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Unusual course on critical thinking succeeded until tough teacher was removed

Unusual course on critical thinking succeeded until tough teacher was removed

by Евгений Волков -
Number of replies: 0
 Columnist July 9 

One of the most unusual courses in high school these days is TOK, the initialism for Theory of Knowledge, part of the International Baccalaureate program. Most Americans have never heard of it.

It is a course on critical thinking and how we know what we claim to know. It demands a lot of writing and thus, by the standard teenager definition, is not easy. But most of the IB teachers I have encountered, and many of their students, call it special and deep, a distinctive element of a program now offered in nearly 900 U.S. high schools.

Jeremy Noonan felt that way when he was a science teacher in Douglas County, Ga. He taught Theory of Knowledge for four years, with increasingly good results.

But his is a story of TOK going wrong, something I had not encountered before. When many students began to complain that it was too difficult, Noonan said his principal asked him to make it easier. Noonan said he learned later this was so that enrollment in IB — a major selling point for the school — would not decline.

Douglas County school officials declined to comment on Noonan’s account.


IB’s own data show that only 0.5 percent of students get a failing TOK grade. Grades on the TOK and IB’s unusual 4,000-word extended essay earn a maximum 3 points toward an IB diploma, while each of the six required subject grades earn up to 7 points.

Spencer Caro, a former student who said Noonan’s TOK was the “the highlight of my IB experience,” noted that “students only need a D in TOK” to qualify for the IB diploma, and consequently many don’t try very hard.

Even a sophisticated course such as TOK can be damaged if a school does not guard against softening demands. Noonan said he did not expect TOK to take much time outside of class compared with the main IB courses, but to “get an A in the course, students had to be making progress and perform at an excellent level.”

It took time to establish that mind-set. Noonan said many of his first TOK students were in a state of revolt against the IB program. They thought they didn’t need it to get into a regional public college with low admission standards. But as they began to see how intriguing TOK was, attitudes improved and essay scores rose above global averages. “Parents regularly told me that they saw their children maturing into adult thinkers before their eyes,” Noonan said. “Alumni described the advantages they had in college due to being able to argue well and think from different points of view.”

When he resisted diluting the course, Noonan said, he was reassigned in 2015 to non-IB science courses. His replacement in Theory of Knowledge, according to Noonan, had no IB teaching experience. Noonan said some students told him that TOK had become “the course where you go to catch up on work from your other classes.”

Noonan had assigned several graded essays each year. He said the new teacher assigned none. Noonan said his principal told him that at a regional meeting of IB principals, it was agreed that TOK should be easy and not treated as a serious course.

That was not what Dina Dreyfus, inspector general of philosophy in the French government’s education department, had in mind when she introduced the TOK idea to the original plans for IB. The courses were formulated by European and American teachers at the International School of Geneva in the 1960s and 1970s.


Dreyfus, married at the time to legendary anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, was a tough educator who fought for her idea. Such enlightened stubbornness is necessary when defending courses as complex and interesting as TOK.

I remember how the eyes of Bernadette “Bernie” Glaze, a stalwart of the early years of TOK classes in Fairfax County, would light up at the journals her students were writing and the connections they were making with the intellectual roots of civilization. Glaze died much too young, in 2008 at age 62, but there are still plenty of teachers like her enshrining TOK in student memories. Turning it into a Mickey Mouse course is not the best way to teach our kids how to understand the world.

