reflects the 2015 ToK changes to the program   


If you can purchase two, include Bryan Magee's The Story of Philosophy. The students love it.  I love it.  For yourself,

you will want to purchase Reuben Abel's Man is the Measure.   It has been the ToK bible.                      


Abel, R. Man is the Measure.

Adler, Mortimer.  The Great Ideas: From the Great Books of Western Civilization

Bronowski, Jacob. The Ascent of Man.

Browne, Neil & Keeley, Stuart.  Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking   

Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything.

Burke, James.   The Day the Universe Changed 


Damasio, Antonio B. Descartes Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain.  

-----------  The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness.

Danto, Arthur C.  After the End of Art 

Davis, Philip J. and Reuben Hersh. The Mathematical Experience.

Dawkins, Richard. Unweaving the Rainbow.

***  Dawkins, Richard. The Blind Watchmaker.   

De Bono, Edward. Lateral Thinking and Six Thinking Hats 

Durant, Will and Ariel.  The Lessons of History

Edwards, Betty.  The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. 

Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence.

          Horgan, John.  The End of Science 

Kuhn, Thomas.  The Structure of Scientific Revolutions 

Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By.                                                                                                                   

Loewen, James. B. Lies My Teacher Told Me.

Myers, David. Intuition.

Paulos, John Allen. Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences.

Pinker, Steven. How the Mind Works.

—. The Blank Slate

Sacks, Oliver The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. A noted neurologist, Oliver Sacks, "describes patients struggling to live

with conditions ranging from Tourette's Syndrome to autism, parkinsonism, musical hallucination, phantom limb syndrome, schizophrenia,

retardation and Alzheimer's disease. As a physician and a writer, Oliver Sacks is concerned above all with the ways in which individuals

survive and adapt to different neurological diseases and conditions, and what this experience can tell us about the human brain and mind."

Sagan, Carl. The Demon-Haunted World.

Schick, Jr. & Vaughn, Lewis.   How to Think About Weird Things 

Taylor, Mark.  The Picture in Question: Mark Tansey and the Ends of Representation   Mark Tansey raises an interesting question, "Is it

 possible to paint after the end of Painting?" Tansey is the ToK artist of the century, raising questions about perception, illusion, and

metaphorical meaning in art history.

*** van de Lagemaat, Richard.  Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005. van de

        Lagemaat, Richard. 




American Sign Language Browser   videos of  students signing ASL 

Annenberg Site  Video on Demand  Superior hour-long video discussions of ethics, music, art, language, etc. At no cost to you, if you

have a computer projector, you have instant classroom lesson plans developed by field experts. Under Ethics In America view segment #1

"Do Onto Others." 

BBC  The British Broadcasting Company is known for its excellence.  Specifically visit the site on ethics and religion for thought provoking


The Edge     Some of the world's greatest minds ask each other questions.

Ethics Updates 

Evolution PBS website with educational video clips

Forum: The Online Newsletter for Theory of Knowledge Teachers  

IBO Workshop Geneva 2004    Nicholas Alchin

L.I.E.S. Language in Extreme Situations  informative site on language manipulation/ doublespeak

NPR Archives online    An amazing wealth of audio interviews on science, art, history, politics, music, etc.  If you have a computer in your

classroom with audio capability, you have a lesson plan. Hurry before it is taken over by the government. 

Oliver Sacks   Neurologist who examines the nature of human perception. 

Orwell Rolls in His Grave   watch the online video trailer. Director Robert Kane Pappas’ Orwell Rolls in this Grave asks whether America

 has entered an Orwellian world of doublespeak where outright lies can pass for the truth. Six Corporations run today's media.  Pappas

explores what the media doesn’t talk about: itself.

St. Clare's, Oxford, an independent college, has an excellent Theory of Knowledge website that covers perception, mathematics,

philosophy, religion, world views, and politics. 

The Science of Gender and Science Pinker vs. Spelke A Debate 
Skeptic’s Dictionary

Stephen's Guide to Logical Fallacies 

Theory of Knowledge   maintained by Richard van de Lagemaat


Educational Videotapes and DVD's 


42: A Film by Michael Apted.  In 1964 director Michael Aped interviewed a group of seven year old children for the documentary "Seven

Up." He's been back to them every seven years. Now they are 42.  This is an interesting study of diverse backgrounds and cultural



American Photography: A Century of Images  The third video tape (1960-1999) is excellent for ToK. 


Beyond Human:  A PBS Home Video.  The remarkable synergy between biology and technology is blurring the line between man and

machine.  Beyond Human joins inventors, scientists and philosophers for an unprecedented voyage into the future of bioengineering and

robotics.  120 min. Use this in conjunction with either the film Gattaca or a look at the website from M.I.T. on Kismet, the robot with



Doublespeak William Lutz  This program looks at how the English language has been inflated and manipulated to distort, obfuscate,

or cover up meaning, or to replace meaning altogether. Illustrations are drawn from ordinary conversation, advertising, the workplace,

and the Iran-contra hearings, which offer a case study of governmental doublespeak. (28 minutes, color)


Evolution: from the 8 hour PBS Special  the following three (DVD) 30 min segments spark interesting classroom discussions. 

