Being a Vietnamese student in this country, I am expected to perform very well in the areas of math and science because I am “Asian”. But what exactly does that mean? Why have we been stereotyped this way in America? Surely not all Asians or Asian Americans perform excellently in these fields because there is no single race that holds the title of the torrent to “Best in Math and Science”.
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Basing such unrealistic expectations on exam results does not prove anything. After all, for every super genius type Asian, there is also an American within or beyond his level. Such comparisons only serve to fuel a silent rivalry between races that, in the future, could create discord that would do our world more harm than we can ever imagine. In truth, this stereotyping could not be further from the truth.
Okay, I will grant that the Chinese invented the Abacus, but that does not mean that all Chinese excel in Math. Chinese also excel in using herbal remedies for medical dilemmas, that does not mean they are the best in Science either. If anything, this stereotype only proves that Asians work harder than the regular students on the campus which is why they excel in their studies. Asia is also well known as the home of 3rd world countries.
Therefore, all the citizens of that particular area of the world have a lot to prove to their 2nd and 1st world counterparts. This is what drives them to become more innovative and more patient in developing new frontiers in the areas where Americans and Europeans used to dominate.
We were turned into model students for a particular purpose in America. That purpose is to create an unrealistic level of competition among the students. The stereotyping has caused Asians to be viewed differently on campus. The reality is that while we are expected to be model students on campus, the only thing our varying levels of success in this area proves is that we work harder than everybody else while allowing Americans to ignore the reality that such stereotyping just causes a certain level of racism among the student body. This brings me to the next reason why Asians and Asian Americans tend to succeed more than their counterparts. Whatever success we have attained in this field can mainly be attributed to the difference in traditions and cultures.
The first difference is that our parents are more interested in seeing us succeed because of any failures they happened to have in the old country. The last thing they want is for news to get back there about the failure of their children. So they are much tougher on us when it comes to studying habits and grades. For them, perfection is never attainable because there is always something to be proven to the others out there. So, in a culture where educational achievement is treated as a gold family heirloom, we come under undue pressure to succeed just as they did when they came to the new country. Perseverance is key, failure is not an option.
Punishment will be dealt out for failure in any area. Those students who remain in the old country, then usually end up in schools where education is more of corporal punishment than a system of enlightenment for the young. Indeed, none of the academic achievements of Asians or Asian Americans is achieved without a lot of heartache, perseverance, and, at one time or another, failed expectations. As for the students who are being educated within their own countries, there is already proof that their math and science subjects are only half the degree of difficulty being taught in the Western and European schools.
These students become educational automatons whose only reason for living is to achieve unimaginable success in fields that their country or government feels will be the reason their country will finally become a first-world nation member. Those who manage to escape that system come to America to rediscover themselves. When personal freedoms are taken away in order to achieve academic success, don’t you think tagging Asians with such descriptions becomes totally unfair?
In reality, Asian students are just the same as our American counterparts. Giving us a title that we cannot all live up to is totally unfair. Just remember that we have to work harder for what we take for granted. We battle with social acceptance, academic achievement, and family problems just like everyone else. Except, we deal with these things much differently from the others. Asian culture teaches, no, requires us to be submissive and not question anything we are taught by our parents. Therefore, when they demand we produce better grades, we must do so without question. The stereotype that we excel in the Math and Science areas has become the glass ceiling that we cannot seem to breakthrough.
It is an expectation that has us boxed in because we are expected to work only in a certain field and therefore cannot expect to achieve much in areas that veer away from those fields. Those of us who excel in these areas may go on to well-paying jobs in the IT and Medical field but those who try to break into other fields are often viewed as maladjusted and ineffective when in reality, we are just not being given the proper chances and understanding because the people we deal with see us at only one particular level.
There is only one way to end this stereotyping. Asian students must be viewed just as they are, imperfect, and willing to learn the many things that life has to offer. Not as unachievable model stereotypes that even Asians have a hard time reaching. We are not educational automatons, we are not geniuses either. We just work harder on our education because we have something to prove and we need to gain social acceptance in our world. The sooner everyone realizes that we all learn in a level playing field, the sooner we can bury that stereotyping six feet underground and go on with our lives.