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Over 40 Fridley High School (FHS) students enrolled in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Theory of Knowledge (TOK) class attended the Westminster Town Hall Forum on September 24, 2019. The forum is a frequent field trip for TOK, as each speaker provides dialogue on key issues impacting our society. Students learned from speaker Kathleen Belew, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Chicago and author of Bring the War Home. Belew’s teaching and research focuses on the struggles against racial oppression.
According to senior Mykell Engle, Belew’s presentation was well-researched yet presented without bias. “Even though she was talking about a topic that she is against, she was informative and came across from a neutral standpoint, rather than persuasive. That style of speaking is effective for getting hard conversations started.”
This was Engle’s second field trip to Westminster Forum. He said he enjoys the forums because each speaker gives a deep insight into the topics that they specialize in.
“Like in TOK, it’s about deeper critical thinking from both points of view. It’s about seeing another person’s perspective, and trying to understand why they think the way that they do, even if you disagree with them,” said Engle.
Senior Connor McCoy said he was inspired by Belew to keep the conversation going beyond the forum. “She valued students and our participation in the talk. Her closing line was, ‘it’s up to us to help this issue.'”
McCoy added that Belew’s presentation prompted him and fellow classmates to “ask the bigger questions.”
“The topic is so complex so it makes you ask those TOK questions - to what extent? What is the evidence? How will this affect people in the future?” said McCoy.
Speakers at the Westminster Forum generally discuss topics that fit well into lessons in the TOK class. The IB class provides students the opportunity to reflect on the nature of knowledge, and how “we know what we claim to know.” Students benefit by gaining a greater awareness of their personal and ideological assumptions, as well as developing an appreciation of the diversity and richness that are different from their own.