May 26, 2021
24. How might the context in which knowledge is presented influence whether it is accepted or rejected?
Object 1: IGCSE History Textbook
My first object is a ‘Complete 20th Century History for Cambridge IGCSE’ Textbook published on 10 March 2016 aimed at students in high school.
The textbook covers the events of the 20th century and prepares students for their IGCSE examinations. This book is used by teachers around the world as the main source of knowledge to teach their students. It provides a guide for revision and exam advice from an experienced examine aligned to the Cambridge IGCSE syllabus for the final examination.
This object enriches this exhibition because since it is produced by what is considered a reliable source “Oxford University Press”, students don’t question the accuracy of the knowledge communicated through the textbook and therefore are likely to accept the knowledge. However, if the knowledge in the book was presented in the form of an article it would be approached sceptically.
Another link to how the context in which knowledge is presented influence whether it is accepted or rejected is by who it is presented. In this case, the book will be presented by a teacher which naturally convinces us to trust the knowledge. Teachers have a reputation for being ‘right’ therefore students accept the knowledge communicated by them. For example,
when students are taught about the Cold War in school they don’t approach it with uncertainty as they trust their teacher and the knowledge they have in that area. Ultimately students believe the knowledge teachers present and accept it.
Object 2: Hawaiian Lei
The second object is a Hawaiian Lei made from the Maile plant. The Leis were worn by ancient Polynesians and some Asian people as part of their custom. Native Hawaiians used them to signify their ranks and royalty. As part of the Hawaiian custom, the tradition of Lei is a symbol of hospitality, love, respect, and aloha. It is often given to visitors upon their arrival to Hawaii.
To a Native Hawaiian Leis carry the knowledge of tradition and symbols of love and hospitality. For someone who knows the importance and meaning behind lei, they would approach it differently. For example, if a visitor who knew about Hawaiian culture was gifted a lei, they would know that it is a symbol of hospitality and express their gratitude. While if it was a visitor who had no prior knowledge about the lei, they would still be thankful yet not be able to appreciate it to the fullest as they don’t know the meaning it presents. The prior contextual understanding one has about an object deeply affects the way they approach it and whether they accept or reject it along with the knowledge it carries.
This object also enriches the exhibition because when visitors purchase a lei or receive one as a gift, they view it as just an accessory and are likely to not question it as knowledge. This means that they won’t be able to accept or reject it as they don’t have an opinion on it. In
order to accept knowledge, you have to first acknowledge that it is knowledge. However, if tourists approach the lei as knowledge with meaning and purpose behind it, they are more likely to form an opinion on it based on prior contextual knowledge or personal beliefs.
Object 3: The first Periodic Table
The final object in this exhibition is the periodic table which was invented by Russian Chemistry Professor Dmitri Ivanovic Mendeleev on February 17, 1869. This periodic table was the first periodic table presented by Dmitri. It differs from the periodic table that is used today as over the years it has been developed and changed every time new elements were discovered. Specific gaps indicated that Dmitri knew elements were missing which he hadn’t discovered yet and therefore could not identify. He knew the chemical properties of those elements as elements in the same row and column have common properties.
This object enriches the exhibition because when this periodic table was first presented Mendeleev’s table was widely accepted since it predicted the characteristics and placements of yet-to-be-discovered elements. The theory of atomic mass, which is credited to John Dalton, was one of the main discoveries that allowed for the creation of the periodic table. In this case, the context of the object was justified with the evidence presented along with it.
This object also enriches the exhibition because if it was presented to a modern chemist today it may be rejected. Over time there have been new discoveries made which can disprove the validity of Mendeleev’s table. The current knowledge modern chemists have after many years of scientific discoveries is much wider than the chemists in 1869 had. This shows that the time at which knowledge is presented may influence whether it’s rejected or accepted depending on the level of knowledge others have and their ability to criticize. To be able to recognise the periodic table as knowledge, you have to have certain background knowledge which enables you to access the validity of the knowledge presented. In this case, a modern chemist would have a wide prior knowledge of the periodic table based on the knowledge provided today and therefore would reject the knowledge Mendeleev presents, known as the “first periodic table”.
Figure 1: Cantrell, John, 20th Century History for Cambridge IGCSE Complete Series. Oxford University Press
Figure 2: “7 Of Hawaii’s Most Popular Lei And What Makes Them Unique – Hawaii Magazine”. 2021. Hawaii Magazine. https://www.hawaiimagazine.com/7-of-hawaiis-most-popular-lei-and-what-makes-them-unique/.
Figure 3: “Lesson 9: Create A Table- Properties Of The Elements – Unit 1: Alchemy”. 2021. Sites.Google.Com. https://sites.google.com/site/unit1alchemy/section-2-basic-building-materials/lesson-9-create-a-table–properties-of-the-elements.