Painting Pictures

I quit my second job for a while, but got sucked back in by an importunate boss. He did move me out of PSAT/Book Club and into straight Book Club, for 7th-8th graders, which is a nice switch, except it’s in the afternoons and kills my Saturdays. But oh, the kids. Who are, in case you’re a new reader, first or second generation Chinese, Korean, Indian, and the occasional Vietnamese.

First day, a month ago, I face four eighth grade boys (one Chinese, three Korean), and I’m going into the usual spiel:

“The thing is, this class is about becoming readers, writers, and thinkers, not about getting a good grade. What do you want from this class? Francis?”

Francis just looks at me, wide-eyed and quiet. I am supposed to get the hint and move on. I wait. And wait. And wait some more. Francis realizes, to his horror, that I’m not going to move on. It is unholy how much I enjoy doing this, time and again. An unlooked for joy of teaching.

“Um. What was the…oh. Um. I want to get better grades.”

“You don’t get straight As?”

“Well. Yeah.”

“You just want more A pluses?”


“My mom wants me to come.”

“It’s always the mom, isn’t it? Bruce, what about you?”

Bruce is a Korean version of Ralphie from A Christmas Story, bright-eyed and chirpy.

“My mom wants me to come, too. But I would like to learn to write better. Not grammar.” He pauses, not sure how to say it. “Better. Like, with good vocabulary.”

“That’s a good objective. Arthur?”

Arthur would be a nerd, except no one around him would notice. It’s Saturday afternoon and I like to think that he took off the tie his outfit was missing the minute he was out of his mother’s view.

“I actually wanted to come. I need to develop a better writing style and take advantage of my vocabulary.”

“You want to get it drunk first? Kidding. Dino? What’s your pleasure–better grades, words you can love and leave, a chance to watch TV?”

Dino is slouched down, a shock of unruly hair pulled down over his eyes. “Not grades. I don’t care about grades.”

The other three boys literally gape at this anathema. “You don’t care about grades?” gasps Bruce.

“Look. We’re eighth-graders. None of this counts. I try to have fun. Read some books.” He looks at me. “I want to read deeper, find context and meaning. My teachers talk about analyzing literature, but when they analyze it I never agree with them. I want more ammunition.”

Huh. “I guess you didn’t get the memo?”

He’s quick. “Like ‘Rules and Regulations for Asians?'”

“Instead you read a pamphlet on the Beat movement.”

“What’s that?”

“Read up.”

Last week, that same boss begged me to cover two SAT writing classes in addition to Book Club, and although I was sick, I am nice. The class had already met for math so were in the room when I walked in. While I was doing my standard I’m a long time teacher here but don’t usually teach SAT spiel, I suddenly did a double take.

“Good lord, who let you in? Blond guy.”

The white kid slumped unhappily in the back eyed me cautiously. I seemed to be looking at him, but what could I mean? He looks to the left, then the right, then points to himself in query.

“Yeah, you. It’s Saturday morning. White kids are still asleep. And here you are. You don’t look half Asian, but I’ve been fooled before.”

The entire class is now unsure whether to gasp in horror or laugh.

“I think it’s your fault I’m here.”


“Yeah, a friend of mine went here last summer and his mom raved about the great teacher.”

“I”m flattered, but I don’t teach SAT.”

“That’s what I said! He went to PSAT class! But my mom made me come.”

“That’s what you get for having Asian friends.”

“I’m not blond, though.”

“Ash blond. Plus, look at the room, buddy. You’re blond.”

Now they’re laughing.

“You can’t tell half Asians?” a Chinese kid asked.

“Sometimes. But then a couple summers ago, I had this kid with blond hair. Not dyed blond, punky blond, but just normal blond hair. Blonder than this guy’s. He said he was half Korean, I said wow, he didn’t look it. He smiled, used both his hands to pull his hair away from his head and I fell out of my chair. His face was totally Korean! You know, slightly round, the eyes had the full epicanthic fold. But his hair was white people blond, and my brain just insisted his face was Caucasian until he pulled his hair back.”

“Oh, I know someone like that!” said an Indian girl.

“Hair color is white people’s. We own that trait. So much ours that I looked at a Korean face and ignored reality until the hair was gone. Hey, wait.” I suddenly stopped cold.

“You. Behind blond guy. You’re not Indian.” The kid shook his head, laughing, knowing what’s coming.

“You’re BLACK. Like, African American black! Jesus, there’s like, maybe eight of you in a ten mile radius from this spot. Where do you go to school?”

Black kid is enjoying this, names a very wealthy public school.

“Oh, well. You’re used to being one of three? Two? Just you? I know Blond Guy has to suffer through being the one no one wants on group projects–white guys never do homework–but you, you’re such a novelty they probably fight over you.”

