This is chapter 6 of How to go to school like an Asian
Book version has references. Will add links to references when I get a chance.
It’s first grade and I’m living in a lower-middle class working class neighborhood, 75% Hispanics (some immigrants), 20% Asian (all immigrants), the rest are native White. I’m placed in the highest reading group, which means I’m reading one grade above grade level.
For second grade, I was sent to live with relatives in one of the most affluent zip codes in the nation, which at the time was 75% White, 20% Asian, the rest other. I experienced culture shock, this was my first encounter with the preppy set and they were very different from the boys at my previous school, who would punch themselves in the face, likely as practice for what life will be like when they’d reach middle-school.
The most notable difference between the two schools I noticed was that I was now placed in the lowest reading group. This school used the same reading curriculum and sequence as the one my previous school used, so I could compare apples to apples. That is, the lowest group at my new school read what the highest group at my previous school read. That was when I realized that there’s a big difference between one school and another.
Then I got shipped off to high scoring Singapore to finish second grade, where students were at a level comparable to those at my affluent US school. This is despite (or because of?) Singapore having an average primary school class size of 33, one of the highest among advanced countries. After comparing my schoolwork to that of my Singaporean cousins, I learned that there wasn’t as much variation in standards and expectations within the Singaporean school system. What I experienced in the US — going from highest group to the lowest when I changed schools — doesn’t happen in Singapore. Indeed, from my experience as a student and teacher, I’ve learned that in the US, and even within a school district, standards and expectations vary greatly from one school to another. It’s no surprise that the quality of students in the US is similarly varied, where the top 1% of US students are at least as good as the top 1% in any other country, but your average US student is way behind the average student in Confucian Asian nations such as Japan. Put it this way — your average American high school graduate can’t recite the multiplication table or locate France on a map.
I returned to the US for 3rd grade, this time to a school in a lower-middle class neighborhood. The school was 50% Asian, 40% Mexican, 10% White. This is where I received the best education of my life and experienced the most improvement over the school year. This is where I learned that wealth doesn’t matter, culture does.
The school was overcrowded, so they divided the school day into two. The first set went from 8am-noon, followed by free lunch for most. The second set, the one I was in, from 1-5pm, preceded by free lunch for most. There were 33 students in my class (that I remember because our patient and overwhelmed teacher explained that if each of us got in line to ask her three questions per day, that’d be 99).
The teacher would choose one student as the “student of the month.” All nine chosen over the year were Asian, Vietnamese (ethnically Chinese, I’m guessing, because that’s what nearly all Vietnamese refugees were) to be exact. And nearly all of them were boys, which is unusual because girls tend to do better than boys from elementary school until 11th grade. Oh, and the teacher (White female, if you care) gave an honorable mention at the end of the school year to a Mexican girl.
It was at this “overcrowded” and “underfunded” school, by American standards, that I received the best education of all my years of schooling. For instance, at the beginning of the year, we spent 30 minutes writing whatever we wanted. Did the same at the end of the year. Then we got to compare what we wrote at the beginning to what we wrote at the end. I was able to write one sentence in the beginning. By the end of the school year, I wrote a page and a half and would’ve kept going if allowed.
What was it about the Asian kids at this school that compelled them to excel in school? Neo-Marxists wouldn’t expect them to do this well because:
- None of them had parents at home much because they were working long hours everyday. We’d hang out at each other’s houses before or after school without an adult chaperone.
- None of them were wealthy. I wouldn’t call any of them poor, even though nearly all qualified for free lunch.
- None received tutoring outside of school. They couldn’t afford it so they asked the teacher to work with them after school. This teacher, bless her, obliged, despite not getting paid for the extra work she put in.
Which suggests that:
- Parents don’t need to be around for kids to do well in school. Perhaps all they need to do is set expectations and leave the kids alone?
- Kids who do well don’t need to be wealthy.
- Class size doesn’t matter as much as Americans think it does.
- School funding doesn’t matter as much as Americans think it does.
How do I know that this was a good school, or a good class at the very least? For 4th grade, I transferred to a private school, 80% White, 20% Asian (Mexicans went to Catholic schools). Mostly middle to upper-middle class. I was a B student in 3rd grade, at my ghetto school, and here I was a straight A student, despite no changes to my work ethic. Which suggests that my ghetto 3rd grade school had higher standards and was more competitive than my 4th grade middle to upper middle-class private school, where nearly everyone, it seemed, had stay-at-home moms and lived on comfortable incomes.
From these experiences, I learned that a classroom’s culture matters. And it’s not just the teacher or the school that creates the culture, the students can make it too. What made my 3rd grade ghetto experience so exceptional was that my Asian classmates — the ones I hung out with — pushed each other to always do better because there’s always room for improvement. That, in turn, impelled the teacher to raise the standards for everyone. It’s the symbiotic relationship between students and the teacher that matters more than funding, parental presence, and class size.