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Mr. Noonan upheld a standard of intellectual rigor throughout the course, and though it was challenging at times, I came away from high school feeling as though his teaching was one of those things that made the entire program worthwhile. His teaching both inspired and equipped me personally to perform well on the final TOK exam and ultimately earn the IB Diploma.  
TOK is not a therapeutic Kumbaya for students to come together and just share their worldviews with no expectation of feedback or discourse. The course is about the essence of knowing and pursuit of truth through debate and dialogue governed by the laws of logic. And honestly, some students seemed too thin-skinned and emotional to handle that kind of respectable discourse with people of different world views. 
Part of intellectual rigor is having your beliefs subjected to rational scrutiny. And some students couldn't handle that. Mr. Noonan would respectfully identify logical fallacies and incoherence when he saw it, but it was done so respectfully and furthermore, it never changed the fact that he cared for his students and even went out of his way to show those who disagreed with him that he cared about them both academically and personally.  
Many of my peers acted as though the sheer act of rational scrutiny was "disrespectful" and felt as though their opinions somehow deserved validation without any defense or logical case.  
It was this kind of thinking and immaturity that was anitithetical to the entire goal of the course, and it was this kind of thinking that had students rally around and support Mr. Noonan leaving the program. And his leaving was a great loss for both the students and the school's entire IB Program.
Like many others commenting on this article, I was a student in Mr. Noonan’s 2014-15 class, and I will recognize that Mr. Noonan did have his bias in the way he presented information, which, by the time I had him in his fourth year of teaching ToK, he made a practice of recognizing, and did not pretend did not exist. And I do not think Mr. Noonan is blameless. He could have scheduled his assignments better, and worked with us to figure out the best way to teach and work with us, and he could have tried to come off as more respectful to his students and their ideas. But when I had him, he did not, as some are saying, immediately shoot down any comment that disagreed with his own; he would engage the students and ask them why they thought certain things. Having taught ToK for going on four years, it would be foolish to say that Mr. Noonan did not have a better understanding of the concepts and material we were being taught, and knowing how much Mr. Noonan cared about what he taught, I can only imagine that what to many came off as dismissive and closed-minded, was in reality probably him just not handling his response to the student well. Jay probably should have sought other students’ opinion to get a more holistic survey of the experiences in Mr. Noonan’s class. When we encounter difficult things, we want to complain, big deal. To say that the students didn’t have a right to complain would be ludicrous. But one thing that I have noticed is the outrage that many have expressed at the “wildly inaccurate” representation of the students and the school, when the only mentions of students were about their displeasure with the program as a whole when Mr. Noonan first started teaching, and that they complained about the difficulty of the class.
7/12/2017 1:34 AM GMT+0300
The important thing isn’t whether or not Mr. Noonan was a paragon of a teacher, or the students were justified in their complaints against him, but that some principals are not willing to treat ToK with the respect that a critical thinking class of its esteem deserves.
There's an argument to be made that an elective course like this should be offered on a "pass/fail" (or maybe "honors/pass/fail") basis. It would be better to expose students to this material at the level that works for them rather than have them reject the course entirely because they fear it's "too hard" and will depress their grade average. 
7/11/2017 10:34 PM GMT+0300
A proposition worth considering, so long as there were real consequences to not passing. Our school had a continuation policy that said failing an IB course would result in students being removed from the program, but it was rarely enforced, and virtually any reason for an appeal was accepted. The challenged under such a scheme as this would be how to motivate students to strive to achieve at the very highest levels on the IB assessments, which is hard to do.
7/11/2017 11:00 PM GMT+0300
That raises a broader question of why there should be "failing" grades at all? Why not "no credit" if the student's work isn't satisfactory, whether through laziness, illness, lack of preparation, whatever? The reward for good performance is credit for the course; the penalty is no credit, without the impact of telling a kid he failed. Some kids give up on school early because the get labeled failures, without the guidance that would help them do better. 
7/11/2017 11:20 PM GMT+0300
