Why do Asian Kids Study Like Crazy

asian kids study like crazy Why do Asian Kids Study Like Crazy

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Can we really achieve diversity with no discrimination?

Recent years, there have been many protesters on campus looking for diversity; as UCLA is short for “University of Caucasians Lost among Asians,” many minority groups are underrepresented. While I do think it’s great to have diversity, I think having the admission program go easy on some groups rather than others is not the real solution to a problem. I believe the problem extends from culture and value backgrounds of different groups. The university admission system is obliged to take students that are most fit to study and compete in an academic environment(which yes, I will agree that the way they identify “fitness” is completely flawed, but they try). In some cases, we probably all notice that schools also take the best fit people to compete against other schools in certain sports/activities.

Some cultures value grades over balance

Now I’m not looking to get into the zone of being politically correct or incorrect, but I will state beforehand that this blog is mostly about criticizing some Asian cultures and values. I think if a kid studies all day long since the first grade, gets extra practice problems when she finishes homework while others are outside playing, stresses about college and SATs since freshman year of high school, gets “illegal punishment” from berserk parents every time she gets a B in class, and takes on all those extracurricular activities that she may or may not like, just to get into a good college, she probably deserves to get into a decent college (at least compared to the kid who just played games most of the time).

I don’t think any group is really smarter than another, but just some groups have the cultural background to study like it’s their destiny so that they don’t embarrass their families, ancestors, and everyone that is affiliated with them. Asians aren’t really good at math (To save my ass: I simply hear this comment a lot and I do not endorse this statement); it’s kids who do 20 practice problems everyday after finishing their homework since third grade that are good at math(which regrettably or not, was not me).

Luckily, issues that disadvantage college minority groups can change, and should change. I believe that providing a better education as well as promoting more studious environments and values among the minority groups from elementary school to high school is the true solution for diversity in college. With good policy making, these are all possible.

Fit vs Diversity in Sports or the Entertainment Industry?

If you want to speak about diversity (and discrimination) on things that can’t change, I propose that every NBA team should require at least 2 White guys and an Asian guy (which still isn’t fair in the absolute sense) on the floor at all times, as there seems to be a clear absence in diversity in the name of “fit”.

We might even need to make a rule that the Asian guy should have the ball at least 3 times in a game, because that probably won’t happen without.

We also might consider having diversity in physical attractiveness in the entertainment industry, because if you pay close attention to the industry often, you might notice that non-gorgeous looking people seem to be discriminated in getting lead roles in movies and such.

Ultimately, universities look for people that have the best potentials in being successful in society after graduation, so the reputation of the school would expand, as well as receive some alumni donations. It is true that by just looking at GPA, SAT scores, some extracurricular activities and a couple essays, you can’t really tell if one would be successful in society, but that’s how the university works even throughout college and into the work force, and until you figure out a better way that is cost-effective, there is no point in blaming the school itself.

Why do Asians study like crazy?

So why do Asians study like crazy anyway? What’s wrong with them? It’s really ingrained in the Asian culture that studying is everything. Getting into a good college is more like an end itself, rather than a means to an end, which is to get a successful job.

As I went back to Taiwan and saw my Grandfather(88), after six years of not seeing his only grandson, one of the first things he asked was, “when are you going to get your masters?” Oh yea, not being here for awhile, I forgot that whether I want to get a masters or not isn’t even a question.

My aunt showed similar kindness as she innocently mentions, “when you get your masters in this degree, I’ll do blah blah blah” (blah is Mandarin Chinese, so don’t even try to read it).

If I was still in middle school, whether I wanted to be a doctor or not would not have been a question either. These are just all assumed: if you can be a doctor, be a doctor, and if you can get a masters, get one.

Now being an entrepreneur doesn’t require an obliterating amount of education, but I remained polite so I won’t piss off the whole family and put my parents in shame. They who started to save money for my education(almost $40,000 a year including living fees) since they were married deserve to have some peace.

