Knowledge Issue: the TED “inequality” Controversy

The creators and adminstrators of our beloved TED were recently accused of censoring a short talk due to its “political partisanship”.

Here’s what @TEDchris (Chris Anderson, the founder of TED) had to say on his blog:

“The National Journal alleged we had censored a talk because we considered the issue of inequality “too hot to handle.” The story ignited a firestorm of outrage on Reddit, Huffington Post and elsewhere. We were accused of being cowards. We were in the pay of our corporate partners. We were the despicable puppets of the Republican party.”


Well he decided to tell the whole story: CLICK HERE FOR HIS BLOG POST

**You can actually view the controversial video in question HERE or read the transcript HERE


WHAT DO YOU THINK? WHY IS THIS A “KNOWLEDGE ISSUE”? (there are many to be found in this)

Here’s what some commenters said:




The New Meritocracy: Color-Coded Student ID Cards

Wow, is this full of knowledge issues!

(Video at KTLA, in case the embed doesn’t work)


So what do you think? It’s interesting how the colors were chosen as well, since “black” equals the best, most positive, and “white” has the negative connotations.

Is this segregation or motivation? Can you analyze the different persepctives of all parties involved?

Is this a violation of students’ privacy, or should your job performance as a student be recognized?

Also, what are the implications of knowledge of one’s academic performance? Certainly, in this case, students who achieve at higher levels reap the benefits, if only shorter lunch lines and free football games.


Read some more about the case in these two articles and PLEASE check out viewer comments:

EdWeek Teacher: Color-Coded ID cards Sort by Test Performance

OC Register: Student IDs that reveal Test Scores Deemed Illegal

OC Register: Principal Defends Student ID Cards


Even their binders were color-coded.



Assignment: Write a brief reflection of your own thoughts on this issue after reading through the materials and discussion perspectives with your peers. Try to tease out some knowledge questions/ issues related to the topic.

Belief and Ethics- A Matter of Life and Death? (plus pres. planning)

Sometimes the world works in mysterious ways and offers up a “teachable moment”. This expression is used by educators to describe something in the “real world” that either matches what we’re doing in class OR provides an opportunity for a lesson so great one must temorarily abandon the prepared plans and address this “hot” issue (e.g. The World trade Center attack,Revolutions in the Middle East, or Osama Bin Laden’s death.

Last week (Sept. 21) marked the executionby lethal injection of Troy Davis, a man convicted 2 decades ago for the 1989 murder of a Georgia police officer. Davis claimed innocence until the end, and his case has experienced extreme controversy due to supposed recantations (taking back) of some witnesses. Watch thi reporter’s fairly unbiased video on the matter (he reminds us that whether Davis was guilty or not, his particular case did not warrant capital punishment)


The case has spurred international protests. Ethical issues abound: the right for governments to execute (i.e. capital punishment), the race factor, the legitimacy of our judicial system (there were alleged strong-arm law enforcement tactics), and the “restricting effect” of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which bars death row inmates from later presenting evidence they could have presented at trial. People from comedian Mike Farrell to Archbishop Desmond Tutu to members of European Parliament have petitioned against this man’s execution. Currently protests are still going on all over the world.

WATCH: the rallies (raw footage) in front of Jackson State Prison 

WATCH: Parisians protest on same ground that witnessed French Rev executions

WATCH and READ: Al Jazeera’s show “The Stream” highlights Twitter talk on this case

READ: 10 reasons why Davis should have not been executed



TOK connection #1: How can the 4 “ways of knowing”- Sense Perception, Emotion, Language, and Reason – affect the reliability of an eyewitness account? 


TOK connection #2: To what extent should life and death decisions be based on belief? Just what does “beyond a reasonable doubt” mean and should it be connected to life and death decisions?

***READ THIS BRIEF ARTICLE regarding what the author calls a “corrupt” system.

TOK connection #3: ETHICS: What is the relationship between capital punishment and human rights? To what extent is it considered ethical or non-ethical?  How is it accepted in some societies or by some people and not others? Should governments be involved in decisions with moral implications? How can it be argued mankind has made moral progress throughout History? Are scientists (DNA evidence, etc.) and others (law enforecement, witnesses, etc.) morally responsible for how their evidence is used? 


