Searching, for Justice

The Verdict

Searching, for Justice

The Verdict

Searching, for Justice

The Verdict

Tick T.O.K., Is It Really Time for a Change?

Art by Blue Linden

A new struc­ture will be imple­mented into Justice High School’s Inter­na­tional Baccalau­re­ate (IB) program next year. Currently, the IB course Theory of Knowl­edge (TOK), is only taken in senior year; however, start­ing in the fall of 2023, juniors will take Advanced Acad­e­mic Semi­nar in the first semes­ter and TOK the second. In the first semes­ter of senior year, they will finish TOK, then take the acad­e­mic semi­nar in the second semes­ter. Due to recent changes, IB students will take TOK over the course of two years. Accord­ing to the FCPS website, “TOK is a course designed to encour­age each student to reflect on the nature of knowl­edge by crit­i­cally exam­in­ing differ­ent ways of knowing…and differ­ent kinds of knowl­edge.” Every IB candi­date must take this class to receive the IB diploma.

The Admin­is­tra­tion’s intent is to allow IB students to acquire TOK skills earlier in their acad­e­mic devel­op­ment, so they can better manage the rigor­ous IB Diploma Program.

Stephanie Billimo­ria, the IB Diploma Coor­di­na­tor expressed that this new struc­ture is recom­mended by the offi­cial IB orga­ni­za­tion. “We just went through an IB eval­u­a­tion [and were told] this change needs to be imple­mented.” She stated that TOK skills apply to classes in both junior and senior years. “We do under­stand that choices have to be made, where students are going to have to make a choice if the IB Diploma is the right fit for them … But this was a neces­sary change because TOK is such a power­ful class, as well as a core element of the program, and we want it to have a bigger impact,” said Billimoria.

Some students plan­ning to partic­i­pate in the IB Diploma Program are not in favor of this new design. Sopho­more Ella Galway conveyed her frus­tra­tion with this change by saying, “I wanted to take Envi­ron­men­tal Systems and Soci­eties and Geog­ra­phy, but I was forced to pick between the two.” She was under the impres­sion that she could take both classes, so this change forced her to narrow her inter­ests. “I was excited to take geog­ra­phy, but I chose what was best for my future. I feel like I shouldn’t have had to choose,” said Galway.

Like­wise, other students share this aggra­va­tion about the new TOK struc­ture. “I think that this change is not a good use of time. I wanted to take Busi­ness Manage­ment, but I don’t have room in my sched­ule, which was really upset­ting,” said sopho­more Sana Ershadi.

In addi­tion, students can only take TOK after school if they have been partic­i­pat­ing in a sustained elec­tive, mean­ing a multi-year, sequenced elec­tive like Chorus, Jour­nal­ism, or AVID. “I will be taking TOK after school because I am also taking orches­tra. It will likely make my sched­ule tighter, and my coaches might be mad at me because I might miss prac­tices or games because of it,” said sopho­more Amy Telle­ria. Although this change will affect many students’ sched­ules, students in the music depart­ment have always been taking TOK after school, even before this new design.

Upper­class­men, who will not neces­sar­ily be affected, still have opin­ions about this change. Senior Richard Do stated, “I think it’s a waste of time because it prohibits IB students from taking the classes that they are inter­ested in. I took Envi­ron­men­tal Systems and Soci­eties during my junior year, and I wouldn’t have been able to take it if TOK was spread over 2 years.” Even though the admin­is­tra­tion believes that this new struc­ture has its bene­fits, it can be diffi­cult to work around it, while still follow­ing the require­ments of the IB diploma.

Despite the frus­tra­tion, some students see the bene­fit of the new struc­ture. Junior Heul­wen Rowlands said, “I think it’s a good way to balance the whole thing. Going into junior year, it’s hard to real­ize you will have so much work in senior year. We have IB exams, college prep, and SATs in senior year, so I think it’s good to space it out.”

Orig­i­nally the admin­is­tra­tion planned for AVID to be taken with TOK, but this has since changed. “There was the idea that AVID would fill the spot of the other two semes­ters, but we are going to pause on that,” explained Billimo­ria. She went on to say that pair­ing TOK with Advanced Acad­e­mic Semi­nar will bene­fit Diploma Candi­dates. Sopho­more Raina Deter­man was disap­pointed by this change of course. “At the IB meet­ing when they told us that TOK would be half AVID and half TOK, I was excited at the prospect of being able to spend more time work­ing on my college appli­ca­tions with extra assis­tance … But [now] I feel a bit frus­trated. I don’t see how [Acad­e­mic Semi­nar] could bene­fit me when I could have been taking another elec­tive class that I’d actu­ally enjoy.”

Address­ing Determan’s point, Billimo­ria empha­sized that, “Acad­e­mic semi­nar is not like another advi­sory. It is designed with a set curricu­lum that specif­i­cally focuses on IB skills.” She contin­ued that, for now, this design will be the most bene­fi­cial for IB Diploma Candi­dates. “Maybe down the road, we might be able to offer a little more option. I think that at least, let us get started, and let’s see how it goes.“
Over­all, the recent change in the struc­ture of TOK is affect­ing many rising juniors’ sched­ules. Though it may have its bene­fits, some students at Justice would rather take a class they are inter­ested in than take TOK over two years.

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Maya Campbell, Layout Designer
Maya Campbell is a junior, and this is her second year as a member of 'The Verdict'. Her favorite part of journalism is designing the layout. Outside of journalism, she enjoys playing basketball and field hockey.

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