The kids were now howling.

“My god. A white kid AND a black kid in this establishment deep in the heart of Little Asia. Cats and dogs sleeping together.”

And I started the class which I like to think lived up to the icebreaker.


So my last essay got a lot of attention, and I’m happy about that. I’m even happier that most readers took it as I intended.

But some didn’t, and by “some”, I don’t mean the various ethno-nationalists groups, nor do I mean the Stormfront and other vaguely or overtly anti-Semitic sites who liked the piece. They understood what I was saying, even if I disagree with where they took it next. I allow almost all comments, and allowance should not be construed as agreement.

No, I mean the people who said I “claimed” that all Asians were cheating, or that I didn’t “prove” that Asians weren’t living up to their resumes, or that white people cheat, too.

I am exactly the opposite of a scientist. I like facts fine. But proof is boring. It’s always so small. I like probabilities. And not calculating them, that’s boring, too. I like seeing things, reading about things, and thinking about what they mean. Then I start to anticipate. If A, which I’m reading about, is happening, then isn’t B happening, too? Let’s see what Google says. Damn, Google agrees with me! And I google, search, and keep reading, find ten other things that tie in, or are just interesting tidbits for later.

A good chunk of this blog is dedicated to describing and explaining the reality I see as an older but new teacher, as a math teacher, as a test prep instructor, as a white teacher who lives in a heavily Asian community and teaches many recent Asian immigrants. I paint a picture, and in many cases, people who work in the same reality say yeah, that’s an accurate picture. Others who aren’t familiar with the reality often find it an interesting and credible picture; still others say wow, you just took a kaleidoscope I was trying to figure out and made it clearer. All good. It’s rare that people say hey, that’s just not how reality looks and when they do, they are math teachers, and that’s religion.

But proof? It’s just a picture. Accept it, don’t accept it. Challenge it. Give data that directly contradicts it. I’m happy to realize that I’m missing a piece of the picture, or even misreading it entirely. Just quit whining that I haven’t proved it. Enough people clearly agree with the picture that I haven’t invented it out of whole cloth, and I’m not asserting anything beyond the picture. I give data to show it’s not one-off. Take it or leave it.

Over the past decade the open discrimination against Asians in college admissions has risen to the level of public notice. Many people hear the news and think, “We need to catch up! We need to make our kids more like Asian kids!” This, more than anything, is what I hope to—if not correct, then at least compensate for. Because no, we do not want to make our American kids—white, black, Hispanic, or Asian—like the kids who are, through “hard work, dedication, and cultural expectations” churning out 4.5 GPAs and taking 10-12 AP courses. Those kids are achieving those intellectual goals using methods we don’t value (and I mean more than just cheating), and they are not, in far too many cases, attaining the intellectual base that we in America assume comes along with that resume.

I can’t prove this. What I can do is show readers what problems arise from educating this population (again, recent Asian immigrants or their kids), and let them think about how that plays out in college admissions.

Our educational system needs improvement, and one of the areas that most dramatically needs improvement is our education and development of bright kids. I suspect, but can’t prove, that our failure in this respect is what allows the Asian “swot” method to dominate without actually learning all that much. What we need to do is track, is ensure that our top kids are getting a challenging education that doesn’t just allow them to regurgitate, but think creatively, intuitively, and engage their intellects. We used to do that, but our determination to pretend cognitive ability doesn’t exist has seriously damaged this area of education—both in high school and college.

Until we decide to fix this, however, the answer lies not in making American kids more Asian, but in making Asian immigrants—indeed, all immigrants—more American.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I love all my students. I teach this second job, and let my boss talk me back into it even though I’d like the time off, because I particularly love these kids, these recent Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Indian immigrants who don’t all look alike and don’t all think alike, but who far too often dutifully obey their parents and live under extraordinary pressure to succeed. I want them to be more than the hardworking stereotype, to learn to ask why, to ask questions beyond “will this be on the test” and form the occasional opinion. And towards that end, I’ll be doing my best to convince my Asian students to win more concessions for their time in Saturday school, defy their parents on a daily basis, watch more TV, watch way more movies, tell their moms to get a job if they have nothing better to do than nag them, and skip their homework entirely a couple days a week.

About educationrealist

63 responses to “Painting Pictures

  • mindweapon

    Asians become more American in one generation.

    Wanting “Asians to become more American” is kind of Cultural Imperialist, isn’t it? What is “American” anyway? You mean White of course. But you can’t say that.

    You’re trying to stay respectable, one foot in one door, one foot in the other. Well, good luck with that! in the infamous words of Spongebob.

    I see Asians as a vaccine for White kids, that will force Whites to become more academically competitive. The White slacker attitude towards studies is, I believe, a generational thing, and it’s goiing to change in a future generation. It is a product of teh Corn Syrup Cornucopia, which is ending, see

    then we will have a whole new ballgame, as they say, a completely different culture. a culture in which political correctness can no longer be enforced, because it can’t be paid for.

