Flight from Success

 Posted by on 22 November 2005 at 9:00 am  Uncategorized
Nov 222005

Joanne Jacobs pointed me to this amazing (and free) Wall Street Journal article about white parents in the Silicon Valley area removing their children from the local public school. The problem isn’t that the schools are failing, but rather that they are too academically challenging, apparently thanks to the high standards typically set by Asian students and their parents.

From what I’ve read, the differences in the performance of students by ethnic group is substantially attributable to differences in expectations of parents. People tend to vary by ethnic group in their tolerance for “bad” grades, i.e. in the grades for which their children will get into trouble. In general, the Asian students are in trouble with Bs, white students with Cs, and black and Hispanic children with Ds. That’s why the children in poor immigrant Asian families in which the parents don’t even speak English will often do much, much better in school than middle class children of well-educated blacks. (The Asian families also organize study groups, with older students tutoring younger students, and the like, but I think that’s a consequence of the expectations.) As you might imagine, those differing expectations can make a great deal of difference in the effort that students put into their studies. (Of course, such different expectations are not innate or otherwise determined. All parents can and ought to be consciously aware of their default expectations, so that they can adjust them as they see fit.)

As for the WSJ story, some parents kept their children in the difficult school, telling them to rise to the challenge. Those who changed schools gave their children a rather different message.

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