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Students wrestle with big questions for a day

HAVE you ever wondered how you come to know whether something is real or true? Have you always assumed that mathematics is finite and its solutions definite? Last Friday, a group of international students had the opportunity to spend a day pondering these complex and mind-boggling questions at Shanghai Community International School's Hongqiao campus.

The event was the Theory of Knowledge Day, named after a core class required as part of the International Baccalaureate curriculum. Seventy students from Yew Chung International School joined SCIS students to exchange ideas and inspiration.

Students began the morning listening to a keynote address by Ridley Pearson, a New York Times bestselling author and also the first US citizen to be awarded the Raymond Chandler Fulbright award at Oxford University. Pearson spoke to students about his successful writing career authoring both juvenile and adult fiction. He talked about the way he found that his fiction had migrated to fact when a Washington State prosecutor used techniques outlined in his novel "Undercurrents" to convict a suspect of murder.

Pearson's keynote address focused on how every experience is valuable to one's life no matter how menial or insignificant it may seem at the time. He also shared anecdotes about his early career as a yet-to-be published author and offered inspiration for students to remain persistent in their pursuit of knowledge and new experiences.

Pearson is now teaching Creative Writing at Fudan University, and he is also a parent in the SCIS community.

After Pearson's keynote address, students had the opportunity to attend sessions related to their Theory of Knowledge studies. Teachers from both Shanghai Community International School and Yew Chung International School taught sessions on diverse topics such as "The difference between knowledge and truth," "The validity of proof in math," "Problems of historical knowledge" and "Art and truth: looking at Picasso's Guernica."

Students then attended a symposium on mathematical knowledge. "What is chaos theory?" "Indian influences on mathematics" and "Math in art" were all topics presented by the Shanghai Community International School grade 11 students. Each presentation was followed by a question and answer session.

Theory of Knowledge Day was a change in routine for many of the students in attendance. Rather than playing video games or sleeping in late on a Saturday morning, students had the chance to wrestle with many of the intricate problems that have plagued scholars and philosophers for years while having a bit of fun in the process.


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