    The project of liberalism is doomed when multiculturalism succeeds.

  • pseudoerasmus

    Two-pronged translation of this latest entry : (1) I really really really worry that our higher-end education is producing, not critical, creative thinkers, but fact-regurgitating drones. [ What a classic liberal cliché ! ] and (2) those Asians need to take it easier so others can compete better.

    • educationrealist

      Um. No.

      I mean, good lord, if nothing else our colleges are most assuredly not churning out fact-spewing drones.

      And at this point, I’m not responding to you anymore, because there is no way you can read this essay and think I’m saying either of those, unless you simply want to argue that I’m not only racist, but stupid with it. So post what you like, I’m done engaging with you.

      • pseudoerasmus

        “Our educational system needs improvement, and one of the areas that most dramatically needs improvement is our education and development of bright kids. I suspect, but can’t prove, that our failure in this respect is what allows the Asian “swot” method to dominate without actually learning all that much. What we need to do is track, is ensure that our top kids are getting a challenging education that doesn’t just allow them to regurgitate, but think creatively, intuitively, and engage their intellects.”

        Little different from the liberal nostrum that “education must produce creative, critical thinkers, not drones”. The primary difference is that liberals think the drone production is driven by the need to please corporations, whereas your belief is driven by Asian competition.

    • John

      I really really really worry that our higher-end education is producing, not critical, creative thinkers, but fact-regurgitating drones. [What a classic liberal cliché ! ]

      Watch an AP History class in action in the weeks before the test. You will know the difference between critical, creative thinkers, and fact-regurgitating drones. Liberals abuse the idea to justify certain groups not being able to remember the facts, thinking that creativity and critical thinking are happily immeasurable. But that doesn’t mean these ideas don’t exist.

  • Jim

    Although variation in hair and eye colour are mostly found in Europids particularly Northern Europids blond hair also occurs in some Melanesian populations. The genetics is completely different than in Europids.

  • Jim

    Ed, I wouldn’t worry too much about American blacks becoming excessively Confucian.

  • baruch

    I go to an Ivy League school that, by definition, has a large Chinese immigrant student body. I am in a humanities major, and talking to the handful of Chinese kids in the humanities, they are all very open about how much they have to unlearn from their educational training. They have to overcome a lot to start thinking and writing creatively because they aren’t taught to do either – the opposite, actually. A lot of these kids go to college in the US because they want to escape the Chinese educational system.

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse

      Quite frankly, creative thinking and writing is not taught. It is inbuilt. Genetic.

      • Anthony


        Sort of. Everyone has some capacity to think (and write) creatively. Some have much more than others. But it’s a skill that develops with practice, too – someone with lots of potential to think creatively plunked into the (stereotype of the) Chinese school system is going to learn to suppress their creativity, because that’s not what is rewarded. Put that same person into an intellectually challenging American school, and they’ll get lots more practice using their creativity. (And if the American school is also academically rigorous, they’ll learn how to connect their ideas with reality pretty well, too.)

        While it’s possible that smart Chinese (and other Asian) kids are less creative than the equivalently-smart population of European-American kids, that doesn’t mean they’re not creative.

        In a lot of technical fields, a little creativity combined with analytical smarts goes a lot further than no creativity combined with those same analytical smarts. It also makes for *real* critical thinkers, rather than the lefty stereotype of critical thinking (which seems to be fact-free regurgitation of lefty ideas). Both of these are good things, and if American schools can get Asian immigrant kids to actually be creative, even a little bit, rather than just cramming facts to be repeated on the test, those kids, and America, will be better off.

      • Sisyphean

        Of course you’re right Anthony, you can develop creativity with practice, like you can anything the brain does but the question is (to use a crude 1-10 measure) whether you can improve a creative 1 to a 10 through training and practice or whether that person can only get to maybe 2 or 3. My experience from being both a corporate employee and being involved with running a local visual arts organization (and being a visual artist), however limited it may be, is much closer to the latter, though it seems that most people in education seem to believe the former. I’ve run into a lot of art teachers who profess to believe that the difference between a professional artist and the guy on the street is how much they practice making art and that’s it.

        In the same way that you are unlikely to turn someone who struggles with algebra into an MIT physics major but you can you get them to pass algebra if they work hard and get a few concepts down. It’s the same with creativity. It drives me nuts when companies have creativity workshops and expect to suddenly turn all the corporate drones who majored in engineering or business and have been selected for compliance and conformity their entire lives into creative wizards. I want to smack them. No, if you want people thinking novel things in novel ways, people who can demonstrate ideaphoria: consistently generating idea after idea after idea… well you’ve got to hire those non conformist weirdos you hate. Some companies get it, often those started by creative people, but most don’t.