Going back to ancient China

So the reason why many Asian groups value education and degrees comes from the ancient traditions in China. During the old days, and I mean so old that I didn’t even know how to ride a bicycle, the only way to become rich and prosperous is to take this mammoth national exam, score well, and become a government official.

During the time, most people were only peasant farmers and could not afford an education. The ones who did went for an education, which is pretty much a no-brainer even without the education.

Once you score well on the exam and become a government officer, supposedly you will bring prosperity and honor to all your family and ancestors. You basically aren’t worthless anymore in a monarchy society once you have some kind of scholarly title.

It has been that for thousands of years, and scholars were always the most looked up upon, as kings and emperors always listened to them(think Confucius).

Western cultures view education as a means to a great career instead of an end to itself

In the US, things are a bit different. People look up to individuals like Bill Gates, who quit his degree at Harvard, started Microsoft and were able to pay his bills quite well, while having some extras for entertainment.

The whole system of what is “great” and “prestigious” has some differences in the cultures. In the US, being prosperous IS prestigious, excluding activities such as drug dealing etc.

At this point I shall admit that I have been talking in extremes and absolutes, and that a common idea of prestige and such is still shared among the cultures. It is impossible to talk about any group as a whole without making statements that are generic with tons of exceptions. I have only been talking on a relative basis, as a PhD is certainly prestigious in the US, just not AS valued as in an Asian society.

In many Western countries, education is the means to an end. You go to school so you can get a better job with your better degree. Many times you can evaluate is it worth the money to get that education(and I have learned in my econometric class at UCLA, that according to some data, on average you only make around 46 cents more per hour after each year of schooling).

But in Asian societies, getting a strong degree is almost like an end, for the strong social status(which is also created in people’s mind) of a high degree is the determination of if one is successful.

I can almost say in modest certainty that many Asian parents would be prouder of a child who went to Harvard but for some reason couldn’t find a good job than one who went to a bad college but has an extraordinary job.

Unconvinced: Do these kids really study like crazy?

OK, some people pointed out that I don’t know what I’m talking about, and people in the US value education the same way. Let me tell you this to be convincing:

A good amount of middle school students from Taiwan live like this (this includes many many of my personal friends): they would go to school at 7:30AM. School ends at 5:00PM. Then they go to after-school school to improve in school (like a Kaplan except 60% of the students are forced to go by their parents), leave after-school school at 10PM. Then they have to finish after-school school homework, and then their real school homework, and then they go to bed.

As far as I know, not that many middle school students live like this in the US. A few years back, students needed to go to school on Saturdays too (they Westernized). And in your 3rd year of middle school, you are forced to stay in school to study for your exam till 8PM every day.

Here’s another example. I remember those annoying tests that for every problem you get wrong, the teacher takes a big stick and hits you in the palm. It hurt like crap. When that happens, it’s always a long line of students waiting to be hit by the teacher. Do the parents go to school and yell at the teacher? No. The parents go to school to APOLOGIZE that their children created problems for the teacher.

In the US culture, parents have more power than teachers. But in many Asian cultures (I know Taiwan best, but many other Asian friends confirmed the same thing), the teachers have more power than the parents and the parents are often apologizing. That’s just a difference in cultural value.

Some observed dysfunctions of valuing grades over everything

For many Asian students, getting into an university is where life ends. Then another life independent of their past starts once they get out of college. However, there are some negative consequences to it, besides the high stress and suicide rates of students.

Since getting into college is everything, once students from Asia (not Asian students in the US, and no not ALL countries) get into top universities, they start to slack and have fun all day, instead of really acquiring knowledge as they are there for. The system also makes it that your GPA hardly matters as long as you pass, so that’s all people aim for. Getting into graduate school is simply determined by another test at the end of college years.

I know this because I every friend I talked to who grew up in Taiwan, China, Japan, Korea all said in middle school and high school, they were extremely stressed and suicide rates were higher. Once people get in college, what people do all day is slack off. “They made it, so it’s time to relax instead of learning.”