While that is just a matter of semantics, semantics do matter. The IBO labels its failing category E for "Elementary." I think I approve of your idea. I like the potential to clarify in the minds of students and stakeholders what getting a credit really means by using that language more, because often credits are issued that are not really credible. Appreciate the constructive input!
Carise Pernell
Man I will never forget the day you did not release my class after the death of one of our classmates who was suffering from cancer and passed away. Not to mention that I am a pretty outspoken atheist and I didn't want to be preached to every day. For that you lost my respect AND my attendance - and I'm glad because our opinion mattered and the school did what they had to do to protect that program.
7/11/2017 2:39 PM GMT+0300
I've taught for many years in several different schools in several systems- In none would I have the option of releasing classes before the bell.... That is a school admin decision. Unless you go to a very unusual school, this isn't exactly a great example of "critical thinking".
Erinn Williams
7/11/2017 2:48 PM GMT+0300
I'm sorry but every school system isn't like the ones you taught at. Our entire class was called over the intercom by our schools administrator and told to go to the library were we would be assisted by counselors. It was a school administration decision that Noonan tried to prevent from happening for some very strange and inconsiderate reason. And showed that he did not care about the mental health and overall well-being of his students and adminstrative decisions for that matter.
7/11/2017 2:51 PM GMT+0300
"Our entire class was called over the intercom by our schools administrator " 
My point, exactly. This important data should have been included in presenting a position.
Erinn Williams
7/11/2017 2:56 PM GMT+0300
Okay...troll on troll
7/11/2017 4:07 PM GMT+0300
Hi Carise, I haven't seen you since graduation. Hope you are doing well. I have good memories of your distinct blend of artistry and intelligence.  
Even though it isn't relevant to the claims to this column, as much of these ad hominem attacks and simplistic mis-charactertures here are not, since it has come up so many times and obviously caused some deep wounds, I'll speak to the cancer incident.  
It's hard to either defend or apologize for something you barely remember. Obviously, there are some deep hurt feelings, and for that I regret whatever I did to cause that.  
My memory was jarred by a specific recounting below that quotes me as saying that you could go to the library if you couldn't sit through class. It wasn't a revolt against the administration's whereby I prevented you from seeking grief counseling. It was up to my discretion whether to have class that day. I decided that we should, but contrary to what you said, I also felt like it was best to give people the option to leave class if being in class would have been difficult that day. I decided to give people a choice, rather than cancel class or make everyone stay. The incorrect conclusions that the two of you have drawn from that about my own character disclose to me a deep bitterness related to many other things that you are still clinging to.  
That's all I'm going to say about it. To argue with you about the incident from here would be fruitless.
7/11/2017 4:34 PM GMT+0300
As far as being "preached at everyday" , this is the essence of a simplistic mis-caricature (and ironically it itself is preachy - sound like you are quite comfortable preaching that people shouldn't preach). I'd refer you to my comment below about the role of an authoritative guide in a class like TOK. Do you think it was not proper for a TOK teacher to identify defective, immature beliefs about knowledge/knowing and seek over the course of the class to correct them, and replace them with better ideas? Do you think that all ideas/opinions about knowledge were equal and should be respected as such instead of being told that some ideas were better than others?  
If so, your position completely contradicts the IB TOK standards, which distinguished poor understanding of knowledge from good and from sophisticated understanding, which describes certain ideas about knowledge as 'basic' and 'rudimentary' in the lowest levels of the rubric, which requires that ideas and perspectives be scrutinized and judged, not just expressed and discussed. A TOK class where that doesn't happen is not in sync with the IB standards. A TOK class where defective understandings of knowledge are not challenged and replaced by healthier, more sophisticated ones misses the goals of the course.  
So yes, I had 'strong views' about knowledge, which were in keeping with IBs ideals and which I sought to impart to you, and was very opposed to certain flawed ideas about knowledge, some of which I enumerated below.
This article, specifically Mr. Noonan’s account of “events”, is laughable. I was an IB student at DCHS and had Mr. Noonan during my senior year. I thoroughly enjoyed my first year in Theory of Knowledge with a previous teacher and agree with many of the posts, critical thinking is an important element that is commonly overlooked in today’s education. I went into my second year of TOK hoping to engage in more debates and to grow as an intellectual thinker. Unfortunately, Mr. Noonan’s course was nothing of the sort. 
