Tuesday, November 22, 2005

White Flight: A growing concern?

WSJ.com - The New White Flight

The forementioned article addresses a growing concern. It talks about racism and stereotypes. I have come across the same stereotypes being implemented on me by Americans. They need to realize that they see a very narrow cross section of Asians and Asian-Americans. Not everyone in India is good in math and science. Actually, I've known several people who have issues with numbers and theory just like Americans. The only difference is that our high school education system is incredibly advanced. However with such heavy emphasis being laid on academics, we lose out on the finer parts of life. I love the fact that I can experience music, dance and art without comprising my academics. I could not have imagined a better education than what I have had now. I think I'm better rounded than most of the Indians studying in Indian universities because I have more options to explore. I am not limited to just studying. I learn about politics, history, economics, music and other topics which don't fall into my realm of academics expertise.

The parts that stand out in the article are:

Whites aren't quitting the schools because the schools are failing academically. Quite the contrary: Many white parents say they're leaving because the schools are too academically driven and too narrowly invested in subjects such as math and science at the expense of liberal arts and extracurriculars like sports and other personal interests.

The two schools, put another way that parents rarely articulate so bluntly, are too Asian.


But this modern incarnation is different. Across the country, Asian-Americans have by and large been successful and accepted into middle- and upper-class communities. Silicon Valley has kept Cupertino's economy stable, and the town is almost indistinguishable from many of the suburbs around it. The shrinking number of white students hasn't hurt the academic standards of Cupertino's schools -- in fact the opposite is true.

This time the effect is more subtle: Some Asians believe that the resulting lack of diversity creates an atmosphere that is too sheltering for their children, leaving then unprepared for life in a country that is only 4% Asian overall. Moreover, many Asians share some of their white counterpart's concerns. Both groups finger newer Asian immigrants for the schools' intense competitiveness.

Some whites fear that by avoiding schools with large Asian populations parents are short-changing their own children, giving them the idea that they can't compete with Asian kids. "My parents never let me think that because I'm Caucasian, I'm not going to succeed," says Jessie Hogin, a white Monta Vista graduate.

The white exodus clearly involves race-based presumptions, not all of which are positive. One example: Asian parents are too competitive. That sounds like racism to many of Cupertino's Asian residents, who resent the fact that their growing numbers and success are causing many white families to boycott the town altogether.


Some students struggle in Cupertino's high schools who might not elsewhere. Monta Vista's Academic Performance Index, which compares the academic performance of California's schools, reached an all-time high of 924 out of 1,000 this year, making it one of the highest-scoring high schools in Northern California. Grades are so high that a 'B' average puts a student in the bottom third of a class.


At Cupertino's top schools, administrators, parents and students say white students end up in the stereotyped role often applied to other minority groups: the underachievers.


On the second floor, in advanced-placement chemistry, only a couple of the 32 students are white and the rest are Asian. Some white parents, and even some students, say they suspect teachers don't take white kids as seriously as Asians.

"Many of my Asian friends were convinced that if you were Asian, you had to confirm you were smart. If you were white, you had to prove it," says Arar Han, a Monta Vista graduate who recently co-edited "Asian American X," a book of coming-of-age essays by young Asian-Americans.

Ms. Gatley, the Monta Vista PTA president, is more blunt: "White kids are thought of as the dumb kids," she says.


To many of Cupertino's Asians, some of the assumptions made by white parents -- that Asians are excessively competitive and single-minded -- play into stereotypes. Top schools in nearby, whiter Palo Alto, which also have very high test scores, also feature heavy course loads, long hours of homework and overly stressed students, says Denise Pope, director of Stressed Out Students, a Stanford University program that has worked with schools in both Palo Alto and Cupertino. But whites don't seem to be avoiding those institutions, or making the same negative generalizations, Asian families note, suggesting that it's not academic competition that makes white parents uncomfortable but academic competition with Asian-Americans.

Some of Cupertino's Asian residents say they don't blame white families for leaving. After all, many of the town's Asians are fretting about the same issues. While acknowledging that the term Asian embraces a wide diversity of countries, cultures and languages, they say there's some truth to the criticisms levied against new immigrant parents, particularly those from countries such as China and India, who often put a lot of academic pressure on their children.

Tags: Opinion

[Listening to: Joints and Jams - Black eyed peas - Bullworth Soundtrack (3:33)]

1 comment:

Indrajit said...

I quite agree with you about the stereotype of Indians. I grew up in India and in the US, and know this first hand. The article addresses my former high school, and it seems to show the circumstances as a bad thing and doesn't really look into what caused this change in the dominant ethnicity. The school is heavily academic but it isn't the case that it is like the Indian schools (at least where I attended) where book learning is king. The enviornment of school is quite different here and Monta Vista remains that way.