      • disenchantedscholar

        Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development needs a lot of traffic on these topics. Everyone has a range, groups too. Asians cannot be as creative as Europeans and their history bears out why pretty overtly, many of their creatives were mass culled from the farmer population. It’s a myth we can all be 10s on anything when over half IQ is genetic now at least. Asian creativity is either an oxymoron or a laughable myth. 9/10 of their achievements are ripped off something someone else did before, or it’s so old it isn’t index-able information online. However, some Japanese appear to have the Openness to Experience and grit required, personality is rarely accounted for discussing ‘g’ and education. It should be. However, in my extensive experience, Asians are impossible to work with creatively, wanting to bleed anything novel out of a procedure aka The Point. The new makes them nervous. However, they are the most efficient copycats and thieves the world has ever seen. Natural middle managers, can’t lead a troupe of ants to jam. Get everything in writing and don’t trust the fake politeness, they’ll take your credit. They’ll take all of it. Factories ripping people off are the tip of a big iceberg. Collectivism is a cultural death of creativity, good luck breeding that out! The culture of collectivism must be mentioned, since education is innately Western aka individualistic. You can’t talking cure a donkey into being a horse. Empty status signalling is all they have. Look at their middle-age risk of heart attack, it’s unhealthy for them and Tiger Moms are abusive.They’re like pageant moms or stage school mothers and should be derided as such.

  • baruch

    Another thought: at some small, liberal arts colleges, the percentage of incoming students who are from China is huge (something like 70/300 in Bryn Mawr’s latest freshman class). This is a huge problem because tons of the kids have really bad English (they get in after cheating on or gaming TOEFL exams), and between language barrier and big cultural differences, they create a separate campus within the campus. In a big school this doesn’t matter, but it’s a big problem at small colleges.

    The interesting thing is that students and faculty discuss it pretty openly amongst themselves – and some of the Chinese students are upset by it as well, because they come for American education and culture but end up surrounded by other Chinese students who have no interest in either. Of course, nobody can write about any of this publicly.

    The college admins love it because international students pay full tuition. All about the dollar.

  • Jim

    In nearly all cultures in which East Asians have lived they have been highly successful economically. Their general behavioral traits appear to be pretty well adapted to complex hierarchial societies.

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse

      And generally they are well adapted to working with/for the Emperor/Government and in service roles, not productive roles. Think doctor, dentist, Post Office worker …

      • anonymousskimmer

        @ Jim and The fourth doorman of the apocalypse

        You know what proportion of the population in China is poor/marginal? More than in the U.S.

        You know how many of them are producers (assembly line, farmers, etc…)? A ton.

        The socio-economically top 1%, or even 10% or 20%, of any population is anomalous. From ancient Rome to every single modern nation. Especially when you get significant GINI coefficients.

        This wasn’t hard to find at all:

        I wonder how well medieval peasants were at navigating the complex church/state/guild heirarchies, especially in more chaotic places such as the Italian and Holy Roman Empire states.

  • Hattie

    I’ve always wondered how much of the rhetoric surrounding Asians and education are simply the culture wars with slanted eyed proxies. People, especially establishment conservatives, seem to worship the Asian “work ethic” uncritically, because it allows them to berate all the lazy people who, like, totally could achieve anything as long as they’re willing to kill themselves (and I’m not entirely sure I’m being flippant here) with work. Nope, no need to consider cognitive abilities, group differences and maybe adapting to current realities. Just everyone all work 100 hours a week on pure academics. Look at the Asians! What are you, lazy?

    That said, I also wonder if my innate hostility to that kind of work/torture is simply that, well, I *am* really lazy. I basically spent all my waking hours outside school and sports (and a fair amount of class time) in secondary school reading. That’s it. And yeah, it probably at least contributed to my decent enough grades in English and history (and college was like coming home), but I have the uncomfortable sense that someone should’ve been maybe pushing me outside my comfort zone. So how much of the pushback, and believe that the little feckers are all cheating, really is jealousy and laziness? (And how much of this paragraph is like the idea that most people have that they’re totally smart enough to have learned another language only, uh, they weren’t immersed early enough?)

  • Jim

    Baruch – Why is all this a problem? Apparently many Chinese prefer their own culture to American culture. Why is this surprising?

    • Hattie

      “Why is all this a problem?”

      Srsly? I prefer my culture to every other one. (I live in fear that my Jewish American boss will discover that I’m not really joking when I refer to my nationality as god’s chosen people.) I’m not – let’s give them the benefit of the doubt here – working incredibly hard to get into another country’s college, then recreating home. If nothing else, it seems inefficient when there’s already an entire country just waiting for them.

