Capstone: Education in China

From working on the Capstone project, a lot of what I learned regards the privilege that ISB students have and the huge divide in education with economic statuses. I’ve always been aware of the academic stress on students in China, but actually looking at statistics and hard facts was eye opening. My opinions/views on China’s education is still the same, except my understanding of it is just deeper. A really enriching experience in this project was interviewing people in ISB, as I had to be considerate but still gather valuable information. I think I’d try to find my statistics the next time I do the project, and also gather high quality footage for the documentary.

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When Beauty is Just Skin-Deep

Emotion is virtually inevitable in humanity. It can be held accountable for both victories and downfalls, making it one of the most dangerous motivators. Because of this, governments must operate in a system that takes this into consideration to avoid conflict with their citizens. Scott Westerfield’s Uglies dystopian society is an example of their government failing at that.

The citizens in Uglies are split into two social classes; uglies and pretties. However, all uglies get to undergo a beautifying procedure when they turn 16 to become a pretty. After that, it’s partying and happiness for the rest of their lives. This doesn’t sound nearly as bad as a dystopian society, except that the first 16 years of their lives are to say the least, miserable. Not only are they labeled “ugly”, but they live in considerably substandard apartments in comparison to the pretties mansions. For 16 years, they’ll believe they’re worthless until the treatment, envying the pretties every moment—but why not just tolerate those 16 years and live the rest of your life in an ecstasy with no responsibility? Because freedom and individuality is part of being human, and that is something Uglies emphasizes a lot. Emotion is a dangerous motivator, and until the procedure, the citizens in Uglies will feel an overwhelmingly amount of it.

It’s also absurd that the society operates on appearance and attractiveness, especially when it was revealed that “uglies” basically look like humanity today.

“In a world of extreme beauty, anyone normal is ugly.” (Westerfeld, 132)

“Pretties” are just perfected versions of themselves—but there is a certain standard of “perfect” that the procedure is based on, making every pretty look relatively similar. Distinctiveness in appearance is not the only thing the procedure takes away from individuals. Turns out, the operators plant lesions in their brains to dumb them down, to say simply. Their personalities are dulled into a typical bubbly, go-with-the-flow attitude. Of course, they don’t really know nevertheless care about this change after it happens, especially with their new temperaments. However, more intellectual jobs require this lesion to be removed. The secret of the lesions was discovered by doctors (and couple) Az and Maddy, who became one of the first people to run away from the city. Together, they started the Smoke, a small rebellion society completely separate from the city of discrimination.

Eventually, Tally Youngblood would run away to the Smoke on a mission from Special Circumstances to find her friend Shay, who ran away before her operation. The deal was that if Tally didn’t, then Special Circumstances would refuse to perform the operation on her. Tally came to the Smoke initially wanting to turn in her friend and become pretty, but instead she learned about the defects in her city’s government system, and what freedom truly means.

“Out here, you find out that the city fools you about how things really work.” (314)

The citizens’ lives are separated into two main sections. Their 16 years of being an ugly, and the rest of their life as a pretty. Both parts have a completely different standard of life, except that’s not how life is supposed to work. Humanity is never simple; it’s unpredictable, difficult, and ugly. Every mark, scar, wrinkle, and “imperfection” that is considered to be ugly tells a story and shows what your body has gone through. It’s a fair assumption that the government would think that everyone would strive to be pretty, except that “pretty” can’t be defined by one certain appearance.

“What you do, the way you think, makes you beautiful.” (287)

Freedom and individuality is part of being human, and in this case the citizens’ freedom is determined with their attractiveness, and their individuality is stripped away in the operation. So while this society may work in theory, it was inevitable that the government in Uglies was going to fall at some point.

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Journal Entry #3

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Polymer Journal Entry #2

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Polymer Journal Entry #1

What is a polymer?

A polymer is a substance with a molecular structure of similar properties/units. These units are called monomers. When these monomers bond together (the process of which is called polymerization), this substance can be used for a variety of things.

Polymers can be made of synthetic substances, organic substances, or both.

If a polymer is synthetic, it means that it was made from artificial materials. One very popular synthetic polymer is nylon, which is used for everything from parachutes to carpets due to it’s elasticity and strength. While it is artificial, we derive many of the chemicals from nature, such as coal and petroleum.

Another popular polymer would be plastic, something we see and use every single day. It is cheap to use and make, while still being a malleable, multipurpose polymer. You can often find plastic in water bottles and cosmetic packaging. The natural resources it comes from are similar to nylons; coal, plants, natural gases, and minerals.


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Bird Cages

Photograph #2 by Pelin Guven


I’m surrounded but alone

Trapped in a free space

Permitted to roam anywhere within my bars


I exist only for aesthetics

My screams for help dismissed as insignificant chirps

I feel so pathetic


Looking around, all I see are broken wings and lifeless eyes

Screeching out the same damaged cries

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The Goldfinch

Theodore Decker’s mother was killed in a terrorist bombing in a museum. She was someone Theo always adored, as did most people in Manhattan.

“I loved the sandalwood perfume she wore, rough and unexpected, and I loved the rustle of her starched shirt when she swooped down to kiss me on the forehead. And her laugh was enough to make you want to kick over what you were doing and follow her down the street. Wherever she went, men looked at her out of the corner of their eyes, and sometimes they used to look at her in a way that bothered me a little.” (Tartt, 9)

At this same bombing, a dying man told Theo to steal one of the paintings, The Goldfinch, which remained untouched from the bombing damage. It also happened to be the first painting Theo’s mother fell in love with, which she explained to him almost immediately before the attack.