For that reason, when it comes to universities, students in the US actually study harder than those in Asia (yea, amazing right? Even after all that partying). This clearly shows that it’s pretty dysfunctional when a culture places the value of “grades” over “education.” You’re not there to learn, you are there to score.

This is just some thoughts based on the observations I have in society and an attempt to explain the origins of it. If you happen to disagree with anything and have better insights about things, feel free to criticize this and enlighten me. Politeness is appreciated but sometimes too much to ask for from Anonymous Commentors, so trolls are welcome too. Have a great time!

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45 comments
BruceLeeRevives
BruceLeeRevives

I grew up in Taiwan, and then came here to continue my study.

I am currently studying at a very prestigious school in the US.

 

what I think is that education is very important...it is more important than "making money"

 

think about what you want to do in this life

A good educaiton can gives you more opportunities to realize your dreams...

 

I think some parents just push their kids too much but some others are just fine...

 

sometimes its hard for young people to understand something( I think I am old enough now).

 

dating, playing all day ... thats all you want to do?? 

CHONTICHA
CHONTICHA

yeah we value education in my school who was get the best univerity his GPA just or not higher 3.4-3.5(don't aks my GPA haha) in one day we study for 10 hours(5 day per a week) or more and holidy we study for (at least 5 hours) my parent always said "you must get A grades"or"you have to be a doctor girl."(me:Ah dad!) so the end of semester i have to get some tutors which i would study in the next year i'll never be free haha (i'm thai) :)

Quing
Quing

I think that it is the culture that makes asian parents believe education is everything. My father is asian and all he can say to me is to study for my SAT even though I'm still in middle school. There is not question, "but"'s or "if"s, I must get straight A's and there really is no consequence for me except they'll go into a speech about how education is everything then expect me to do better. Many kids are PAID to get B's and C's in my class, for me getting A's is expected nothing to be rewarded for.

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Hey Quing, Hahaha, studying for your SAT in middle school could surely help you get into an Ivy League school ;) Getting good grades does help you in life ultimately, but the goal is to not kill yourself trying. The kids who are getting paid for getting Bs or Cs have a higher probability ending up in manual labor or working at the post office (which is perfectly fine). If you have ambitions of doing more stuff, then it's good to have better grades for better options.

Calvin
Calvin

@Robyn If you were to come to Asia you would see the real picture.Not all Asians get straight As and I happen to be one of them.i seriously suck in math n science but I excel and enjoy subjects like literature,history and geography.however I still am seen as useless by my parents simply because of the reason that i am bad in math and science .

Calvin
Calvin

Hi,I'm an Asian teenager being made to go through all these fucking bullshit studying many hrs a day n having lots of tuition and this makes me so fucking pissed cuz there's nothing I can even do about it.i really hate being Asian sometimes cuz why can't I enjoy life while being young like the rest of the other races.personally I believe in living a good quality life n not made to mug n burn the midnight oil n studying like crazy for some exam or even test ..FML!!!

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Hey Calvin, First of all, I would appreciate milder language on my blog. But thanks for the comment and I hope you find better balance in your life. Getting good grades does help you in life ultimately, but the goal is to not kill yourself trying.

Robyn King
Robyn King

All 100% of all Oriental Asians of both genders both females and males are straight A+ students and are straight A students worldwide.

