Archive for Monday, July 7, 2008

Study busts ethnic student myth

July 7, 2008


It is amazing what we do not know.

For some time now, many Americans have thought that unusually bright Asian and Pacific Islander students dominated college studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

It was thought they held an upper hand in numbers at prestigious state and private universities across the country.

Not so, not even close.

According to a surprising study by the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education and the College Board, these false assumptions have led to misinformed educational policy, policy that, in truth, has disadvantaged Asian and Pacific Islander students.

"The United States has been making sweeping decisions without adequate data about these individuals," said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board. "Like so many others, I am stunned and determined to rectify the problem."

Wise public policy must be based on fact, not fiction, and we should think more and assume less. Too many citizens are imperiled by inadequate facts and figures.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are nearly 17 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the country. The umbrella term AAPI shelters 48 different ethnic groups, from historically different places like East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Historically, some individuals entered the United States because employers needed their expertise, while others came as refugees with scant resources and little opportunity. Still others came to study and then return home.

Yet here they are seen as students who are studious, self-sufficient achievers who dominate science, technology, engineering and math.

Significantly, these young men and women of varied backgrounds are evenly distributed in community and four-year colleges, and they are not wholly a group of science nerds. Two hundred colleges and universities enroll two-thirds of these AAPI students, which is less than 5 percent of all postsecondary institutions.

And nearly half attend college in just three states: California, New York and Texas. A large proportion of the students are working toward degrees in the social sciences and the humanities.

Congressman Mike Honda, of California, hailed the study for exposing the "long-held myth of student achievement" among Asian American and Pacific Islander students.

It is, at times, amazing how little we really know about the people around us, the people who are vital to the future of society within the United States. Perhaps we should all take time for a reality check.

- Gene A. Budig is past president of Major League Baseball's American League and former chancellor or president of three major state universities, including Kansas University.


Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 9 years, 5 months ago

As I live and breathe. I wish you were back here running KU Gene. Time to dump the current dunce and get someone with some talent.

jayhawklawrence 9 years, 5 months ago

Not sure if I understand all the points being made in this opinion piece.Where are the Asian Americans who are slackers in school?I haven't met them yet.Where can I go to read the study?

denak 9 years, 5 months ago

Years ago I took a pyschology class that examined stereotypes of different ethnic group. As expected, the stereotype that Asians were all good at math and technology was one that we explored.Come to find out that first generation Asian-Americans do generally do better in math and science than other Americans. Much of this is due to cultural and familial influence exerted on them by their parents who immigrated. However, by the third generation, this no longer applies. Third generation Asian Americans do no better in math and science then other third generation ethnic groups.On a similar note, there is a lot of talk about Hispanic immigrants not assimilating. As with first generation Asians, Hispanic immigrants, and indeed most first generation ethnic groups, tend to cling a little to their birth cultures.However, by the third generation, not only do they marry outside of their race, they no longer speak Spanish.The moral of this story is that by the third generation, these groups speak English but suck at math and science.Oh well, you win some. You lose some.Dena

gr 9 years, 5 months ago

Dena, you brought out a good point. Reviewing the article, it starts out with "Asian and Pacific Islander students", then quickly made the switch to "Asian Americans". And used words such as "historically". They have incorrectly made the assumption it had something to do with genetics when it really has to do with the culture. Maybe they can also do myth-busting of Americans with Asian background not being overweight and living longer. Same results.

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