If one knows anything about the IB program, they know that students have to thrive on challenge and rigor in order to make it through the program. Claiming that the TOK course was “too hard” is a pathetic excuse that Mr. Noonan has used to give reason to why he was dismissed. Instead of encouraging discussion of varying points of view, Mr. Noonan halted our intellectual debates by thrusting his strong viewpoints on the class. 
I tried to give Mr. Noonan the benefit of the doubt, as our class struggled to adjust to his inflexible ways. However, I lost respect for the man after the way he treated our grieving class when one of our classmates passed away. He made students feel guilty for their grief and condescendingly lectured us on death.  
Honestly, as I sit here reflecting back to five years ago, I feel many emotions. I pity Mr. Noonan for his bitterness toward the program and his blindness to the reality of HIS course being a failure. I am frustrated that the journalist didn’t perform his due-diligence to validate any of these claims and used this half-baked article to further the stereotype by shouting “these darn millennials are so lazy!” from his front porch. But mostly, I am proud of our program and the students of the IB Program at DCHS for standing up for themselves. It speaks volumes that students and teachers from a half-decade ago are here to protect the integrity of our program and provide a more accurate account of why Noonan was dismissed. 
7/11/2017 7:24 AM GMT+0300 [Edited]
Just curious mm, can you give a reliable account of what happened in TOK, and in the program in general, in the subsequent years after you graduated? Were you in a position to know what unfolded those years? Do you have any idea how much better the TOK and EE scores got since that first year? Do you know about your wonderful, competent math teacher who got ousted for similar reasons (whom I often consoled and encouraged as she was going through it)? I only talked about your class for some context, you all were not the ones responsible for this state of affairs, and I stand by the 'revolt' claim as a lot of you simply did not want to work hard in TOK or on EE, regardless of what the motives were and how I may have affected that. 
The 'dismissal' happened years after you graduated, and I challenge you to consider all that may have happened then, and all the conversations that were had with administrators that you have no idea about. The integrity of the program did gradually diminish after you moved on, and it did become primarily about high enrollment numbers, since having so many above average to superior students made DCHS look like a stellar school overall (consider the US News Top 10% ranking, for instance, which was definitely a consequence of having one of the largest IB programs in the state), thus benefiting administrators, leading to promotions, pay raises, etc. It was shocking to get outside the IB bubble and see firsthand the state of the rest of the school, academically.  
Your wonderful math teacher (and I'm not saying this tongue and cheek, she was amazing) was likewise viewed as a threat to this agenda, since the 2014 class was rebelling against her for her honesty about their poor math skills and refusal to relax standards.  
I know I made some mistakes with your class that first year, and I did much different in later years, but this isn't what this is about.
7/12/2017 1:12 AM GMT+0300
Yes, I am well versed on what has occurred within the last few years regarding the IB program. You were not interested in thoughts that differed from yours when you taught our class and it is clear that you are not interested in them now. Your attempts to belittle and invalidate the statements of former students who have responded in the comments is the best example of why you were unfit to teach a course that requires freedom of expression, intellectual explorations, and discovery.
7/12/2017 4:58 AM GMT+0300 [Edited]
I'm interested in them, otherwise I wouldn't care to respond, but by and large don't accept them. Those are two different things.  
By 'well versed' do you mean privy to the many various private conversations that took place concerning complaints over low course grades and softening the academic commands on the course (and no conversations with me about the stuff you're talking about), why your wonderful math teacher was removed, the growing preoccupation with the size of the program, and the downward pressure that competition from other magnet schools had?  
Your choice of the word 'belitting' to describe what I have done here is revealing, and supports my thesis about where this is coming from. I disagree with most of these claims, and am seeking to correct them by making a reasoned counter-argument, while challenging your justification for them, just as you are doing with me (is that 'belittling' also?) 
Similarly, if I encountered claims about the nature of knowledge that I believed were inaccurate, defective and harmful, and that also could lead to poor results on IB assessments, I would likewise seek to change students minds, also through reasoned arguments. To invalidate such ideas requires the use of reason to show the idea to be false or incoherent, with an aim towards developing better, richer ideas about knowledge.  