  • Why Sex? 

  • The Mind's Big Bang

  • What About God? 


Frontier House PBS DVD   You can "talk" about history or have the students examine what it would be like to go back in time. The online

website (linked here) provides engaging student  activities.  Frontier House is a six-hour series.  Each day before viewing the film

segments, student “pioneers” who were married (in class) or traveling with family decided how they would plot their journey. They planned

the amount of money, supplies, and strategies they would use to survive on the frontier.  The students couldn’t wait to get to school each of

 the three days.  This is exciting immersion history that helps students see the complex roles of economy, agriculture, technology,

education, and family structure in settling the Montana territories.   Interestingly many expressed an interest in participating in future

PBS history-based reality experiments.   They learned what has been lost and what has been gained in American progress.


The Human Face   John Cleese Symmetry in human faces teaches us about perceptual math and its link to emotions and evolution


Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth DVD set. A classic study of the need for (and power of) myth in human life. Religious and

economic systems are all based on a metaphor, a belief system, without which man would perish.   


KOKO  A film about a delightful gorilla who learned to sign-teaches us much about language in general. 


A More Perfect Union - America Becomes a Nation ( DVD) 

          PBS Emmy award -winning dramatization.

A comprehensive recreation of those stirring, heated debates during the sweltering summer of 1787. Filmed on location at

Independence Hall, Williamsburg, Virginia, and other historical sites, it dramatically chronicles how America became a nation

and those underlying principles that guard our freedoms today.

Steven Hawkings's Universe (3 DVD set) PBS Home Video


Television Media:  Headlines or Hype? Films for the Humanities and Sciences.  29 min. Faced with declining ratings, increased

competition, and intensified attention to the bottom line, television news organizations have been criticized for turning daily newscasts

into "info-tainment."  This program profiles the history of the electronic media, reveals its biases and tendencies toward sensationalism

and exploitation, and highlights the challenges facing networks and local stations in the current, sensation-seeking culture. 


Three Mo' Tenors  DVD is a wonderful exploration of 400 years of music, three languages, and seven different musical styles including

Opera, Broadway, Jazz, Soul, Spiritual and Gospel.  You can "talk" about music or culture, or you can show them music and history

coming alive on stage. The students love it. 


Understanding Learning Disabilities: F.A.T. City Workshop (VHS) 

How Difficult Can this Be? Richard Lavoie. This is a fascinating program designed to teach educators what it is like to struggle

with cognitive reading and learning obstacles.  Most of my IB ToK seniors were amazed at disabilities they were able to identify

within themselves. 

Films  Sorted by impact, importance (my own assessment based on student essays/ reactions)


***  The History Boys Now on Broadway (6 Tony's including Best Play) but will be released as a film this fall. Its central focus is very

       Tok: "What are the ideal ends and means of education?"

Gattaca  Important science fiction that prompts students to ask hard questions about genetic manipulation.

Tuesdays With Morrie  Philosophical inquiry should center on Socrates' greatest question," How then should we live?"

American History X     Profoundly moving examination of the roots of prejudice

Primary Colors  A Machiavellian treatise on real politics 

Hotel Rwanda  (Because we need to foster international understanding and involvement in our students)

KoKo Gorilla sign language can teach us much about our own communication. This is a student favorite.

Pi     Math squared, edgy little film . The kids love it!

Frankenstein (modern version with DeNiro) Like Frankenstein "monster" we must ask, "What are the ends of science?"

Indochine  Though not a documentary, this is an interesting examination of colonization's effect in Vietnam

Cinema Paradiso  A classic film that charts the history of a small Italian village through the lens of a motion picture camera. History

made human.


Good Will Hunting. What does it mean to be a genius?  You may wish to simply show the clip of the knowledge-value clash between

the college student and the "townie" or several scenes which chronicle the different perceptions of the mature psychologist and the

young working-class genius.


At First Sight Interesting lesson in perception as it relates to the blind vs. the sighted individual.  Seeing is not believing. Based on the

true story "To See and Not See" by neurologist Oliver Sacks,  first published in The New Yorker and again in An Anthropologist on Mars



Awakenings Another film inspired by the work of neurologist Oliver Sacks. "Awakenings is the remarkable account of a group of patients

 who contracted sleeping-sickness during the great epidemic just after World War I. Frozen in a decades-long sleep, these men and

women were given up as hopeless until 1969, when Dr. Sacks gave them the then-new drug L-DOPA, which had an astonishing, explosive,

"awakening" effect. Dr. Sacks recounts the moving case histories of these individuals, the stories of their lives, and the extraordinary

transformations they underwent with treatment. This book, which W. H. Auden called "a masterpiece," is a passionate exploration of the

most general questions of health, disease, suffering, care, and the human condition."