    • baruch

      It’s a problem at small schools because the educational model presupposes a cohesive student body. And an influx of students who can’t read or speak English well makes small, seminar classes difficult. It’s bad for education.

  • Jim

    No doubt there is something to be said for social cohesion but we are now too far gone in the direction of multiculturalism to waste time longing for social cohesion. The America of the future will probably have about the same degree of social cohesion as the Ottoman empire.

  • Pincher Martin

    “And towards that end, I’ll be doing my best to convince my Asian students to win more concessions for their time in Saturday school, defy their parents on a daily basis, watch more TV, watch way more movies, tell their moms to get a job if they have nothing better to do than nag them, and skip their homework entirely a couple days a week.”

    Do you really believe it’s your job to routinely insert yourself into the families of the Asian kids you teach by encouraging them to rebel against their parents?

    How happy would you be if a teacher tried to insert herself into your family relationships with the intent of changing them because they didn’t like the child-rearing decisions you choose to make?

    • educationrealist

      Teachers indoctrinated my kid all the time. It’s a fact of life. The difference between what they do and what I do is that my kids know I am giving them a point of view. They live so cocooned among one culture that they often think they have no choice. I’m letting them know they have a choice.

      I’ll give you another example that comes up 2-3 times a year. Indian American high school students, citizens, routinely tell me that their parents are planning on an arranged marriage for them.

      I tell them they comply. They are citizens of this country, and it’s their choice who they marry. So if they comply with the arranged marriage, they do so not because their parents insist,but because they, the kids, chose to comply.

      Remember, I’m not a government employee for the school. And these are cultural issues. I think it appropriate to tell kids that they are far, far outside the cultural norm. And if they don’t like it, they can leave. Then my boss won’t make me come in on Saturdays anymore.

      In fact, however, I’m really popular in large part because I give the kids a good sense of what reality is, and the kids clearly want it. That’s the part that gives me hope!

      That said, I never say “your parents are wrong”,nor do I disrespect them. The kids are well aware that they aren’t like the other kids, and understand the context of what I am saying. They are aware of popular culture. I’m not fomenting rebellion, nor am I expressing contempt for their parents.

      • Pincher Martin

        I have little doubt you’re popular with your kids. But I suspect that has more to do with them liking ER the person rather than ER the indoctrinator. A teacher who is interesting, funny, and engaged is going to be popular, even if her advice is questionable and sometimes even because her advice is questionable.

        I agree that schools are largely about indoctrination. One of my favorite quotes about education is by Doris Lessing. But the manner of indoctrination is often controversial and is not generally thought of as a single teacher’s responsibility to decide how she will indoctrinate.

        I also have no problem with you giving the Asian kids who come to you to discuss their problems your own take on what they can or should do, as long as you do it outside of normal class hours. A kid who opens up to an adult to discuss some problem in their life is often looking for advice or at least a sympathetic ear. They sometimes have serious problems that need to be addressed by someone outside of the family. I personally would try to error on the side of caution in such cases, but it’s certainly a judgment call by the person who hears it.

        Your original description, however, was more broad and focused solely on Asians. Tell me, for your black students, do you attempt to indoctrinate them into the notion that they need to try harder to keep their families together, to rebel against their mother’s notion of the casual boyfriend, and to generally raise their family standards? What about Hispanics? What is your indoctrination for them like?

      • educationrealist

        I am not talking about Asians who come up to me to discuss their problems. They say it openly in class. And like I said, I’m not teaching them in public school. I’m teaching them in private instruction, in enrichment. And these aren’t Asians, these are first or second generation Asian immigrants. I’m not targeting Asians, but a specific demographic. I’ve taught and tutored Asians whose families have been in this country a long time, and I don’t do this.

        I don’t teach Hispanics or blacks or whites in private instruction. I would not presume to inform a black person to keep his or her family together, because not all blacks have single parent families or casual partners. In public school, I do tell all my students, regardless of race, to be cautious about the debt they are assuming to go to college, and do tell them that it’s a terrible idea to get pregnant or get caught breaking the law. These are things I don’t tell my wealthier Asian students in private instruction.

        One other thing to remember: I am teaching reading and writing enrichment. Content knowledge is important, and a lot of content knowledge is gained by watching TV. Moreover, the kids say things like “I couldn’t read my book because I had homework for school” or “my mother wants me to have more homework from this class”. It’s not like I suddenly give them these lectures. They come up organically as part of class.

      • vijay

        I could not reply to a later response by ER, where one line blew me off “Content knowledge is important, and a lot of content knowledge is gained by watching TV”.

        I can honestly say that there is no content knowledge gained form watching TV. You can get content knowledge from watching movies, from reading newspapers, from the internet, but I know of no one who gaine content knowledge from TV. May be NFL.