There is always room to improve one's teaching methods, and I learned a lot from my mistakes that first year and sought to improve each year. So yes, there is room for valid criticism concerning methods on your part. But at the same time, it is clear to me now that some of you didn't think 'knowledge claims' were the kinds of things that should be evaluated and corrected by a teacher, the kinds of things that required rational justification to be believed, the kinds of things that could be true or false, better or worse. Hence, the opposition that a teacher might seek to impart to students better, more mature ideas about knowledge.
A better headline would be "Unusual course on critical thinking succeeded until competent teacher was removed."
Spencer Caro
I feel that I should make one thing clear: I do not represent the entirety of my IB class or anyone at all other than myself. I, personally, had a very positive experience with Mr. Noonan and his TOK class. It changed my life for the better by introducing me to philosophical thinking. Mr. Noonan pushed me to challenge my own presuppositions about the world and I fell in love with philosophy as a result. In fact, I loved it so much that I, and others, would meet with him every Friday after school my senior year to discuss philosophy. Topics included free will, the nature of the mind, and ethics. These discussions were similar to TOK in that they required us to identify and assess underlying assumptions as well as justify and critique our own positions. I am grateful to him for providing that experience for me. 
While teaching TOK, he did make it clear that he is a Christian. However, one of the goals of the class is to understand the role one’s worldview plays in shaping the way one attains knowledge. He shared his Christian worldview with us to show how it affected his epistemology so that we could do the same with our own belief systems. I disagree with Mr. Noonan about many issues, both religious and non-religious, but I never felt threatened by our differences. He never made it a point to try and convert me or shame me for my opinions. Instead, he would challenge my beliefs so that I could end up with a more nuanced worldview. 
Of course, I can only speak for myself. But my own experience with Mr. Noonan impacted me so profoundly that I wanted to make it known. TOK means a lot to me specifically because it was rigorous and all I want is for future IB students to be able to receive the same enrichment from it that I did.
7/11/2017 5:59 AM GMT+0300 [Edited]
Likewise, I'm grateful to you for seeking me out that year to continue the TOK experience once a week. My soul needed that. And I am uber-encouraged by the growth you are continuing to experience in college, and the fact that you now understand aspects of philosophy far better than I do.  
I wonder if part of what is going on here in these starkly different comments is that what you experienced as your deep beliefs being challenged in order to develop and mature and of being 'pushed', others experienced as being 'shot down,' 'condescended to,' etc. Because I did try to challenge everyone in similar ways, and did want everyone to walk away with a healthier, more mature theory of knowledge, which did require some persistent confronting and correcting of defective ideas about knowledge. It's fascinating to explore how such varying experiences could arise from differences among students in their theories of knowledge.  
And I also wonder whether complaints about the rigor/demands of the course and not distinct from these other complaints, but instead are one of the same. After all, having one's basic assumptions challenged, or arguments corrected as being incoherent, is not very pleasant or comfortable!
I should also mention, to those Douglas County HS students and staff who want to share with me their views on this column and their real names, that if I quote them I will show them the column in advance to check for errors. I have been doing that with everything I have written since 1985. This column was accurate, at least as we journalists understand the term, because I made clear I was presenting just Noonan's point of view. I asked the district for a reaction from the district but they declined to give one. And I quoted the one student I could find. I sense if I do a second piece it will focus on the way Noonan taught religion, which seems to be the heart of many of the critical comments. I do notice however that no one seems to have presented any facts to contradict the main points of this column, that Noonan was asked to make the course easier, that he was replaced when he didn't do that with someone who gave no graded essay assignments, and that the principal told him the regional principals had agreed they wanted to make TOK an easy course. ---Jay Mathews,
7/11/2017 5:19 PM GMT+0300