This painting followed Theodore from the age of 13 to 26. When Theo was able to finally turn the painting in, it was a great signal of character growth. Though a lot happens in The Goldfinch, it’s essentially a coming of age story with action. From the beginning, you can tell that Theo is quite mature and deeply understands many things about life.

“Most people seemed satisfied with the thin decorative glaze and the artful stage lighting that, sometimes, made the bedrock atrocity of the human predicament look somewhat more mysterious or less abhorrent.” (487)

However, he also happens to be quite stoic. He didn’t show an ounce of weakness or emotional vulnerability at school when his mother died, at just 13 years of age.

But inside, Theo has always blamed her death on himself.

That’s why I think he held on to The Goldfinch for so long, even when it served no purpose to him; he was afraid to let go of the fact that his mother really was gone and couldn’t move on with his life. To me, The Goldfinch was a metaphor for Theodore’s troubled past and thoughts clouded with his mother’s death.

I drew both a young and current version of Theo, walking away from The Goldfinch, looking rather happy. I wanted it to symbolize finally redeeming and avenging the lost childhood Theo never had after his mother was killed, and that he was finally going to leave the past behind.

It’s clear that after The Goldfinch was returned, Theo did have a change of character. A great chunk of the last part of the book is full of lengthy reflections and setting wrong things right.

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7 Years; The American Revolution Through a Soldier’s Eyes

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What did the American Revolution Change?

Revolutions happen because they call for change. Whether the people are unhappy with their finances, hospitality, food, or social status, you can expect change after a revolution. If it weren’t for the American Revolution, the United States would still be the property of the United Kingdom. However, there will still be continuity in certain things, as well as change.
Before the revolution, America was governed by the UK, with state governments keeping everything in line. Now that they were free, the United States were left to choose their own form of government, and a monarchy was not what they wanted. This meant that poor, ordinary men from lower classes could rise up and be leaders. People were able to express their political ideas, as the United States gradually became the democratic country it is today. The new leader of the country would be called “Mr. President”, rather than the traditional monarch addresses. This role would be served for a maximum time of 2 terms, 4 years being 1 term, before the president would step down and allow others to run for the position. Britain’s reputation had been brought down greatly, since they, a powerful global force, were defeated by a young nation of immigrants. The colonial loyalists left America in defeat.
Many of the reasons why people immigrated to America in the first place was to have religious freedom, and the revolution definitely granted some. However, it wasn’t ensured until much later.
While there was a lot of change, more stayed the same than probably expected. Everyone still lived British based lifestyles, just without the rule of the British. They drank tea, wore their clothes, built their houses, and used British education. The country was still dominated and led by rich white men. Women still generally had no political power, including the rights to vote, nevertheless take on a role of leadership. Many oppressed groups such as slaves, blacks, Native Americans, and lower class citizens still had the same rights as they did before the revolution. It would not be decades or centuries until these groups got the treatment they deserve.

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Cath Avery; the Fan and the Girl

Cath is all sorts of things. From the beginning, we can immediately get an overview of her personality. Shy, introverted, intelligent, anxious— your typical nerd, basically.

However, there’s a lot more than what meets the eye. I created a collage which I think delves deeper into her character, from what I learned from the book Fangirl  by Rainbow Rowell.

The word ‘fangirl’ is obviously derived from two words; fan and girl. To start off with the fan part, Cather “Cath” Avery is obviously one. She absolutely loves the Simon Snow book franchise, which is one similar to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. She’s spent years writing an elaborate fanfiction which she obtained thousands of worldwide fans and followers from.

“To really be a nerd, she’d decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one.” (Rowell, 87)

Cath Avery is also very intellectually curious. The Simon Snow books aren’t the only ones she likes, they’re just the ones that have consumed her life. Cath is very involved in pop culture— she reads, writes, and explores. Combine this with social anxiety, an introverted personality, and a undying affection for the internet, and you get a surficial stereotypical geek, and I included books, a typewriter, and computers to represent that.

“You’ve read the books?”
“I’ve seen the movies.”
Cath rolled her eyes so hard, it hurt. (Actually.) (Maybe because she was still on the edge of tears. On the edge, period.) “So you haven’t read the books.”
“I’m not really a book person.”
“That might be the most idiotic thing you’ve ever said to me”  (119)

But onto the ‘girl’ of fangirl.

Girls today are pressured with so many unrealistic standards. If you’re pretty, you’re probably dumb. If you’re smart, you’re ugly. If you dress revealingly, you’re “asking for it”. If you dress modestly, you’re a boring prude. If you wear makeup, you’re trying too hard. If you don’t wear makeup, you’re not making enough of an effort. There seems to be one right way to be a girl, and nobody knows what it is. However, when you have an identical twin and you’re living in her glorious, perfect shadow, the situation seems even more helpless. That was Cath’s case.

“No,” Cath said, “Seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.” (298)

I tried to show this internal struggle through a handful of angsty quotes. Whether it may be with her appearance, intelligence, capability, or personality, Cath struggles with her image of her self-worth.

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