“It was a refreshing example of making lemonade from my lemons.”
Making lemonade from my lemons with Mr. Charles Miller
Theory of Knowledge (Tok) is one of three cornerstone pieces of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, along with a Community Action Service (CAS) project and Extended Essay. The role of ToK is to help students identify what they believe and why they believe it. To aid in this process, we often ask guest speakers to come to class and discuss the role of knowing in their fields and how claims are justified. As COVID-19 removed us from the traditional classroom, this traditionally celebrated event seemed on its way to being another casualty of the pandemic. Then it occurred to me that perhaps we could make this into something great instead.
I asked the students what topics interested them most and reached out to several of the top professionals in their field from around the world to ask if they would be willing to join us via Zoom meeting. In the end, many were gracious enough to say “yes”.
First, we were visited by Dr. John Gastil, Professor of Communications and Political Science at Penn State University. He spoke with the students about the role of language in Political Science, as well as the way the pandemic has changed the political landscape.
Next, we asked Saint John’s Prep Alumnus Chris Sebas to visit. He is a medical student at St George’s University, currently doing his rotations in Chicago. He spoke with the class about the role of perception in diagnosis, as well as how his classmates are handling social isolation in their medical training.
In late April, we were joined by Dr. Miriam Meyerhoff, Professor of Linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington, NZ. She spoke with students about the field of linguistics, how culture determines language and vice-versa, and how gender plays a role in social status in various cultures.
Finally, in May, we were joined by Mr. Paul Choi, a freelance science journalist and science fiction author from NYC, NY. Mr. Choi wrote an article for Tor about the Three-Body Problem, the book our class chose to read to finish the semester. He discussed the book, the Cultural Revolution in China and it’s effect on his family and science generally, his travels around the globe, and why he chooses to live at the intersection of the Arts and Science.
All four speakers spent the majority of their time answering questions the students had. The speakers were gracious with their time and lavish with their praise of the level of questions the students asked. We have a couple more guest options that may play out before the year ends in May. It may not have been exactly the ToK class we had originally envisioned, but it has certainly proved a great lesson of taking the lemons life sometimes has to offer and making lemonade. I’m proud to have been a part of this special year, and proud of the students for their dedication to the pursuit of knowledge.
If you would like to watch any of the classroom visits, they are available below. Chris Sebas visited each section of ToK separately, his video has been edited to show the scope of his two talks. The other guests spoke with all 18 ToK students at once.
Dr. John Gastil, Professor of Communications and Political Science at Penn State University
Chris Sebas, Medical Student at St. George’s University and Saint John’s Prep Alum
Dr. Miriam Meyerhoff, Professor of Linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Charles Choi, Freelance Science Journalist and Author, NYC, NY
Mr. Miller grew up in New York City but attended High School and College in Tulsa, OK. He has his BS in Biology and his BA in Philosophy, both from Tulsa University. He also has a Master of Science in education from Bemidji State University, MN. Mr. Miller has been teaching since 1997 and has been at Saint John’s Prep since 2005 where he teaches Physics and Astronomy, as well as Theory of Knowledge (IB Course).
He is also the coach for the Knowledge Bowl team, which has taken 1st at State five times, and the League of Legends eSports Team, which finished 2nd in the state in its inaugural 2020 season. In May 2013, Mr. Miller was named the grade 9-12 “Honor Teacher” of the year at the Minnesota Independent School Forum (MISF) Private Education Awards Celebration.
He loves teaching at Saint John’s Prep because the students are such dynamic, inquisitive kids, and he feels honored to be a part of their successes.
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