This column is written by High School English teacher Jerry Heverly.
Why are San Leandro Asian kids more successful students than other ethnic groups?
By Asian kids I mean, specifically, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Indian and Pakistani children, male and female.
By “more successful students” I mean they are more cooperative, more polite, more respectful, more likely to be readers (the main route to success in English classes), more mature, far less likely to be discipline problems.
Obviously not all Asian kids meet this description.
And I’m aware that many kids from other ethnic groups do meet these criteria.
But with other groups the percentage of more successful students is much lower.
Yet even in my classrooms the relatively small number of Asian students in my lower track classes almost invariably get A’s or B’s. Of my seven Asian students only one is below a B average for all classes collectively.
I’ve heard, as I’m sure you have, the standard answer to this question.
“It’s the parents,” I’m told. “In the Asian culture children are expected to be diligent and respectful.” Confucius did it.
It makes sense; since I have often heard Asian kids relate the pressure they get from their parents to do well in school.
The problem is that I hear the same thing from parents of other ethnic groups.
Often I’m asked to attend meetings meant to help struggling students. I’ve written in a previous column about these (generally fruitless) endeavors.
Those meetings have convinced me of one thing. The parents of those failing students care deeply about their kids. And they expend extraordinary energy trying to guide their children towards school success.
The difference is in the results, not in the methods.
I’ve done web searches and read several books on this topic and invariably they turn into discussions of parenting styles. I read the famous Wall Street Journal review of Tiger Mom.
I don’t buy the assumption that Asian parenting is fundamentally different from that of Latino, African-American, Pacific Island, White, or any other group at SLHS.
I called a parent of an African American student last night. Her daughter had misbehaved in class, earning a referral to the office. Her GPA is very low. I dreaded the call.
Yet, like 98% of these calls, her mom was 100% supportive and a thousand percent committed to changing her child’s behavior.
My experience tells me, though, that it is unlikely that things will substantially and (most importantly) enduringly improve.
As a ninth grade teacher I see very few epiphanies among my students of all racial groups. (I will say, though, that many of my fifteen year old’s mature remarkably during their junior and senior years.)
I’ve read that Asian parents have stricter rules for their children. From what information I get from my students there are lots of folks out there with stringent curfews and draconian punishments for slip-up’s. And I mean parents of every ethnicity.
Fewer divorces and broken homes? I can’t cite statistics on this but my sense is that a higher percentage of my Asian kids have both parents at home. But I’ve also noticed that many have parents who work so many hours that the children virtually raise themselves.
Biased teachers? Maybe we expect Asian kids to be smarter and thus our grades only reflect our prejudices? Maybe, but I strongly doubt it.
Work ethic? I have parents of every variety who slog through two or three jobs.
My point is that we tend to reason backwards. We see that Johnny with the pushy parents went to Harvard. We forget that Juan’s parents said the same things and wanted the same things for him, but somehow Juan didn’t get the memo.
I just don’t get it.
Read other columns from the Entirely Secondary archive. The tag line is inspired by education blogger Joe Bower who says that when his students do an experiment, learning is the priority. Getting the correct answer is entirely secondary.