Top TDSB scholars share their secrets to learning - and living - well
多市教育局的两名新状元： 曹润泽（左）和 Sean Goldhar。摄影：埃里克-爱民-伍德（Eric Emin Wood）。
Run Ze Cao first came to Canada from Kaifeng, Henan province, in 2001. He lived in China long enough to experience the country’s rank-obsessed academic culture.
“Even though I usually do very well in a contest, I almost never get 100 percent, and in China to advance even past provincials you need to have 100 percent,” the short-haired, bespectacled 18-year-old says, fingering his gold and silver medals from the 2010 and 2012 International Biology and International Chemistry Olympiads.
“A lot of other people will get 100 percent, and you need 100 percent if you want to compete with them,” he says. “In China, I never would have gotten these things.”
Yet the Chinese teams who compete in the International Olympiads don’t always receive 100 percent in the contests, Run Ze says. He should know – he’s often ranked above them.
So what is his opinion of the Chinese cultural belief in the perfect score?
Very slowly and deliberately, Run Ze answers, “Who gives?”
The TDSB recently named Run Ze, who graduated in June from Martingrove Collegiate Institute with a 99.7 percent average, as one of its two top scholars for the 2011 – 2012 school year. Four of his top six grade 12 marks, all of them math or science courses, were 100 percent, while two others were 99 percent. He says he forgets which classes he received 99 in.
The board’s other top scholar this year, also with a 99.7 percent average, was Sean Goldhar. The 18-year-old graduate of Lawrence Park Collegiate received 100 percent in his biology, chemistry, physics, calculus and “advanced functions” classes – and 98 percent in English, which he says causes some people to react in horror.
“I get that,” Sean says, chuckling. “‘Your lowest mark...?’ But I love English. I love writing.”
For many students, English requires a way of thinking that’s distinct from math and science, but Sean finds a line connecting them.
“I love essays,” he says. “I like the logic behind them. I love making an argument, and then proving that argument. It’s like a math proof.”
Both Sean and Run Ze emphasize the role of extracurricular activities in their academic success, with Sean serving on his school’s athletic council and devoting a minimum of 20 hours every week to hockey.
“Having that time to let the information sink in, and get some exercise, was really a big factor” in achieving his average, Sean says.
Run Ze tells Chinese News he makes sure that his ratio of study time to relaxation time is roughly one to one. His favourite activities are video games and writing.
He becomes most excited when talking about his two fanfiction projects: a science fiction epic that combines six of his favourite video game and television worlds, and an alternate history of the 20th century based on another video game series.
“I basically deviated from our history starting in 1971,” he says. “Right now I’m in 1974.”
So far, he’s written “more than 1.4 million words in 20 months,” all of which has been posted online, he says. “That’s more than all of the Harry Potter books put together.”
He also participates in several Olympiads, international academic competitions for students under 20, with categories ranging from mathematics and physics to philosophy and geography. Run Ze says he loves the experience, despite being able to sleep only “negative five hours per day.”
In 2010, he earned a second-place gold medal at the International Biology Olympiad in Korea – “Only one Chinese person beat me,” he says – and in 2012 he earned a fourth-place gold medal in biology. He notes the top-ranked students “are like 0.1 marks apart.”
He also received a silver medal at this year’s International Chemistry Olympiad in Washington, DC.
“I forget which rank and I don’t care,” he says. “The key to winning is not caring so much about winning.”
He also loves reading, though he disliked his grade 12 English class. “That was the one that didn’t go in my top six,” he says.
It’s clear that Run Ze prefers the company of books, equations and video games to other people: he chooses words carefully, and speaks in a staccato rhythm unless talking about video games or fanfiction. It’s equally clear he likes it that way.
Asked if he gets along with his classmates, he says, “they are the ones who are trying to get along with me... After you hit about grade 10, people actually start caring about academics, and then the guy who’s good at school instantly becomes everybody’s favourite.”
He says that while he became friendlier with his classmates by working with them, he did not tutor them, believing they should “help themselves first.”
In September he’ll be attending the University of Pennsylvania, where he plans to double-major in both biology and business.
His fellow TDSB scholar, Sean, has enrolled in the University of Toronto’s life sciences program, and is “hopeful” it will lead to medical school.
Run Ze’s father, David Cao, says that when his son was growing up he was not forced to become the “best of the best.”
“We told him to do your best and enjoy your studies first, but enjoy other things too,” Mr. Cao says. “We have both sides of the brain for that.”
润泽的母亲负责经营Top Educational Advantages公司，是一家以营利为目的教育服务机构。该机构的部分项目专注于培训学生——包括润泽——参加国际科学奥林匹克竞赛。
Run Ze’s mother runs Top Educational Advantages Corporation, a not-for-profit educational service organization. Some of its programs specialize in training students – including Run Ze – for the Olympiads.
“Of course we encouraged him, but most things he learned by himself,” Mr. Cao says. “When he was in grade seven, he went into grade eight. In grade eight he had finished high school biology. In grade nine he had finished mathematics. After that, one by one, he finished chemistry and physics with full marks. Even the professor give him a letter asking, how could he do that?”
编注：英翻中：马特-杜鲁门编译。Translator (English to Chinese): Matthew Trueman. 如果你对本文有任何评论，请到096.ca的“特别报道”栏目下、此文的论坛里发表评论。如果你有任何社区、社会和生活问题需要大中报回答或调查，请将你的评论或问题细节以电话留言（416-504-0761 转215分机），或传真（416-504-4928），或电邮（firstname.lastname@example.org），或电邮给Eric Emin Wood(email@example.com）。你可以匿名为本报提供调查线索，但调查线索应包括当事人的联系电话或地址、发生问题的时间及地址等信息。
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