michelle
michelle

Do you think asian children like to study. Well for me I really like and envy the white people. Because they get to day dream, play all day with friend and interact with other people. And don't have to think about the stress and pressure from your parent, relatives, grandparents, cousins and close family friend. White children don't need to know so much about taxes until they live on there own or when they reach certain age. But for asian kid I already looking at taxes about the age of 6. They also telling me If i don't get into university it the end of the world. During any holiday including summer holiday my parent force me to do more homework and more studying. My parent always comparing my marks with my cousins or family,friends or any strangers. Always telling me to get into Harvard university like all your older cousins and getting honours. And when i see my cousin and my parent, relative they said be to be a good example to your younger cousin telling them getting good mark and getting into top university is there future. Sometimes my parent and relative tell me look at your younger cousin they already skip 2 grade a head. Sometime my older cousin telling me you should studying harder so you can get into Anaesthesiologist you can get 292,000 American dollar a month or other high paying jobs that you like to have a career in the future. My parent never have a time of a day to talk to me about anything. And if they talk it about money, social status, home work, books and boring stuff. Our family don't even have a TV or I can't even have or own a video game because they say video game is distracting technology that affect your mind and waste of time. if you want you can have only brain age. But of course it a lied you already have so much to do like Chinese school on Saturday and kumon on Sunday and school work during the weekend. Learning Piano on Wednesday, swimming on Monday. Plus you have a computer at home and internet. What else do you need? that what they say. My parent tell me a lot of people don't even have tv, cell phone, game boy or even education and you should be happy what you have.

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Hello Michelle, Thanks for the clear description of what I'm trying to present here in my blogpost. It sucks that your family gives you so much pressure, and the worse thing is that it is not uncommon at all. But going through that, I also think it is unfair that "diversity" programs make it so that it would be harder for Asian kids to get into a school (after ALL that pressure and studying) while making it easier for others who play and daydream. I think there needs to be a better solution.

trish
trish

WOW! Dysfunctional, I don't know... I am an educator in Canada and our ways differ from the US. We teach according to our students' strengths and needs. We teach in many different forms so that no child is left behind, we are an inclusive school system and have special needs students in the classroom too. We have programs for Academics, ESL learners, gifted children, honours classes, trades programs and life skills for children/youth that will not go on to further studies. We are trying to desparately convince our government to follow Finland's education system, as they are the top in the world. We teach incorporating many different teaching styles as most children all learn differently. In Social Studies we teach about Canadian history, aboriginal heritage and how Canada became Canada,and how Canada relates to the rest of the world. We are influenced by the Americans in our way of culture and entertainment but we are very different in so many other ways. We are a big country with a small population and we are very multicultural. Maybe other countries should follow Canada as an example of how to make children well rounded and thinkers for themselves!

Michelle
Michelle

Hi, I recently my family and I move from Honk Kong to Canada but we got lots of questions for you. Well I like the education here but my dad hates it because the teacher and the school are quite lay back. They don't care about the students future. My old school I always got hit by the teacher with a huge stick. I don't just got hit at school but at home else well. My dad say Canadian teacher let the student act up in class not quiet as strict indiscipline as in Asia, India and England. They tell them getting a B- or C+ is good in Canada. Else well not getting into a University is good for them. Even if the teacher don't care about the future the parent should care and should support the child until they finish university. My dad don't understand why the teacher don't hit the student or even the parent or relative hit the child. They parent and relative don't emphasize on the child future or talk about the importance of money social status. The child can phone a cop in Canada if they get hit by parent and relative. In Asia, England, India they get hit with a stick by the teacher the cop don't even care. The parent rooted when I got hit they say it your fault not studying harder didn't do your home work didn't memorize your poem. But in Canada the parent and relative don't have a say they let their own children make their decision and destiny by getting a dead end job, can't find work, letting them do drugs, alcohol, partying, being a thief, having a baby before marriage and ruin their life. Not able to Borden there knowledge. Or work hard for there future or desire dreams. Means no money no social status, or life of crime be hide bars. The parent also let the child act up and talk back is that how education system work. parent, teachers showing example if they find the work is difficult is to give up like homework for example. Well please write back to us my parent and I also want to know since you are and Educator you should have an answer for us Thanks.

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Hello! Thanks for the email. Where are you in Canada? I'm in Vancouver for now. You can email me at fdlink@gmail.com :D

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Thanks for the response Trish! I have actually been through the Canadian schooling system and I like it a lot! It's a bit more laid back than the US so I think it depends on what people want, but overall it's great! Hope all is well!

