Uncommon Sense

June 11, 2021

Betcha Didn’t Know

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:59 pm

It seems that Asian-Americans are getting some time in the spotlight and it also seems as if people still don’t know how to handle that. The biggest problem is thinking of them as a monolithic block of people when they can trace their ancestry back to myriad countries and cultures.

One misconception repeated ad nauseum I can clear up. It is that “Asian students” are like the best, ever. Like many an academic meme, this one has reasons that are not what people think. In a study about why Black students at US Berkeley were doing so poorly in Calculus I classes, a survey was taken of the faculty as to why.

Go ahead and see what you come up with for reasons why UCB Black calculus students did so poorly.

<insert Jeopardy theme music here>

Every faculty member surveyed was wrong.

The reason was actually that almost all of the Black students were trying to succeed on their own. A project that taught those students how to form groups and study in groups resulted in the GPA of Black and Asian students in third semester calculus being identical.

So, back to the original question: why are Asian students such great students?

Whatever you answer, you are probably wrong.

An extensive study of high school students in Wisconsin and Northern California finally winkled out the reason. Are you ready? The reason Asian students are so good is cultural, is not that they are smarter, is not . . . etc., it is: time on task. In other words, they outwork the competition. When a white high school student gets an after-school job, for every hour at work, there is exactly one hour of study that is lost. Not so for Asian students, who often are required to work in family businesses.

So, the reason students of Asian background outcompete others (White, Black, Brown, etc.) is that they espouse that good, old fashioned Anglo-Saxon work ethic. Which, I suspect is why they are despised so. (WTF?)

Interestingly enough, after several generations of being American, the Asian Student Effect wears off. Third and fourth generation Asian-Americans are fully acculturated and behave just like all of the other Americans. Shows you the power of American culture.

There is a cultural effect. When White kids whine to their parents that they are “no good at math” or whatever, they often get sympathy in the form of “Oh, Sweetie, I wasn’t either.” Recent Asian-American students don’t get that, they get that they are now expected to work harder. But this is not the major contributor to student success; good old-fashioned hard work is.


  1. Do you have citations for those studies?


    Comment by consoledreader — June 12, 2021 @ 11:22 am | Reply

  2. Yep, we had a Vietnamese kid in our school and he did very well academically… because he worked his arse off. He told me once how strict his parents were when it came to school.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by john zande — June 12, 2021 @ 2:52 pm | Reply

    • I had a Vietnamese student in Chem 100. I found out later that she translated the entire 1000+ page textbook into Vietnamese. Amazing. (She is a doctor now.)

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — June 13, 2021 @ 8:29 am | Reply

  3. I wonder how much the myths affect the reality? Have you noticed how willing people are to correct someone with a foreign accent, when they’d normally let pass a mistake by someone who sounds like a native speaker of a language? Being treated as if one “knows” or “knows nothing” must have an extraordinary impact on an individual’s psyche.


    Comment by The Pink Agendist — June 13, 2021 @ 6:54 am | Reply

    • I think this goes all the way back to the word barbarian meaning one who didn’t speak the common language. Now look at what the meaning of that word is.

      Socially, we have never been comfortable with others, even when they clearly are human and much like us. We classify “others” as less than human to support our instinctive treatment or mistreatment of them.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — June 13, 2021 @ 7:49 am | Reply

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