"You shouldn’t have to prep Sunday to Sunday, to get into a good high school... That's extreme."
Actually that's how it largely is for competitive colleges, and if people are arguing for a merit-based admission system that is _exactly_ what people should have to do if other people are willing to.
Tough to tell where the author is landing on this point in his article.
It seems so unfair painfully studying and drilling makes you seem smarter. Why is it unfair? Because Americans obviously don't want to painfully study and drill math and science and culture when they could be texting or playing video games or drinking diet energy mountain dew xtreme (the dewiest).
Reducing that to 'text or playing video games or drinking diet energy mountain dew xtreme (the dewiest)' is dismissive and lowers the conversation.
See: waiting for superman, the lottery, a few Frontline specials about it, and mst3k episode 816.
Probably fair to say there's a mix of different attitudes, understanding, expectations, and hopes in the American landscape.
Oh, the other kids are doing better than you Timmy? Well you've got to study harder!
What, the Asian got a better grade than you? Well, can't help that.
I mean, I think there is a general kind of attitude that Asian people don't really count towards raising the bar - there really is no other way to describe it.
Note: Asian means Indian too :P
But the big problem is that the vast majority of children in New York City (and many other cities all over the world, of course) come from families where the parents are either functionally or completely illiterate, have no understanding of how to study, and/or simply do not value academic achievement. This is a big problem that you can't exactly solve by relaxing admissions standards -- it was tried with CUNY, and it resulted in a mass exodus of all the good students.
In China and the rest of East Asia, there is a centuries-old culture of studying your ass off to succeed in life. The article cites Confucianism etc. but it really derives more from the Chinese Imperial Examination, which if you passed, guaranteed you a good job. Good schools and good jobs in China, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea even now are usually only obtained by passing an exam. When they immigrate over here and they encounter a situation where they can benefit by passing an exam, they tend to excel.
By contrast, most of the other places that send lots of immigrants to New York (the American South, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica, to name a few) don't have this cultural history at all. They don't know what to do, and the schools are not entirely prepared to teach them.
I think this is by far the biggest problem with education in western countries, to the extent that it dwarfs any other consideration. Better textbooks, better teaching methods, better equipment, better teachers, better curriculums, better classroom sizes - they are all minor issues compared with the children wanting to learn and their families supporting them on that point.
In India, where I come from, this is a almost a way of life. Almost all prestigious institutions including graduate schools determine whom to admit based on a test score (and an interview in some places), as opposed to the practice in the U.S (graduate schools) of considering a candidate's GPA,essays etc. On one hand this a very transparent method ,which is important in a country plagued with corruption like India. But on the other hand it leads students to play the "test-prep game" i.e practicing a large numbers of similar questions. This has led to test prep becoming a lucrative business. Students who do not attend the "coaching centers", which are often more expensive than the regular schools they go to, will lose out to students who do, even though the knowledge the subject is the same. In India it has manifested as a problem when students from rural areas losing out students from urban regions, due to lack of these test prep centers.
The truth of the matter is that such tests serves as a good mechanism to condense a large applicant pool to a smaller one. But to base the entire admission process on one test doesn't seem to be optimal.
"Should" high-achieving students and teachers be grouped together? I don't know about that, but I would guess that the reason they often do is rooted in mutual preference.
Can anyone see this sentence coming out of the New York Times for any other ethnic group? It's like studying geometry has the whiff of something suspicious to it.
Jokes aside, there are dichotomic interpretations of "studying geometry."
There is studying geometry for its own sake, otiose learning if you will, just like the ancient Greeks did.
And then there's studying it to pass an exam, the extreme version of it as portrayed and as you are no doubt first-hand familiar with in Japan, is 100% guaranteed to cripple whatever inner inclination one may have had towards geometry. Which is sad, because there's something wondrous about the nature of space, and whoever sees a glimmer whereof shouldn't have that inner eye pulverized.
It takes the likes of an Einstein adamantine to recover: "One had to cram all this stuff into one's mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year."
In an age of abundance why wouldn't we rather have a million $REDACTED of $ETHNICITY origin bloom?
Note that Monta Vista doesn't have an entrance exam - parents of students that work hard want to be around students that work at the same level.
"The two schools, put another way that parents rarely articulate so bluntly, are too Asian."
"'This may not sound good,' she confides, 'but their child may be the only Caucasian kid in the class.'"
The difference is that the NYT article emphasizes the students' working class background. In Cupertino, the families tend to be upper middle class.
If the numbers are flipped (a significant number of Asians get in but don't graduate, and vice versa for the other demographics) that points to something being wrong with the entrance requirements and those requirements should be re-evaluated.
In fact, most of my college exams, as well as my Engineer-in-Training and Professional Engineering exams were open book/open note.
"It's not fair that asians get in because they work harder and try harder. We shouldn't let hard work be a determining factor."
But who knows, I'm asian so I'm biased. I had to work my ass off for things while other people went out, partied, slept in, went to bars and hung out with friends. I studied for my standardized tests by going to the local Borders and sitting there for hours without paying for the book but I guess not everyone is that creative.
I felt the article itself presented a fair picture of the sentiments from each corner, though I'm not particularly sensitive to bias.
As for the complaints about test-centrism, I felt they were echoing a belief that life should be and success is about more than cramming and solo achievement.
Extracurriculars, grades, and fuzzy-wooly essays/recommendations may be as strong metrics as standardized testing, but neither are our current tests nearly as good indicators as they could be.
For example, we could do more to promote problem-solving skills by providing test-takers with a much larger corpus, promote a minimum level of teamwork by allowing some collaborative problems, etc. Just some ideas.
I went to Stuyvesant and knew people in Bronx and Brooklyn Tech, humanities are not given nearly as much weight as math and science. That being said, the way the test is scored favors lopsided performance in one section: http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0A1FFC385A...