      • educationrealist

        Nonsense. Much of what I know about WWII was first conveyed to me in Hogan’s Heros. Most modern crime dramas have above average vocabularies.

      • momof4

        There have been some excellent TV series; The World at War,Victory at Sea, Connections, Fall of Eagles, various nature/science programs, Sister Wendy’s history of art series, various dance and musical programs etc – but most of those were not on regular channels, but on PBS.

  • Jim

    Fourth doorman of the apocalypse – East Asians have done extremally well in places like Malaysia and Jamaica where they have had virtually no political influence and have been subject to strong discrimination on the part of government. The East Asian diaspora tends to acquire high levels of education and professional attainment. Their relative success in comparison with host populations all over the world is quite striking.

  • Jim

    Ed – It is Westerners not Indians who are the “weird” people. Western notions of individual autonomy are very exceptional both in most of the world today as well as historically.

  • Jim

    Ed – You said that you didn’t want American kids -white, black, Hispanic, Asian – to be excessively devoted to competing to most closely conform to societal norms. The vision of American blacks turning into a population of academic grinds struck me as funny. Its a long way from Confucius to NWA.

  • anonymousskimmer

    This aricle by Peter Gray seems relevant in light of this post and the previous post.

    “The highest scorers on the gaokao each year are celebrated in the Chinese press; they and their parents become temporarily famous. But follow-up studies reveal that test scores don’t predict future success. The high scorers do not achieve beyond their lower-scoring peers once they leave school; in fact, the results of one study suggested that the highest scorers achieved less, on average, than those who scored lower.[7, p 82]”

  • Steve Sailer

    Harvard-Westlake, the top academic private school in Los Angeles, was discriminating in admissions against Asians back in 1981, according to a Harvard teacher I had lunch with that year.

  • David Bowman

    What’s your take on GATE testing, and the abilities of GATE identified kids? Are there any statistics regarding the ethnic breakdown of those kids? My understanding is that you can’t prepare for those tests, and there is very little information on them.

    • anonymousskimmer

      It’s an interesting question. Problems that come up:

      1) Is the GATE test an IQ test, or a test that selects for less intellectual attributes?
      2) What’s the criteria for being selected to take the GATE test? Does everyone take it; the public school students; those with a particular score threshold on a non-IQ test; only those nominated to take it?
      3) The cutoffs on what’s considered gifted and talented greatly very across school districts and states. In some districts I’ve read that up to 40% of the children test as GATE (the dumbing down of the GATE criteria was speculated to have been done partially to combat white flight). A related question is: How old are the norms?
      4) The tests can be heavily loaded on one or two sub scales. Even given g, there will be bias in favor of those stronged in the tested subscales. To an extent all the sub-scales can be prepped for, if only in terms of familiarization. Though that probably has less of an impact in this era of heavy testing.
      5) Something that will have more of an impact, especially at the border of what’s considered gifted (where most of the gifted statistically lie), will be quality of schooling. Good schools can bump a borderline person just above the gifted threshold, and bad schools can bump one just below the gifted threshold.
      6) Some people are culturally encouraged to bomb the test, others to do their absolute best (or to cheat, if possible). This will have more of an impact the older a child is. Those gifted who bomb the test will necessarily bring down the norms of what’s considered top 2% (if they’re part of the norming group).
      7) At what age was the test taken?

      • anonymousskimmer

        Please ignore the grammar errors; I see that they are abundant.

      • David Bowman

        In general, I am talking about the GATE test given in California public schools.
        1) No idea. From what I can gather, it seems like an IQ test, but can’t be sure.

        2) If a school district participates, everyone takes it. For districts that do not participate, not sure if the test is given there optionally or not. For instance, I don’t believe that the Cupertino school district participates in it currently. Parents can choose to opt out of their kid taking it for whatever reason. But otherwise, in a participating district, everyone takes it. Note that the test is given only in 3d grade I think.

        3) The way it works is that a district chooses a percentile cutoff for admitting a student as “GATE identified”. The percentile is across all of the students who took it. But in one district, the cutoff for GATE-identified might be a score in the 99th percentile, whereas in another district, 90th percentile. In the Fremont unified school district, it is 99th percentile.
        If you look at elementary schools in Fremont, especially the high API ones in the Mission area, the GATE identification is around 20%. In MSJ high, it is almost 50%. The reason is that in later grades, you can get “GATE identified” by being nominated or grades or some other way that does not include the testing in 3d grade. So the 3d grade results would be most relevant for judging that test, and the type of students who do well.

        4) There is almost 0 information on it anywhere (other than a few paid sites that claim they can train you). It appears unlikely that anyone is prepping for it.

        7) 3d grade, ages of 8-9.

