‘…stellar academic achievement has an Asian face… .Among whites, 2% score 750 or better in either the math or verbal SAT. Among Asian-Americans, 3% beat 750 in verbal, and 8% in math. Frankly, you sometimes feel at an intellectual disadvantage if your great-grandparents weren't peasants in an Asian village.A more plausible reasons for strong Asian performance is that immigrant families focus on their kids getting ahead. Also many Asian kids see the sacrifices their families make and both (i) feel obliged to repay their parent’s efforts, and, (ii) seek a better life for themselves. Ethics too – such as Confucianism encourage a reverence for education and for hard work.
…..One theory percolating among some geneticists is that in societies that were among the first with occupations that depended on brains, genetic selection may have raised IQ’s slightly — a theory suggesting that maybe Asians are just smarter. But I'm skeptical, partly because so much depends on context’.
‘…the success of Asian-Americans is mostly about culture, and there's no way to transplant a culture. But there are lessons we can absorb, and maybe the easiest is that respect for education pays dividends. That can come, for example, in the form of higher teacher salaries, or greater public efforts to honor star students. While there are no magic bullets, we would be fools not to try to learn some Asian lessons’. (my emphasis).
I agree – socially and politically non-Asians can learn from this experience.
Moreover although I have been unable to gather comprehensive, race-specific data for Australia (I’d be interested if anyone had some) I think casual observation suggests Asian Australians outperform others academically.
For example, 9 out of 20 of the top all round students in the recent 2005 Victorian VCE are of Asian origin which heavily over-represents their incidence in the Australian population. A similar over-representation of Asian kids occurs at private schools where a large proportion of students have Asian ethnicity and where – more generally – many students are migrants or the children of migrants. This suggests high parental motivation given the hefty fees involved.
Moreover, this bias towards intellectual achievement among Asians is not restricted to vocationally-oriented academic studies. Consider music education, for example – a majority of the students who graduate with advanced Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB) qualifications in music (for example the Licentiate in Music) are Asian. They are often Chinese.
One can pose the comparative issue raised above in different ways - some of these reflect more directly what is almost an implicit racism in the Kristoff type of question.
- Why, comparatively, do non-Asian students do badly?
- Are non-Asian Australians a slothful, complacent, non-ambitious lot or are they making skillful wealth/cultural endowment – effort tradeoffs?
- Will second-generation Asian students, with Australianised ethics, revert to the average performance?
My guess is that partial but not complete reversion will occur. In the meantime complementarities between skilled and less skilled labour in the workforce – as well as the general externalities associated with having skilled professionals - benefit us all. This is not a winner-takes-all race and, those who are achieving success, deserve an acknowledgement for the advantages they provide us all.