Someone very dear to your favorite writer (Peter) was recently accepted to UC Berkeley. He asked for a post to be written about academics (even though there already is one), so as a congratulatory gift, I have taken the liberty of writing a post about the most sought after commodity to all first or second generation asians that have immigrated to America: Higher Education.
Why do Asians like higher education? This question, to some more urbanized and culturally-deprived asians, is synonymous with “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?” (who knows?) To fresh asians (fobs), this is most likely the only thing that haunts their collective minds. To put this all into perspective, here’s the typical asian grading scale (acronyms via kevjumba):
A: Average - Asians must always “earn” that A+ or extra credit point on the Calculus test. There is no such thing as “good enough” of a grade.
B: Bad – This is a warning sign. If an asian student earns this grade, they are on track for failure, and will eventually bring shame to their family.
C: Crap – This is the feces that the B-Grade was warning about.
D: Death – If asians show this to their parents, they will most likely be disowned and have their name removed from their parents’ wills.
F: Don’t go there…
Given the following rubric, most asians are motivated very strongly to overachieve. However, this need for higher education does not only stem from a fear of death or abandonment (external influences). Internal influences also play a major role because most asians derive a great deal of motivation from their parents and the hardships they had to endure.
These are the same parents that gave up education, fortune, and wealth during the Cultural Revolution in China or Communist Coup in Vietnam; The same parents that were robbed and beaten by their own governments; The same parents that witnessed their family members being executed by their own governments (or lack of governments).
These parents lived in collectivist communities, which stressed “societal duties” more than individual desires. How would they have had the time to pursue higher education when they had to juggle putting food on the plate and learning just enough to get by? For that reason, these are the asian parents that dream one day that their children will take advantage of all their opportunities to learn. While it is not clear how asian parents indirectly impress this upon their children, there are some subtle hints.
By toiling day after day to make ends-meet, asian parents successfully instill a sense of familial contribution, meaning that their children are more likely to judge their own worth by how much they actually contribute to the well-being of their family. This plays a major role in the asian yearning for higher education because unlike in pastoral Asia, where a person has to learn mechanical skills in order to farm or sell goods, American society stresses formally educating oneself (cognitive skill) to move up the cultural ladder. When asians do not live up to expecations, stories like this occur:
I remember this Asian kid from tenth grade crying in the hallway one afternoon, sobbing about how his life was over. He was actually dry-heaving and shaking, he was so upset. I stopped to ask him what was the matter, and all he could say was, “I bring dishoner to my family.” Over and over again, whispering, with a look of abject horror in his eyes, “I bring dishoner… I bring dishoner….”
It turns out he got a B+ on his midterm.
-College Confidential Forums
Asians must also do well academically to save face. A literal translation of “saving face” means just that: Not allowing one’s face to be ripped off (yeah, haha….) But on a more serious note, saving face is keeping the family honor and name immaculate: unblemished– untarnished– you choose. Asians feel pressure to perform well in order to bring honor to their families because unlike most people that have settled into their adoptive lands, a majority of asians are first or second generation (excluding many Chinese or Japanese people). The family name is all they have, serving as both a genealogical-link (family tree) and source of pride. They must protect it with their lives (even though many asians share the same last name… but let’s save that for a later post).
Asians find it harder and harder nowadays to get their children to want to learn. Tutoring centers are popping up faster than Starbucks. Still, by combining familial contribution and saving face, some asians are able to reach their children and teach them that learning is earning. These children grow up contributing heavily to their families, buying homes or new cars for their parents.
Nevertheless, without proper education, asian parents fear the worst. This includes their child joining a hippie rock band that sings only in english lyrics, or their child living off welfare for the rest of their lives. Oh no… it doesn’t end there. They also fear that, in turn, their childrens’ children will acquire that same sense of laziness, and wind up marrying into a white family that will not allow their children to retain their native language. But that’s not all: Their childrens’ childrens’ children will ultimately forget that they were ever even asian.
How do asians steer free of this slippery slope? (thank you george washington)
That’s right: By pursuing Higher Education. This is why wherever there is higher education, there will be asians trying to reach it. As stated before, many asian parents came from underdeveloped countries and went through @#*$. With that experience behind them, they raise their children stressing the importance of higher education to propel them ahead of the competition and have much better lives ahead of them (relative to their parents). This may support the idea of “Helicopter Parents,” but most asian parents know better than forcing their children to do things much like the communist governments forced them to work on farms.
College tuition fees can be a burden but there’s help! Read more about University of Phoenix financial aid information to get you started.
R.I.P. Tri (1980′s-2008)
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