Pragya
Pragya

This is sooo true! I live in India and all people here care about is their kids getting into a good institution after high school, and AFTER that, they can have all the fun they want in life! I'm a victim of this mindset too! Sometimes it gets so hard to go on, that I think of ending my life.. I'm in the first year of my high school, and a classmate of mine studies for 12 hours in a day and sleeps for 4 hours only. He has pulled out his eyelashes and eyebrows during sleep because of stress. His parents do not mind this at all and are quite satisfied with the way things are going. I sometimes feel like I don't wanna live here in India, I wanna go to USA, where16 year olds can atleast LIVE their lives.. But I know, one day God will free me..

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Hey Pragya! Dude, don't end your life man. I am confident that God will free you one day and you will live the life that you are always meant to live. Don't lose heart and keep following your passion! Take care man.

Jonathan360
Jonathan360

It all comes down to how you approach a problem and the thought process. In Western culture, if a student gets a terrible grade on a test, say a math test, the student will think to themselves, "Math is not my thing, I am not very good at it". However in the Asian culture, a student may get a bad grade on a math test and will say, "I did not study hard enough." Simple as that.

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

That is pretty true. But overall, it depends on why your parents say is the reason you got a bad grade :)

Diana Wei
Diana Wei

WOw, love this....love learning about my heritage and explainations of my weird,admirable bad habits. Remember Joy Luck Club - I was one of those girls, except I chose to exit out of that plan slowly. I'm pretty much the black duckling, whom chose to go my path...testing my freedom to not work in the corp world, to explore my options. And in my family/chinese's eyes, I am a failure. I am a happy failure, because I opted out of living my life for my family until 30, marrying the guy they want & then breaking down after realizing there is no way to please an Asian parent - what my cousin went through. Wow SO LOVE this history except on why we study! =) I can vouch for the crazy lifestyle (study) is for kids in Taiwan - my boyfriend grew up there. I'm so lucky - ABC. Very interesting to find out that American students study harder in College - I went crazy in college! haha AWESOME!!! Love your postings - glad JunLoayza referred me to your site.

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Hey Diana. Thanks for commenting! Hope life is treating you well and hope you found the path you want to do in your life :)

Ken Kurosawa
Ken Kurosawa

Hey fellow Bruin, You have some pretty valid points about how history has shaped how cultures handle ideas such as education. A great book on this is 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell, its well worth the read. Ken

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Yea, I hear a lot of great stuff about it! Will read it one day! :D

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

I am! I am working! ;( You always push me very hard and make me cry! Yu-kai

Hanson
Hanson

U just saved me from killing myself (I got a 3.5 gpa at a very competitive high school) I'm also an entreprneur and I've Sold a website for mid $xx,xxx Email me you funny guy ;) Maybe I'll take it easy

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Congrats. Yea, don’t kill yourself. Your GPA trains you to go into the corporate world and follow bell schedules. Just make sure you learn as much as you can!

Robyn King
Robyn King

Hello,my name is Robyn King I am a 24-year-old female living in Los Angeles,California The United States Of America and I think that yes all koreans/oriental asians both males and females in Asia America,and all over the world have to most definitely be extremely very smart because it is most definitely their culture to get straight A+'s and straight A's on their report cards all through school and college all through their lives and if they get anything less than an A+ and an A on their report cards then it will dishonor their parents and they will punish them for doing that. It is also instilled in their minds including the adults that you can't have a life or nothing without education and without education you're nothing and yes that is most definitely very true because no one wants to be illiterate in life.From generations after generations all through their lives that all koreans/oriental asians both males and females have been getting straight A+'s and straight A's all through school and college all through their lives and they really always have an extremely very high excellent deep value for higher education. They always have in the past they always have now and they always will have in the future time.I really do hope and pray that they can still continue getting straight A+'s and straight A's all through school and college.I am really very proud of them and excellent good luck goes out to them and the rest of their race of people for the extremely very hard that they have done been doing from generations after generations all through their lives because that is something to really always most definitely to be proud about and I am extremely very happy for them.

