For students, achieving a perfect score is one thing to be proud of. But for Matthew Jeong, a grade 6 student at Western Academy of Beijing (WAB), “scores don’t tell your value.”
At the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TEDx) Youth talk held at WAB on April 15, Jeong said the “worth of 100 percent,” or numerical values, don’t define the intelligence of a student. He shared a story about a student who strove to get high scores every time, only to get a scolding from his mother who always wanted a perfect score. “Many students get high expectations from parents, like, “Get a perfect score in each test.’ These expectations are rooted from society’s notion of what is perfect. And if we go on searching for what’s perfect, it would take us forever,” he said, wowing other students and adults in the audience.
Jeong is one of the the youngest speakers in this year’s TEDx Youth at WAB, which also featured nine other students and four professionals. They all discussed issues under the theme of “IM Perfection.”
Grade 7 student Anna Chen explained “how imperfection can perfect people” by using the blunders of many historical figures as an example. “The flaws of famous people,” Chen said after showing a montage of pictures of persons like Martin Luther King, Jr. and George Washington, “are not meant to lower the standards, but instead they show us how failures can propel people to do good. Failures are meant to connect people,” she added.
In the course of the talk, professional speakers shared their views on imperfection. Beijingkids contributor and musician Ember Swift discussed the flow of identity in a heteronormative society. “There are struggles in daily situations, like the fear of never being fully seen, or being boxed in ‘shapes’ that define people,” Swift told the audience, explaining that imperfections in human identity are what make people what she called “beautiful blobs.” “Who are we?” she asked everyone, “When we know who we are, then don’t let anything push you out of your way. Don’t let your dreams go.”
Koryo Tours creative projects lead Vicky Mohieddeen, who graced the talk a day after coming back from her 20th trip to North Korea, shared her experience of what are viewed by many people as “illusory” and “fake” images of the secretive country. When Mohieddeen uploaded on Instagram some photos she took of women on Pyongyang’s metro, she received comments calling the images propaganda and fake. “You need to traverse the online landscape and tell them another view,” Mohieddeen said of how she handled the comments, with some users retracting their statements and instead sharing another perspective. “Stay true to yourself, stand on your ground. In that way, you can change the conversation,” she said.
Other professional speakers included WAB Deputy Director John D’Arcy who linked the illusion of space and perspective in arts and education; and writer Chris Warren, who discussed the role of the audience in the creative process of constructing narratives.
This year’s TEDx Youth talk at WAB was the fifth one to be held at the school. It was organized by Adam Bourret, elementary school teacher at WAB, and grade 12 student Yang Lowe, who lead the student part of the talk. “WAB’s TEDx group is just one of a few student-run TEDx groups worldwide. Not only does the group strive to bring better TEDx events every year to our school, but they are also pushing the boundaries of TED in schools by incorporating TEDed into the curriculum,” WAB said in a press release.
Photos: Courtesy of WAB