Sunday, March 04, 2007

Little Asia on the Hill

This is a thoughtful article about the huge influx of Asians into our top universities.  There are many reasons for this phenomenon, but this captures a good part of it:
As for the rise in Asian enrollment, the reason “isn’t a mystery,” Dr. Markus says. “This needs to come out and we shouldn’t hide it,” she says. “In Asian families, the No. 1 job of a child is to be a student. Being educated — that’s the most honorable thing you can do.”
One thing that's absolutely clear: Asian students are plain and simply outworking everyone else.  For example, see, which shows the % of students, broken down by race, who watch more than 4 hours of TV every school day vs. those who do more than 1 hour of homework (I've sent this around many times in the past).  Among Asian 8th graders, for example, 50% do more than 1 hour of homework every evening vs. only 32% who watch more than 4 hours of TV.  Among blacks, the percentages are more than reversed: 62% watch more than 4 hours of TV (!) and only 29% do more than an hour of homework. 
And this doesn't even capture the amount of time spent playing games/sports and hanging out/socializing, which I have no doubt is similarly skewed.
There's a lot of blame to go around for this sad state of affairs: A) There's a lot of terrible parenting going on; B) Our culture is to blame as well, with its worship of sports and music stars, not academic ones; and C) What about the schools?!  Why aren't they assigning more homework?  In general, as I've pointed out countless times, minority children in this country are FAR more likely to attend failing schools, with lousy teachers, low expectations, violence, etc.
Note that every one of these factors is disproportionately true in our country's minority communities -- hence, the dismal academic performance of minority youth is not terribly surprising.  And it's further evidence for the need for more schools that can overcome these factors, like KIPP, Achievement First, Uncommon Schools, etc.
Little Asia on the Hill
Published: January 7, 2007

WHEN Jonathan Hu was going to high school in suburban Southern California, he rarely heard anyone speaking Chinese. But striding through campus on his way to class at the University of California, Berkeley, Mr. Hu hears Mandarin all the time, in plazas, cafeterias, classrooms, study halls, dorms and fast-food outlets. It is part of the soundtrack at this iconic university, along with Cantonese, English, Spanish and, of course, the perpetual jackhammers from the perpetual construction projects spurred by the perpetual fund drives.

“Here, many people speak Chinese as their primary language,” says Mr. Hu, a sophomore. “It’s nice. You really feel like you don’t stand out.”

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