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Reforms to Ease Students’ Stress Divide a New Jersey School District, by the New York Times

Stashed in: @troutgirl, Education!, Education

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Because some people in the school district think students should have some stress?

is it some or a lot or too much?

Too many people think students should have a lot of stress. 

In my kids' ex-school, the teachers couldn't distinguish between achievement and completion, so they simply over-burdened the students with dumb, pointless, massive amounts of homework.  They would separate the A's from the B's from the C's simply by how much was completed and not how well the students learned what they needed.   I think it's a lack of engagement and laziness on the part of the teachers, but so many of them were there just for a job and benefits and not for the students. 

Ah yes, I have seen this movie before!

The thing is, immigrants from Asia who live in upscale communities are INVARIABLY characterized by one of two storylines. EITHER they come from countries where your entire future is determined by standardized testing at the end of high school, and they were the beneficiaries of that testing. OR they were from humble families in those countries, somehow got a visa to come here, and worked their way up through extreme hard work and thrift in a small business. Those are your two basic narrative choices. In my family, several of the older members were in Group A and they eventually brought over the ones in Group B which included my parents.

In either case, the parents are left with two truly indelible conclusions. 1) MEASURABLE educational achievement is the only path to a comfortable life; and 2) no matter how much their kids are suffering it is just a fraction compared to the PARENTS' suffering in cram schools or working 18 hour days in a liquor store or what have you. Which is probably true except that expectations are set by social environments, and the social environment the parents worked so hard to thrust their children into is very different from the one they grew up in... but it helps to explain by so many loving Asian parents genuinely don't understand that they are driving their kids to mental illness by the shortest route possible.

In a situation like this, the Asian parents believe they bought into a whole big all-consuming lifestyle -- work hard to put your kids into a top school, then make the kids excel at all costs so they can have the easy American life of a white professional -- and now they are being CHEATED. They are aware that white people have social capital they don't have, and a situation like this -- set up a game called Measurable Educational Achievement, but if white people realize they aren't winning that game anymore they change the rules -- literally makes them feel like the football of ALL OF THEIR LIFE CHOICES is being pulled away from them, and they become enraged.

The most fascinating thing about this type of conflict is that each side is acting perfectly rationally, MINUS the threat of student suicide. Immigrants really do have less social capital, and they need to compensate with intellectual capital. Not only are there fewer doting uncles and godparents who work on Wall Street to provide summer internships... but the stereotype of the awkward Asian geek with no social skills is often true because many of us don't get the opportunity to spend our childhoods learning to model upper-middle class white social behavior. Meanwhile, more established residents of elite school districts are being perfectly rational on their side by seeking to decrease the importance of a measure where they have no advantage, and increase the importance of measures where they have lasting competitive advantages.

Unfortunately the rational thing to do here is for the kids to kill themselves in sufficient numbers that even the Asian parents get scared -- which is what happened in Palo Alto, and those kids also chose unignorably gruesome methods in almost every case. I also wish that Asian-American parents whose kids actually made it through elite schools would spend more time counseling those who still have teenagers, but that's hard in a town full of immigrants who may not necessarily have strong social ties of any kind.

Awesome, Joyce. You might consider sending that in to NYT?

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