From NYC to Harvard: the war on Asian success
The year 2015 was a dismal one for American public education — at least by the numbers.
But don’t blame the kids. Parents are missing in action.
Except most Asian-American parents, that is. They tend to oversee their children’s homework, stress the importance of earning high grades and instill the belief that hard work is the ticket to a better life.
And it pays off. Their children are soaring academically.
The outrage is that instead of embracing the example of these Asian families, school authorities and non-Asian parents want to rig the system to hold them back. It’s happening here in New York City, in suburban New Jersey and across the nation.
As a group, Americans need to take a page from the Asian parents’ playbook. American teens rank a dismal 28th in math and science knowledge, compared with teens in other countries — even poor countries. Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are at the top.
We’ve slumped. For the first time in 25 years, US scores on the main test for elementary and middle school education fell. And SAT scores for college-bound students dropped significantly.
Could changes in these tests be to blame? That convenient excuse was torpedoed by the stellar performances of Asian-American students. Even though many come from poor or immigrant families, they outscore all other students by large margins on both tests, and their lead keeps widening.
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.
As Dennis Saffran explains in “The Plot Against Merit,” some Asian-American eighth-graders practice for two years for the test, while their parents toil in laundromats and restaurants to pay for exam-prep classes.
What’s stopping white, Hispanic and black parents from doing the same thing?
Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.