Despite superior achievement, Asian students being held back

This is a disturbing article in the New York Post that chronicles the story of achievement by Asian-American students – and the policies adopted by school districts across the couintry to limit their advancement.

The reason for the success of Asian-American kids is the total committment and encouragement by their parents to their education.  But other parents believe that their kids are at a disadvantage because they don't take the time or make the same effort as Asian parents.  So school districts are now taking a "holistic" approach that keeps Asian kids down.

Here in New York City, Asian-Americans make up 13 percent of students, yet they win more than half of the coveted places each year at the city’s selective public high schools, such as Bronx Science and Stuyvesant.

What’s at play here? It’s not a difference in IQ; it’s parenting. That’s confirmed by a recent study by sociologists from City University of New York and the University of Michigan, which showed that parental oversight enabled Asian-American students to far outperform the others.

No wonder many successful charter schools require parents to sign a pledge that they’ll supervise their children’s homework and encourage a strong work ethic.

That formula is under fire at the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District in New Jersey. The district, which is 65 percent Asian, routinely produces seniors with perfect SAT scores, admissions to MIT and top prizes in international science competitions.

But many non-Asian parents are up in arms, complaining there’s too much pressure and their kids can’t compete. In response, this fall Superintendent David Aderhold apologized that school had become a “perpetual achievement machine.” Heaven forbid!

Aderhold canceled accelerated and enriched math courses for fourth and fifth grades, which were 90 percent Asian, and eliminated midterms and finals in high school.

Using a word that already strikes terror in the hearts of Asian parents, he said schools had to take a “holistic” approach. That’s the same euphemism Harvard uses to limit the number of Asians accepted and favor non-Asians.

Aderhold even lowered standards for playing in school music programs. Students have a “right to squeak,” he insisted. Never mind whether they practice.

Of course, neither Aderhold nor parents in charge of sports are indulging nonathletic kids with a “right to fumble” and join a mostly non-Asian varsity football team.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NAACP want to reduce the role the competitive exam plays in admissions for the city’s eight selective high schools in favor of a “holistic” approach. That means robbing poor, largely immigrant and first-generation kids — nearly half the students get subsidized school lunches — of the chance to study hard and compete for a world-class education.

Affirmative action programs at colleges already limits the number of Asians who can attend the best schools.  Now high schools, under pressure from parents, want to limit the number of high-achieving Asian kids who enroll in the best schools and the toughest courses.

What's up with that?  Are the parents of kids of other races lazy, or don't they love their kids as much?  That's nonsense for the most part, although some parents probably fit that description.  The key is a culture that celebrates achievement.  I don't think you'll find too many "Participation Trophies" being handed out in Japan or China.  In those countries, either you achieve or you're left behind.

The competition just to get into college in those two countries is far more cutthroat than in the U.S.  The question is, rather than dumbing down our educational system, why not emulate Asian parents?  The answer is that secondary education – except for some sports – has been trying to eliminate the very idea of competition, because it is believed that losing marks a student for life and leads to low self-esteem and other problems. 

It is up to parents to instill the competitive spirit in their kids.  Perhaps non-Asian parents can start with that and stop encouraging schools to put all students on the same achievement plane.

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