The TOK “Knower”: “This I Believe” Project

What are the “core values” that guide your life? At the center of the Theory of Knowledge diagram is YOU, the “Knower”. You’ve lived on this planet for 16 some-odd years now and have acquired, developed, adopted, discarded, and shaped a variety of “beliefs” about people and the world. Are you ready to pinpoint some? In TOK we are not only concerned with what you believe, but how you came to believe it and how it affects your decision-making and contributes to your persona. A later blog post will explore the concept of “belief”, and how it differs from “knowledge” more fully.

In 1950’s Cold War-era America, esteemed broadcast journalist Edward R. Morrow hosted a radio program called “This I Believe”. For 4 years, people cold tune in and witness famous individuals and everyday folk eloquently distill into a few minutes the guiding principles by which they lived.

“In this brief space, a banker or a butcher, a painter or a social worker…will write about the rules they live by, the things they have found to be the basic values in their lives”– Edward Morrow 


Read more about the history of the project and the original essayists at

In 2004, This I Believe, Inc. was founded and the essays were revived on NPR, prompting thousands to compose audio and video essays describing their fundamental values. Executive producer Dan Gediman states, “The goal is not to persuade Americans to agree on the same beliefs. Rather the hope is to encourage people to begin the much more difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own”

You can explore: original essays from the 1950’s (audio),  browse by theme, check out the most viewed, or listen to a collection based on a theme under “Special Features” 


To view a collection of the most popular essays in the past 4 years, CLICK HERE

For this multi-step project you will be:

1. Participating in a variety of activities with your peers to familiarize yourself with the concept of core beliefs. Keep in mind that for a belief to be “reasonable” there should be some evidence in support of it. Also, beliefs and opinions help to define you as a person — it is necessary to critically scrutinize your beliefs on occasion so that you are not a mere product of blind imitation. As Socrates put it: “an unexamined life is not worth living”.

2. Review at least one “This I Believe” Essay and analyze it for structure. (summarize the essayist’s belief in 1 sentence, and escribe how he or she supported that belief with evidence). Look for DRAPES (dialogue, rhetorical questions, anecdotes, personal experience, examples, statistics). What details did they use and how did they personalize it? In your opinion, what was the most interesting part and why? Did they discuss times when their belief was challenged?

3. Composing a personal essay of your own (Although the topic is “This I Believe” you can twist it and write about things you USED to believe, or don’t believe in at all by rephrasing to say “I believe there is no______”). You will then use it as the script to produce your own iMovie presentation (on the MACS). At this point, you can sing or rap what you wrote, incorporate your own artwork, photography, or animation, and the like.

Download this file

4. I’m thinking about having you collaborate with either grades K or 1 and interviewing them, a la Tarak McLain

 Download the document we’ll be using:

Download this file


Here are some videos to inspire you:

“What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger”

Compiled quotes from a HS Journalism Class

“Success Means Leaving the World a Better Place

College Freshman example: “Bourgeois”

“I Believe That There is No God”

“Music is Unity”


Astronaut Dan Tani (from Space!)






Apes Will Rise – TOK extension activity

The new film “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, starring James Franco is a great TOK learning experience. There are so many TOK-worthy issues in this piece.

Here’s the official website

Movie times for Oahu

And a great review plus trailer from the Kurzweil blog, “Accepting Intelligence”


Wrapping up “The Brain”

Wow, that was an intense film! While it’s still fresh in YOUR brain, please write a reflection and use the following to guide you.

1. Try to pinpoint some implications (positive and negative) of the “knowledge” acquired.

2. How did the film address the following?

– where the knowledge came from (experiments? studies? observation?)

– how knowledge is acquired / stored (role of emotion, senses, memory, reasoning, etc.)

– problems (bias? stereotyping? faulty reasoning? assumptions?)

– how claims could affect other disciplines or how they relate to the “linking questions” such as belief, certainty, ethics, technology, etc.)

3. Finally, what are some additional questions, concerns, personal thoughts and reactions you have to any of the topics addressed? What was the most interesting thing to you and is something you might want to research further? Have you any personal connections to the claims made (example: have you ever felt , while playing sports, you were in “the zone”?)


After, you will be checking out a partner’s blog and making comments on their articles/videos and questions.

Finally, groups will investigate an article and identify the following:

– the knowledge claims made

– who is making them?

– how are they justifying their claims? (experiments? studies?)

– what are some possible issues you might see with their claims?

– what are the possible implications of these findings (pos and neg)?

More Neuroscience…I.D. the K.I.s