I read this article on the Toronto Star the other day about Asians and being in school. Even though it’s way out in U of T, I can see some of the similar trends effects here on the west coast. I agree with some parts of it and disagree with others. Heck, this piece might even seem contradictory but I do understand both sides of the argument because I’m living it right now.
What amused me the most was when of all the things to get annoyed about, people get a little butt hurt when the universities there are called “Too Asian”. I mean really? Perhaps it comes from years of having incredibly thick skin of putting up with morons in online shooters who say far worse things, but that doesn’t phase me one bit. Like it or not, that observation is probably true in some areas. I don’t think that particular headline is trying to say that being Too Asian is bad. I view it as more of an observation that the Asian demographic is simply dominating those schools.
Being an Asian kid is sometimes downright impossible. The bar is so high that even if we do reach it, it just isn’t good enough. I don’t know if that’s reflective of my childhood, but I can tell from speaking with other kids from different racial backgrounds, that level of life and death pressure isn’t as harsh.
When I was growing up in my younger years, I was often 1 of like 5 asian students in my entire grade. I never played the race card! So people saying that our universities have too many Asians should probably just suck it up and deal with it just like I did when I was growing up.
Speaking of that, I remember when I was a kid, I’d come home with an A on a test. And my dad said “Where’s the A+?”. And I just about sagged my shoulders. Now repeat that over the course of 15 years until that kid is in University. After enduring years and years of being so close to reaching that standard and not quite hitting it, guess what? That kid has now reached a point where they just don’t give a shit. What’s the point of trying so hard to get that elusive 98th percentile grade and mark if it isn’t even good enough or pleasing enough?
And that’s when they give up. Because they know no matter what they do, it isn’t good enough. They stop trying.
If I had to do it all over again, I don’t think I would’ve gone into University at all. I probably would’ve stayed in Kwantlen and pursued Journalism. But it wasn’t until my first and second years in actual University did I realize my talent, but my passion for actually writing. Even right now, I feel like I’m driving in a 5 ft blanket of snow with both my tires spinning aimlessly, not going anywhere at all. I’ve been in post secondary for 5 years now. Now my GPA has tanked to the point where even if I ace a semester’s worth of full courses, I will not be able to lift my grades to the point where they can make an impact.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming anyone. I only have myself to blame. I foolishly thought I could be like any other person and take every other course that other people would take. That’s just not the case.
There is nothing wrong with raising the bar. We live in a competitive world where only the strong and the best survive. But that doesn’t necessarily equate to memorization or ability to manipulate numbers. I think the number of immigrants over the past 20 years into Canada have steadily raised the standard for students to enter post secondary. It makes our degrees that much more valuable and more desirable, I think. Those that work hardest and those that want that education should deserve to have a shot at it, no matter what race or gender or sexual orientation. For me, it isn’t that different from WoW. I don’t care if you’re a girl, black or gay. If you can play the game at a high level, you can play for me. Educational standards should be based on merit and not some weird population percentage.
Something that seems to be glossed over in that article is that those students should be encouraged to do something positive and productive. This doesn’t always mean going into medicine, being an engineer, or any of that. I’ve realized that status and security are incredibly important for Asian families. They want that level of financial security and prestige which is why their kids are often pushed into those directions in life even if they have zero desire. I know a friend who makes quite a bit of money managing a shop for servicing cars. My dad likes to remind me that being a bus driver had great perks like a strong union, good pay and security. Refrigeration mechanic, aircraft mechanics or electricians (any trades really) are all viable options as well. That is what should be taken away from this article. The fact that there are alternative ways to achieve success and to have a mind open to such possibility. That if a kid doesn’t think they’re cut out for math, sciences or pharmacology, that there are OTHER things they can do and I don’t mean flipping burgers or dealing drugs either. There is hope. Obviously it isn’t going to be easy, but he paths are there.
Too much is being read into it, in my opinion.
Where being too Asian does make an impact
Where it makes a big difference though is when the teaching assistants and profs are super Asian. And I mean like fresh-off-the-boat asian. You can have a degree from Harvard and the intelligence rivalling Hawking. But the fact of the matter is, if no one in your class understands what the hell you’re saying, you shouldn’t be teaching it. I’d rather take a second or third tier instructor with the ability to teach and communicate over the smartest Professor who can’t speak English worth a damn. It’s not fair to us as students to not only try to learn the material, but translate what they say at the same time.
And when a TA has to resort to writing step by step solutions on paper instead of actually talking to students about it, that’s a problem.
I had a Stats professor once who was just incredibly hard to understand. At the end of the semester, I wrote a scathing review of the prof and the course when all the feedback sheets were handed out. Not that it did anything because he was there still teaching next year after that.
As for my future, it’s just like the weather outside – Cold and desolate.