Min Li, West Windsor
I went to the town hall meeting by WW-P school district Superintendent Dr. Aderhold. As many other parents in the community, we appreciated very much that he and assistant superintendent Martin Smith spent after-work hours to have a dialogue with us, including the few hours spent in Sunday Chinese School.
I have no authority to evaluate the redesigned math classes. Other curriculum changes are beyond my comprehension as I just started to explore the public school system when my daughter started kindergarten this past September. What struck me most in the town hall was one complaint from a non-Asian parent. She was arguing that it was unfair for certain students to spend summer camps in academics then came back in the classroom over prepared or even jumped to GT classes.
It suddenly became clear to me where the “divided community“ originated — the deep-rooted discrepancy in parents’ value systems. When some students can go to sports camps to boost their performance in swimming or tennis to build their resumes for college application, why can’t others go to take Kumon classes or science camps since they are physiologically not competitive to their counterparts. It’s not guaranteed that extra tutoring can advance scores for all students, too.
Kids who get higher scores afterwards must have internalized the knowledge to sustain the success in the long run rather than become a learning robot. The society as a whole has never discouraged surpassing in any fields, whether in sports, arts, math or science. That’s the fundamental principle which has made U.S. lead in high tech.
Any kid has the right to deepen his interest in the fields he shows talents at their own cost. To excel in any field, grueling practice is also demanded. Parents should realize the opportunity cost incurred by directing kids in one way or the other, rather than complain about other parents for sending their children to institutions outside classrooms to obtain better scores.
Another fact worthy of mentioning is that Asian students do need to have more than 1140 in SAT scores than other ethnicity groups to get into the same college, especially the Ivy leagues. In the meanwhile they have to maintain high GPAs, devote to community services, pro-actively join all kinds of clubs, establish some sort of distinction in sports or art to make them stand out in the future sea of applicants.
Asian parents and kids have to sacrifice their money, time, and leisure to meet the tangible but ever changing higher bar. Most Chinese students in the center of this heated debate have been accused of being over pushed by “Tiger Moms“ or “Tiger Dads“ who themselves are the first generation of immigrants from China. These parents themselves have to be great warriors in the highly selective grade-based education system to set foot to a college in the world’s most populous country.
To settle down in a place like WW-P, they had to leave homeland and face the brand new challenges in U.S. universities with formidable stringencies. They spent their 20s and even early 30s in and out of universities, took almost 100 college level classes, earned multiple undergraduate and graduate degrees just to be able to settle down and find a better life for their kids in a society with different ideology. They didn’t always have extended families to support during the grueling process, but they always found a constructive way to transform the high level of stress to motivation of reaching a higher goal in life.
In their drastic life changes, persistence in their pursuit in academics was their lifeline and foundation of their later career. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand why they won’t instill the same values to their children, who still don’t have extended family network to back up in time of crisis but their own survival skills.
Personally, I always believe it’s parents’ responsibilities to maximize children’s learning abilities and provide the best education when they don’t need to worry about rent, food, expenses for textbooks or even clothes. Education is the key to independence in adulthood.
Please also remember current school-age kids, in spite of their ethnicity, they will be the driving workforce for the society later on like the way their parents contribute currently. They will not only be breadwinners for their own families, but also financial supporters for the homeless, unemployed, and the elderly. So please give them ample opportunities to surpass, be generous, as their future is also your future!
Min Li, West Windsor