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Final Exam

Photo of Discovery Channel's co-host Ziya Tong.

Science prophet

The co-host of Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet shares how her education taught her to be an independent thinker.

By Laura Bickle
Photo: Discovery Canada

Name: Ziya Tong

What was your favourite subject?

I loved my high school law class. We were asked about a position we held, and then were put on a debate team that argued against it. When you have to find arguments to support a logic that you don’t naturally agree with, you learn to see things from a different perspective. I started out supporting the death penalty. After having to debate the other side for class, I learned so much, that now, to this day, I’m against it.

Favourite literary pieces studied?

George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm; Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Who do you consider your favourite historical figures?

I’m a big fan of Ada Lovelace, who created the first algorithm, and Hedy Lamarr, who is the mother of Wi-Fi.

Non-fiction heroes?

Jane Goodall and David Attenborough, but most of all, my mum.

What are you currently reading?

The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food by Ted Genoways and How Did We Get Into This Mess? by George Monbiot.

What do you wish you had been taught in school but weren’t?

I’ve been reflecting on how I went through the Canadian high school system without once learning about or even hearing about residential schools. The fact that children my age at the time were basically abducted from their parents, forced to forget their language, and brainwashed into believing their culture had no value is a devastating reality. This should absolutely be a part of the curriculum today.

Favourite extracurricular activities?

Pottery and playing netball.

Lesson learned in kindergarten that still applies today?

The alphabet, it comes in super handy.

Who is your favourite fictional teacher?

Rubeus Hagrid, Care of Magical Creatures professor. I love that he didn’t see the animals as “things.”

What is the quality you most appreciated in a teacher?

Being inspiring — someone who loves learning and loves teaching what they’ve learned.

Best advice given at school?

My high school guidance counsellor took us on a field trip and played a game where she separated us into different teams, based on the number of gold tokens we had. She created a mini-society, where the “rich” made the rules, the “middle class” made a few rules and the “poor” made none and had few options. The game ended as the poor group started robbing the rich group for the tokens. She said this happened every year. At the end of the session, she told us “the game is rigged.” All of us were floored. I’ve never forgotten that.

Which school experience prepared you most for your adult life?

I believe a great education is one that allows you to question what you’ve been taught. The true gift of education is to learn to think for yourself.