To be fair, we are unable to contradict the main point of the column because none of us work for the DCSS or for the administration at our High School. We are unable to guess at their motives and have really only been told why they made the choice they did because of a single biased account. You argue that we cannot refute your argument, when you only have the incredibly subjective statements of a single individual as evidence. Arguably, you should have found other students. You say we are hard to find, but nearly every teacher in that program is connected with us in some way and could have found ways to get information to the students and ask if they wanted to provide their own accounts. 
You say you quoted the one student you could find when it sounds like Noonan provided you with the name of an individual who would act as a positive character witness and support the claims he had. I find it hard to believe that in the age of complete interconnectivity that you could only find a single student and that they were not able to provide you with other people, either in support or dissent of your initial thoughts. 
I will tell you that in discussions had with classmates or with other teachers, the issues discussed were mostly about his treatment of students and his inability to teach this difficult subject correctly. You notice a theme of religious discussion because that is what he would nearly always use as evidence to support his own claims. He argues in many comments that teachers were to share their own opinions, and I agree with that. It just did not need to be laid out as "absolute truth."
I am wondering why he was also no longer teaching IB science courses? Were there issues with his teaching IB science (and which science had he been teaching)?
7/11/2017 3:49 AM GMT+0300 [Edited]
Never taught IB science courses; rather was placed in the lowest level science courses the following year, along with a stint in their "online credit recovery" program. There I discovered widespread academic fraud, which served the purpose of inflating the district's graduation rate. Reporting on it eventually led to my resignation. Jay reported on part of this story back in February, and it was also picked up by Slate as part of their nationwide investigation into the problem. If interested, see:
7/11/2017 1:17 PM GMT+0300
Thank you. So, had you been teaching regular science and TOK prior to this? Which science (just curious). I know TOK and IB as my sons went to an IB HS. TOK was an interesting course, and I am glad they experienced it with a long-term TOK teacher, who also taught history courses.
7/12/2017 5:06 AM GMT+0300
Regular science for a few years prior to TOK, which was full time. Then back to just science. Happy to hear about your sons TOK experience.
Well trained TOK students would be able to recognize a number of "knowledge issues" that emerge from this situation. One of which is "What is the proper role of an authoritative guide in a class like ToK?" Knowledge acquisition always involves authoritative guidance of some form, often in the form of a teacher or coach. We expect such guides to correct, admonish, point out flaws in our thinking about the subject, etc. It's par for the course for any subject, and for sports, arts, etc. But for some reason when it comes to an "opinion-based" course that involves acquiring knowledge about knowledge, then doing such things an authoritative guide typically does with those seeking to learn from him/her is 'intolerant,' 'arrogant', 'belittling' etc. This kind of thinking is exactly what TOK aims to correct and mature in students.  
There are right and better ways of thinking about epistemology; some views of knowledge are deeply flawed and even dangerous to society. So yes, I sought to inculcate more rational, sophisticated, and healthy views of knowledge, while correcting, sometimes strongly, deeply flawed ones. Like:  
1. The idea that truth is merely personal and relative to the individual, especially in 'subjective' areas like Ethics and Religion.  
2. The idea that some disciplines are "objective" and universal (like math and physics) while others are "subjective" and are just a matter of opinion (like art and ethics).  
3. The idea that emotion, intuition, imagination were just 'subjective' and could not be relied upon for knowing.  
Really any simplistic dichotomies that split the objective from the subjective. And these positions were all resonate with the IB curriculum, rubrics, advice from examiners, etc. So, I would not have been properly educating my students if such beliefs about knowledge were left unchallenged. My goal was to help students mature epistemologically, which required correction and academic discpline along the way. Thanks for the comments!
Nathan Fisher
Mr. Noonan was my Theory of Knowledge teacher for two years. We were his first class to have him both years, so undoubtably there would be some growing pains and settling in. There is no doubt in my mind that he wanted the best for us and wanted us to learn how to think critically, which I believe is lacking in public schools.  
He was out of touch with students and oddly enough seemed intolerant of views that opposed his own in a class that should remain open-ended and discussion based. When students shared their opinions, he would retort with why they're wrong. He was not even trying to play devil's advocate to encourage more in depth analysis. I learned that to do well on essays and presentations, I had to construct arguments that agreed with his personal opinions. Furthermore, he was inflexible when dealing with moving assignments and working with students. When taking 8 IB courses (college level) deadlines were often adjusted by others to avoid have several major assignments due on the same day. 