  • Eliezer Ben-Yehuda

    >> You know what proportion of the population in China is poor/marginal? More than in the U.S.

    do you know what portion of PRC citizens are NOT ethnic Han Chinese? A ton.

    >> makes small, seminar classes difficult. It’s bad for education.

    what makes you think that colleges are ACTUALLY in the “education business”? The evidence is stronger that they’re in the entertainment industry. You want to see a classroom where education is the real priority? Go to a US Marine Corps boot camp.

    • anonymousskimmer

      According to wikipedia less than 10% of the population of China is other than ethnic Han (I don’t know if they’re including half breeds among the Han).

      I lived in Shanghai for 6 months as a kid (early 1990s). The stereotypes of Chinese immigrant populations certainly didn’t apply to everyone.

      The Chinese immigrant and immigrant descended populations in no way represent the majority of Chinese, of almost any ancestry. They’re just too small a percentage of the population, and in no way a representative sampling of the population.

  • Jim

    Chinese immigrants to the US today are probably coming heavily from the well-to-do class. Chinese immigrants to Malaysia came to work in the tin mines and presumably came from the ranks of poor Chinese. The Chinese populatioon in Jamaica is descended from indentured laborers brought in to work in the sugar plantations. It is quite likely that these populations had lower average intelligence than the general Han level however they had IQ’s well above their host populations so they were very successful in the long run.
    The Japanese in Brazil are an interesting case. They have been highly successful in Brazil outperforming all other ethnic groups incuding whites.
    Some of them have migrated back to Japan in more recent years where they have tended to do rather poorly in comparison with native Japanese. In Brazil the Japanese are probably the highest IQ ethnic group so do very well but going back to Japan they are below average.
    In a country like South Korea where the average IQ is about 108 Chinese immigrants in general would have little advantage. But in countries like Indonesia, Burma, the Phillipines etc. the Chinese immigrants do very well. Even if their average IQ is below the Han average as a whole they are quite a bit above the average IQ’s in these countries.

  • Enrique Cardova

    Realist said
    I can’t prove this. What I can do is show readers what problems arise from educating this population (again, recent Asian immigrants or their kids), and let them think about how that plays out in college admissions.
    If I remember there have been cases where the Justice Dept or US Dept of Ed sued various colleges for discriminating against asians in admissions- reported in the book Mismatch I think. And there have been articles of white parents fleeing certain school districts because there wre “too many” high performing Asians- a different kind of “white flight.”

    Mindweapon sez:
    What is “American” anyway? You mean White of course. But you can’t say that.
    Why should Realistic repeat or indulge such simplistic nonsense?

    Little different from the liberal nostrum that “education must produce creative, critical thinkers, not drones”. The primary difference is that liberals think the drone production is driven by the need to please corporations, whereas your belief is driven by Asian competition..

    ^Little different from standard right wing narratives. Actually white elites understand quite well that education must “produce creative, critical thinkers” which is why they ensdiversityure their kids get a higher quality that actually does go beyond “test prep.” Test prep is needed as is school being more demanding, but there is a level beyond that. The West has an edge for now in retaining certain advantages because it grasps that extended level. Such advntages will not last forever.

    Jim sez:
    Although variation in hair and eye colour are mostly found in Europids particularly Northern Europids blond hair also occurs in some Melanesian populations. The genetics is completely different than in Europids.
    There is no such thing as your pseudo ‘Europid” any more than there is a race of “Swedids”.. **roll eyes**

  • Enrique Cardova

    One of the key reasons (not the only one) the West gained technological advantages over an Asia that was initially more advanced is the spirit of creative, intellectual engagement you hint at. One only has to look at Joseph Needham’s “Science and Civilization in China” or other sources to see that Asia was actually significantly ahead in numerous key technologies- from writing, to the compass, to gunpowder weaponry, to printing, to economic production. As late as 1830, China was producing almost one-third of world economic output.

    Much has been written on Western creativity, openness, greater access to flow and interchange of ideas, critical inquiry etc as giving said West the crucial edge in eventually surpassing Asia. This “Western spirit” is not the ONLY factor, as Ken Pomeranz notes in The Great Divergence- for things like favorable natural resources and geography play a part. But it is one of the KEY factors. This does not mean that Asia lacked creativity or engagement, just that the West was able to apply these elements more efficiently and effectively at particular times and places.

    Nor does the above mean “the West” gained its edge in isolation. To the contrary. One key thing about the West is its ability to borrow and copy things and concepts developed elsewhere- its openness to new inflows, and subsequent synthesis and extension. Several key human technologies reflect this. They were not invented in the West- neither the crucial plant and animal domesticates of the Neolithic, nor metallurgy, nor writing, nor geared powered machinery, or even cultural products these days deemed as “Western”- such as the massively influential Christian religion- a product of the sub-tropical Mideast. None of these things originated in the supposed “cold climate” fantasy, “Europid” workshops so fervently invoked by white racists.