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Ummm, I’m actually not sure how to respond to this. I guess I can only say, thank you for commenting Robyn?

lakerfan
lakerfan

i would disagree with the NBA thing, that is all

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Haha, Thanks lakerfan for disagreeing :) I usually enjoy disagreements because it gives me more chances to become edified. Is there any reasoning you want to attach to your disagreement? Or you just think the game would be boring if there’s more racial balance? I kinda like Jun’s comment about “every basketball team should have 1 white guy, 1 asian guy, 1 latino guy, 1 indian guy, and 1 black guy.” :D

Devashish
Devashish

i think that asia's education system is different from that of the the west. in asia they value more on theoretical work and brute force memorization whereas in the west the system is based on practical work. in asia it is all theories wherase in the west there is about 10 percent theory and the rest is practical. asian students who come here to study do well in math because they have good theoretical knowledge and math in the west doesn't require experiments in class to be done. Some might even feel that it is easier here because what they studied two years ago is showing up just now. but they do feel a bit frustrated and shocked by the way the way education is viewed here or the way of teaching students how to view this world. at first asian students wont get anything because they are all the time used to mugging up theories and writing down their definition since infants. So like when especially in a chemistry class when they start doing the labs they will go numb. They have never seen such apparutus and equipment and dont know what they are meant for or how to use them. They dont know the standard way of doing things which is a very efficient way of studying developed by the white community. They dont even know about the fact that a standard way exists. not only that in the west the courses that you take are all realted. like the mathematical concepts that you learn must be used in the study of science like physics. Everything works on framework. If you learn math then it is because you want to develop a mathematical framework through which you view the world. in asia they do teach the theory but they dont show how to apply it. They dont know the relation between what they are studying and its uses in practical life. so for asian kids it is hard for them to draw a overall picture about the world. they should first understand the education system and then go according to it. They should know the standard way that the Western world has developed for studying. in asia it is like spoonfeeding.whatever the question in class the same will come in the exam. but in the west it is different. over here they teach the concept and then they tell the students how to apply it in different fields. so that even if there comes problems in numerous amounts of ways for which they have to apply the theory and concept they have understood they can do it. but it is not the case with the east. The eastern people who come here should actually revolutionize their way of thinking. it will take time for them to swallow the way of educating onself. because for them education means just mugging up from the book and elegantly writing it in the copies. for them education is just about books and pencil and nothing else. they dont even know what education is. they have so many things in their heads that they have mugged up but it really does not make sense to them. they can just write it out but when asked to explain it they can't. This is quite frustrating for asian kids who come here. They will think that what the whites are doing doesnt make any sense. They will have a hard time accepting the fact that the way of education in which they were brought up had some inconveniences or drawbacks and that they should change their way of studying. if you ask me then i should say they should totally forget whatever they learned in asia and start from A,B,C,D. after they understand the mode of education and know how to use it then they can incorporate some of the facts that they learned long ago in their country. I am an asian and i still dont know how to study here. but i am slowly getting it and it is very interesting. The way of education of the west is really an innovation.

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Yea I understand what you are saying. However, I feel that western education, though better than asian ones, are very dysfunctional too. Everyone has different skills, abilities, interests, and passions, but education right now tries to make everyone into one person. If you are closer to that “ideal person,” you are an A student. If you are nothing like that “ideal person,” then you are a failure, when in fact you might become very successful in something else if you were educated to develop in that field. I’ve been through the tough times of adopting to the different education, and while it is challenging, it teaches you more than just the material but to think in many different ways. You should cherish that life experience.