I learned to think critically, but that was the IB program as a whole and not Mr. Noonan. Students in this program are highly achieving. Past graduates have gone on to accomplish incredible things and I'm certain future graduates will do the same. Students did not complain his class was too hard. We complained because we were tired of his belittling and intolerance.  
I feel like I had to share this article along with my own thoughts because my high school and the IB program are being incredibly misrepresented by a man who cannot accept his own faults.
I had the luxury of being in Mr. Noonan's first cohort. I also passed his class despite my disinterest in the man's class and teaching style. I will say this man is not a monster like many of the accounts are perceiving him as, and he was not a bad person. He also did provide some interesting assignments like a video assignment, which I did enjoy creating and an open debate where my group was arguing the for and against euthanasia.  
However, I do agree with the general consensus that he was simply out of touch with his students. I am by no means defending him because if anyone in my cohort I was probably on some of the least positive terms with the man, but he was not terrible. He provided challenging assignments that reflecting back on now that I'm about to graduate college in nursing I can say I enjoyed.  
On the other hand, there were many times when he was condescending and did belittle his students. Is this saying the students were soft and not seeing this as an attribute to grow? No, that was not the case... it was not a case of tough love. I remember Noonan as a man who would openly shoot down opinions that defied his own. In a class about exploring knowledge, this is the wrong approach. Exploring the students opposing opinions would be the right approach. I still remember the comment stated prior about cancer and it was appalling for any person to say.  
My main complaint though is to knock the entire curriculum simply because a person was found to not be desired. If someone does not realize their short comings they cannot grow and if they are not open to opposing arguments then it will lead to their own demise. This all sounds like the board spoke to Noonan and asked for him to change how he teaches. Due to his stubbornness, which many former students have expressed he failed to comply. If your boss asks you to do something because it is not working and you do not do it what do you expect? You cannot cry over spelt milk and knock the entire program.
7/11/2017 1:56 AM GMT+0300
I appreciate the more balanced assessment. And yes I remember those assignments fondly, and the amazing job you all did with the risky video presentations. No future classes could replicate that level of creativity. Just FYI, there were no conversations, ever, about the accusations/complaints made here with DCSS authorities. One would think that if these were the real issues (and that I am concealing them) that these would have been brought to my attention. Instead, meetings with administrators over class issues were always about low course grades and people wanting to get out of IB because they thought TOK was too hard. It got worse each year as other magnet programs were added to the district, and the schools started relating to students more and more as customers.
Sounds like a great program that I wish had been available when I was at school in the US. I'm also sure many parents and classmates would have hated being forced to really think about anything and would have demanded it be dumbed down. 
I do know that philosophy (reasoning) is the major subject required for the French equivalent of High School and also taught in most European countries like Switzerland where I live.  
The young people I have meet in Europe are generally far more thoughtful and capable of intelligent communications and discourse than equivalent young Americans I have known.  
Demand little, that is what you will get.
Sydney Palmer
I had Mr. Noonan as my junior year TOK teacher in his last year of teaching the course. This article is wildly inaccurate regarding both the quality of Mr. Noonan's teaching and the quality of his students as well. True garbage.
My local school district has an IB program they are committed to, as well as an AP program. This is a very challenging curriculum and I've found the teachers very dedicated. I only wish my children had had the opportunity to be in the IB program. Really interesting course choices, too. It's not a fluff course. Not sure I'd make it through but for motivated students that want an IB degree, it's a solid year or two of college they don't have to pay for. Truly worth the effort.But even with all the benefit, within that program there are many students who really don't try or care even though they are bright. I really get annoyed when they sleep through exams. I'm sure these are very expensive programs that are paid for by school districts.

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