High School Years
I spent my high school years (9-12th) at a second rate East coast boarding school, The Stony Brook School (SBS). It was there that I encountered students from the best high schools in the world, public and private. While SBS was not one of the elite schools, it was good enough to connect me to those who went to top schools. For instance, a classmate’s brother was attending Middlesex, and we’d meet up with him and his schoolmates in New York City. My roommate’s girlfriend studied at Bronx Science and we’d meet her and her friends in NYC. Here’s what I learned from this experience.
The most academically advanced students, especially in Math, came from NYC public magnet schools: eg. Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Hunter College; the athletes, thespians, and writers from the elite private boarding prep schools: eg. Phillips Academy at Exeter, Chaote Rosemary Hall, Miss Porter’s; the spoiled brats from the tony private day schools in NYC: eg. Dalton, Nightingale-Bamford, Riverdale Country Day.
We’ll see what we can learn from the boarding prep school experience in the next chapter, Anglo Boarding Schools. For the purposes of this chapter, let’s profile a couple of the top public high schools in the US.
Top public schools like Stuyvesant were when I was in high school and still are ~70% Asian and most of them are POOR and NOT WELL EDUCATED. From the Atlantic Monthly, 4 Myths Fueling the Fight Over NYC’s Exclusive High Schools:
- An analysis of 2010 census data by an NYU-based urban-policy think tank found that the city’s [NYC] majority-Asian neighborhoods are more economically depressed than those of most other racial distributions: Their average household income of less than $52,000, for example, was less than that of majority-black neighborhoods. That same report found that fewer than a quarter of the adults (25 years or older) living in the majority-Asian neighborhoods at the time had a bachelor’s degree or higher.
These Asians aren’t Silicon Valley immigrants pulling down 200k salaries (which isn’t a lot in The Valley), these are busboys, nail technicians, and cooks living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, okay? And it’s from these neighborhoods — wealthy New Yorkers send their kids to private schools — that some of the best high schools in the US draw most of their students.
Most of the rest were and are Jewish, many of them POOR and children of immigrants. The few Blacks there are almost all children of immigrants. The average SAT at Stuyvesant, according Brainly.com article updated on May 20, 2019, is 1466 out of 1600. According to the same article, the top public school in the US, Thomas Jefferson High School in Arlington, Virginia, has an average SAT score of 1515, which is the average SAT at Harvard, MIT, and The University of Chicago. Roughly 70% of TJ students are Asian, many of them children of immigrants.
Even the worst students at the top public schools would be valedictorians at most high schools. This is what the competition to be the best looks like. If you don’t know the competition, you’ll, according to Sun-Tzu, “succumb in every battle.” And that’s what’s happening in America. Americans haven’t a clue about Asians, especially the Chinese, while Asians, especially the Chinese, understand Americans better than Americans do themselves. And the Chinese are horrified by what they see happening in the US. They do not like Americans.
That there are so many Asians at top public schools has pissed off a lot of people, especially neo-Marxist liberals. In a July 2, 2021 Washington Post opinion piece titled:
- The purge of Asian American students at Thomas Jefferson High School has begun
The new “holistic” admissions standards implemented by Thomas Jefferson High School, the number one ranked high school in the US in 2021, is meant to increase Black, Brown, and White enrollment. Here’s what’s happened, according to the piece:
- “School district officials announced that, as a result of their new admissions system, they slashed the percentage of Asian students admitted to TJ to 54 percent this year from 73 percent last year. The percentage of Blacks and Hispanics increased — as it did for White students.”
So admissions-wise, liberals got what they wanted, which is a school that matches more closely to the racial demographic for Arlington County, which looks like this, according to the latest American Community Survey published by the US Census Bureau:
- White: 71.49%
- Asian: 10.26%
- Black or African American: 9.15%
- Other race: 4.80%
- Two or more races: 3.81%
- Native American: 0.36%
- Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.13%
But it remains to be seen how affirmative action admittees will do in such an environment. If they don’t do well, flunk out even, will they lower standards to ensure every student passes? How will lower standards affect the best students? Can a school continue to be the best with lower standards?
The Advantage of Being Poor
Americans tell their poor that they’re at a disadvantage in school and in life because they’re poor and can’t afford the tutoring, gadgets, and posh spaces necessary to reach their potential. Asians tell their poor that it’s the wealthy kids who are at a disadvantage because they’re too soft, too spoiled, and not motivated to do well because their families are already wealthy. That’s precisely what I was told by an uncle, that it’s my turn to shine because the wealthy kids don’t have it in them to excel because their wealth has turned them into lazy fucks. “Wealth does not last beyond three generations,” the Chinese saying goes.
Which narrative inspires poor kids to do well in school and in life, the neo-Marxist one, or the Asian one? Which story turns kids into heroin addicts? Which story tempts people to become envious and narcissistic zombies? Which story are you going to tell your kids?