***READ THIS ARTICLE for more thoughts about our “moral progress” and the death penalty

TOK connection #4: Knowledge Issues:

Selection of Information– What makes this particular case newsworthy while other events go unreported? Why does this event stir reaction in other parts of the world? How is corporate media and even user-generated media influencing the knowledge people may gain regarding this event?



Issues of Evidence, Bias, Stereotyping What are the problems with the evidence and the eyewitness accounts, and how does human error, bias, or even stereotyping/ racism come into play, if at all? When a protester called this a “legal lynching”, how does that choice of language relate to people’s emotions and historical memory? 


Issue of the Implications of Knowledge: There are many here, but what about something the reporter in the video addressed? He pointed out that supporters of the death penalty need to have a fail-proof system behind them – that when flaws are shown (read- knowledge of failures) the pro-capital punishment argument suffers. Regardless of how you feel about the issue, it’s important for both sides of the fence to examine what IS capital punishment and what is it DOING FOR US? (is it useful? humane? cost-effective? efficient? moral? justified?)



Check out the DEATH PENALTY INFORMATION CENTER for data and facts by state.

ROLL OVER THIS INFOGRAPHIC to see when countries abolished capital punishment or, for the ones who still have it, what types of crimes apply and what methods of execution are used.





American opinion inforgraphics, found at

CLICK HERE to see other amazing infographics, inlcuding the HISTORY of C.P.

What about the cost?



Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


 How appropriate is the  “last meal” request ritual? Read this.


PERSPECTIVES- preparing for the TOK presentation (9 TIPS HERE)

The internal assessment piece for Theory of Knowledge comes in the form of a presentation of a “real life/contemporary situation”, during which you will address the knowledge issues that arise (it is a must that at least 1 clear question concerning knowledge can be extracted). You have 10 min. to briefly introduce the topic, then discuss the knowlege issues (10 min each if in a group of 3 or less).

Moreover, you need to show a “knower’s perspective” (“personal” use of arguments, recognition of your own bias or presuppositions, etc.)…

AND give a balanced account of how the topic can be approached from different perspectives (due to gender, race, culture, age, generation, class, religion, educational background, academic discipline, etc.), and what the implications of those would be. For example, when YOU make a claim, consider counter-claims by asking yourself what someone who disagrees with your point of view would say and why. 

Knowledge issues should be posed as an open-ended question.

Presentations can be of any type- skits, slide shows, talk show panels, films, etc.

EXAMPLE (from the IB Guidebook)

not a knowledge issue: the execution of (in this case), Troy Davis

poor knowledge issue: Capital Punishment- should we or shouldn’t we adopt it?

intermediate knowledge issue: How can we know if capital punishment is right or wrong?

good knowledge issue: What role should intuition play in justifying capital punishment?

Below is a helpful planning document I found online:



Tok Presentation Guide

View more presentations from Toby Newton
Pretend you are planning your TOK presentation using the Troy Davis case and/or capital punishment in general as your “real life issue”. Create a hypothetical presentation planning sheet with the following components:
1. At least 3 knowledge issues that relate to knoweldge itself, the ways of knowing (perception/reason/emotion/language), and/or other areas of knoweldge besides ethics (such as science, psychology, or history). ***Be sure these are formed as open-ended questions.
2. Identification of your personal stance on the issue and what bias or experience or reasoning has led you to believe that.
3. Identification of at least 2 other perspectives as counter-claims, and the implications of those persepctives.
4. At least 3 visual aids that you might use (could be screen shots of Twitter comments, political cartoons, snips of video, artwork, infographics, etc.)
5. Concept idea- how might you choose to present this issue to the class? Would you do a dramatization? a video? a Prezi or Ppt? Explain.
***while you will not be required to actually make the presentation, we will discuss and share our planning brainstorms, and you will need to answer these 5 questions and post your resources on your Posterous blog.
Here are some additional resources which will help you: