17 May 2006

Model minority myth

I made my usual quick tour through my favorite blogs, and Angry Asian Man had a New York Times editorial, written by Nicholas Kristof, that attempts to explain why Asian-Americans excel in academics. Kristof was basically trying to nail it down to the Confucian morals of the East Asian nations, and its reverence for educational achievement and filial piety.

It's yet another "model minority" myth. The real reason Asian-Americans excel in academics, as pointed out in a reply in the Angry Asian Man blog itself, is that there is too much racism out there against Asian-Americans, and that Asian-Americans see educational excellence as simply a way out of the discrimination. There is a reason why the elite students in high school and college are overwhelmingly Asian, yet the upper rungs of the corporate ladder are overwhelmingly white, even today.

I name another reason. It's that Asian (and Asian-American) academic excellence is the product of zealous parents who see their children as a "product" to show off. In the more individualistic white American circles, education is more likely to follow the wishes of the child him/herself, and if he/she decides that fine arts are more suitable than engineering or economics, then so be it. This self-motivation, as opposed to parental motivation, is what keeps them going through college - at the same time the Asians collapse under the academic, parental, and social pressure.

In any case, Angry Asian Man says, and I concur: don't believe the model minority myth.