Jun Loayza
Jun Loayza

I think every basketball team should have 1 white guy, 1 asian guy, 1 latino guy, 1 indian guy, and 1 black guy. Then we will have racial equality! You make a good point Yu-kai. Why is it that we try to give minorities a chance in something like school, while in sports we DO NOT give the minority a chance. It's all about money bro. @Miguel - You completely missed the point of Yu-kai's post. Grow a brain @g-o-d - Stereotypes rule society. Ignoring them does not make you a better person, it makes you an ignorant person. One must understand and embrace stereotypes in order to learn and grow from them. - Jun

Yudashkai
Yudashkai

First of all, thanks for all of you to even read my post. I didn't even expect so many people reading it and having zealous comments. If I offended any of you, I whole-heartedly apologize. I am just making an analysis based on some observations or numbers, which could be right or wrong. Some of you let out personal attacks pretty fast, which I guess is fine, but at least I would like to clear up some misunderstandings. Keep all the comments coming. I don't mind attacks on my blog, especially when there is backing for it. However, for decency of the knowledge-sharing itself, I would prefer less personal attacks/foul languages and more content attacks. Trash what I say, but do it in an educated manner.

Zhou, Wenfei
Zhou, Wenfei

As a proud Asian student, I partially agree with your statement that Asians do stress in education. But isn't the phenomenon that Asians study their asses off exaggerated? When we talk about how hard Asians study for their degree, we are only talking about Asian Americans instead of authentic Asians who live in China. Chinese students do study very hard, but not as hard as you may fancied. Good students always aim for the top, while mediocre ones play World of Warcraft. Value on education? Sure, but no longer a universal requirement of getting rich and respected. This forms a stark contrast with Asian American community. Asian American community universally strives for the attainment of superficial degree in hope of honor and glory. I often ask myself, why? Why study hard? The answer is simple, I want to be part of American dream, I don't want to sit in the lunch table alone with my fellow asian friends. You may probably notice that Asian American community is really a selective community by which the majority of its members are made of professionals who came to U.S solely because they were the elites in their countries. Therefore, those elites' high status would most likely to pass on to their children due to parental influences. Many of my Asian friends who did excellent in school and got into ivy league are all come from upper-middle class family. Secondly, why is asian americans so goddamn academically competitive? My U.S history teacher gave me some insights, he told me back in the old days, polish and jews dominated. A large segment of Asian Americans are, in fact, immigrants or first generation of the immigrant family, they have this need to improve their social status, and to do that, they resort to their old way, that is, through education. Therefore, it is not through an inherited cultural trait written in DNA that made Asian Americans the nerds and the geeks of America; but rather, it is the necessity of climbing the social status that made Asian Americans so desperately want to climb up the ladder. Ask yourself then, why are asians so desperate want to climb up the social ladder? It happens because of discrimination. Just like how blacks are segregated and discriminated as stupid, Asians are secluded from the mainstream society, and since Asian, like Blacks, desperately want to climb up their ladder, asians resort to education, which is what they do back in China. This un-american way is driven by discrimination and fueled by prejudices, so long as the social structure such as our's don't evolve itself beyond the walls of separation, asians will forever be alienated from the white dominated society, and forever resorting to their good old way! The abnormal academic excellence of asian people is proportionally to the discriminations they receive. By achieving academic excellence, asians are proving to themselves and americans that they, like whites, can achieve and prosper. Personally speaking, I never felt like go to a good college until I came to U.S. It was as if an invisible hand dragging me all the way through my journey of asian nerdhood.

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Thanks for your insight. In China, I have learned the phenomenon of highschool kids studying like crazy to get into a great university (some commit suicide based on the pressure), and after they get into universities, they start to slack off (again not everyone, but a tendency). I agree that there are people who study less in China, but I think there are less people who don’t care about getting into college than that of the US. I believe that regardless of how smart the kid is, the parents in China push harder than American parents. Now when the Chinese who come to the US (I wouldn’t say elite, but at least those who wanted a better life AND TOOK DRAMATIC ACTION about it) pressure their kids, they obviously raise it up many levels, because they’re not going to give up everything they had in China so their kids can be “losers,” and so, like you said, they reside to their traditional method of studying.