    The West has also benefited from favorable geographic circumstances- such as the East-West climatic axis demonstrated by Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, and the massive advantages gained by a geography promoting inflows of new ideas and materials for synthesis and expansion- like a continent that has the most natural harbors in the world, and multiple rivers for easy internal flow of men , material and ideas (Diamond 1995, Sowell 1992, 1993, Pomeranz 2000). Even the peopling of Holocene (early current era) Europe significantly involves migrants from the sub-tropical Middle East who in turn came from Africa. Ancient European homo sapiens in fact show several resemblances to tropical Africans (C. Loring Brace 2005). This history is avoided by white nationalist types with their fantasies of autonomous “Aryan” development, when in fact it is the free flow of ideas, people and material that are important keys to the West’s rise to dominance, even after numerous others were for most of human history, more advanced than “the West.”

    Our students as you say don’t need to become Asian clones. They can master the “grind” approach and still lay hold of the extended heritage of the Western openness, creativity, and ability to synthesize and extend such inflows over time. Some “grind” is necessary. In some inner city and suburban venues for example the kids will have to become more “Asian” in terms of work ethic (minus the cheating), but let us not stop there. Let us go on to fill out the rest of the page. And if that means more tracking, so be it. I endorse your approach and wish you luck as you attempt to work out these matters on the front lines. I also endorse your clear-headed realism- so much more refreshing than the shaky platitudes of liberals, or the dubious narratives of right-wing types.

  • Jim

    One interesting difference in the history of Western Europe from other Eurasian civilizations is that Western Europe was not directly affected by the Mongol onslaught. Northern Africa was also spared.

    As for Diamond’s East-West axis theory – note the Andean cultural area which is extraordinarily elongated on a North-South axis, a narrow strip of coastal land hemmed in by the Andes. If you compare the Andean cultures with Meso-American cultures Diamond’s theory would lead one to conclude that Meso-American cultures would be much more advanced. In fact the difference in the level of cultural achievements between the areas is not that great. A glance at a map of the Andean cultural area might induce some doubts about the importance of an East-West axis.

    In Meso-America many of the earliest and most advanced cultures were located in Guatemala, Honduras and southern Mexico, areas with little East-West extension. Even the Toltecs were in the extreme south of Mexico. The Mound Builder Cultural area of the Eastern North Continent had a much greater East-West elongation than any cultures in Meso-America or the Andes but was much less advanced.

  • Jim

    I meant to say “Eastern North American continent” but that is not technically correct as Guatemala say is part of the North American continent.
    The Mound Builder Culture was spread over much of tne present day Eastern US. I don’t think the development of New World civilizations and cultures suggests that East-West elongation has as much importance as Diamond believes.

  • Jim

    The Amerindian cultural area of the West Coast of the present day US and Canada was somewhat similar to the Andean cultural area, elongated on a North-South axis with it’s East-West extension limited by the Rocky Mountains. The cultural area east of the Rocky mountains had a much greater East-West elongation but was less advanced.

  • Jim

    The Christian religion as a product of the “sub-tropical” Mideast?
    The latitude of Jerusalem is 32 degrees north, about the same as Dallas, Texas.

    • Roger Sweeny

      The traditional definition of the northern subtropics has it going from the Tropic of Cancer (23.45 degrees north) to 35 degrees north.

  • Jim

    You’re right! Oklahoma City is sub-tropical according to the Koeppen classification. They sometimes have blizzards there in the winter. I never would have thought of Oklahoma City as sub-tropical. I lived at one time in Waco, Texas and we would have occaisional light snow and more often bitterly cold wind in the winter. It never occured to me that I lived in the sub-tropics. When I was a child I lived in Guam which really is in the tropics (13 degrees north of the equator.)

  • Jim

    I lived in Okinawa at one time and in the winter night-time temperatures would sometimes go down into the low forties. In Guam even at night tempertures hardly ever went below 70. I slept at night in a screened-in porch and didn’t even use a sheet as a cover. Okinawa is my conception of sub-tropical. Oklahoma City (which is at about 35 degrees north) being sub-tropical is quite a novel concept to me.

    • Roger Sweeny

      There are lots of definitions of “subtropical” which rely more on climate and less on location. Under those, Oklahoma City probably wouldn’t be subtropical. The whole idea of “subtropical” is sort of vague. It’s “less than” tropical: somewhere between tropical and temperate.

  • Jim

    You’re right. And then there are the tropical mountain climates like Baguio in the Phillipines. When you’re there it’s amazing to realize that you’re deep in the tropics only a little north of Manila.

  • susan

    What is your take on the new Wired magazine article on radical education methods, and the case of Paloma Bueno?

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