Vivian
Vivian

sometimes i wonder if i am an opportunist who took the easy way out by perpetuating this academic elitism, or a victim who begrudgingly accepts the afflictions and secretly practices masochism.

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Again, I think Asians are victims of the brainlessly completing tests and not really getting the education phenomenon. I think one should continue to work hard, but have a good reason in doing so. It is not hard to get a degree, and many get it, but it is harder to get an education, and many don’t. Being an Ivy person yourself now, at least you decided to master in what you are truly passionate about instead of what is “parent-friendly.” :)

God
God

1) Stereotyping based on your own childhood experiences. Not cool man. 2) This is riddled with grammar and logical errors.

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Hmmm…let me think how I can respond to this. OK, first of all, the grammatical errors should by no means hamper the quality of what I wanted to present. I typed this up many years ago, and my English was not up to par yet. That’s all. As for logical errors, if you point them out, I would be more than willing to discuss it with you. In terms of stereotyping, if you have never lived in 4 COMPLETELY different cultures, you will not know how different every culture is and how what is correct and polite in one culture is offensive and rude in another. With that said, you learn about each culture, and you say “These people in this culture tend to do this.” I see nothing wrong in that. I think stereotypes in of itself is not a bad thing, but a very useful way to organize information about people, and create a guideline on initial interactions. I think using it in a discriminatory or judgmental is incorrect and immature. If I met a Japanese person, I would use my knowledge of “all the Japanese people I have met earlier get offended by these things, so there is a HIGHER chance that this person would act the same way” as a starting point, so I would make sure I don’t take those actions. Now maybe as I know the guy better, I would realize that he’s pretty chill and he doesn’t mind these things, that’s when I have learned enough about him as a person instead of just his demographic knowledge. I think the majority of people think in terms like that, but everyone’s just afraid to admit it because there’s a huge stigma thing on this word Stereotypes. I do it in attempt to understand, not to judge.

Miguel
Miguel

The notion that some groups have it easier than others in the admissions process is completely ignorant. You obviously have no clue how admissions processes work. There is a thing called social justice. Those who believe in social justice try to remedy inequities in society not just recreate apolitical drones who think only about test scores and grades and getting ahead. Some people actually want to use their degrees to create a just society. As for putting value in education, ALL traditions have that concept it is not just something Asians do. Stop stereotyping yourself and your people in this "model minority" construct. Did you know there were less that 100 people of Color on UCLA's campus in the late 1960s? That INCLUDED ASIANS!!!! Blacks and Mexicans and Asians fought to get those rights. It seems some of us "made it" and forgot the struggle. Wake Up and stop being a drone.

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

I did not say some groups have it easier than others. I said that some people on campus are shouting to allow more diversity into campus. I said there is a system in which the universities recruit student, and so making it easier on anyone does not help. Rather, the solution is found in the K-12 education process. As for education values, I did say “At this point I shall admit that I have been talking in extremes and absolutes, and that a common idea of prestige and such is still shared among the cultures. I have only been talking on a relative basis, as a PhD is certainly prestigious in the US, just not AS valued as in an Asian society.” At least I know many Americans are not willing to financially support their children with out-of-state tuition until they finish their PhD program (they start to save right after marriage). Finally, again, I don’t think Asians are in this model group. I think it’s dysfunctional and I think they don’t know how to find what they are truly passionate about. I think in the workforce, it is more important to have a balanced personality.

eileen chu
eileen chu

That's what i been telling my friends all these years, that Asians value education more is because of our ancestral history. We appreciate the opportunity to be able to go to be school because after hearing all the hardship that our parent, grandparent, relatives live through. Well written!

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou

Haha, yea. There are obviously a lot more reasons, but this is one of the more important factors.

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  1. [...] 16, 2008 So when I was a second year in college, I wrote a blog about why do Asian kids study like crazy. I claimed that its the culture and value systems that make the difference, not the actual race. [...]