Monday, July 07, 2008

Asian Plurality at TJ

The Thomas Jefferson High School of Science & Technology is one of the top public schools in the country. I'm familiar with them because they were in my high school debate league, and they were one of the few local programs that could run with my own school (a local, if not national, powerhouse). The students are sharp -- including the now-Rhodes Scholar I once beat in debate.

Anyway, the Washington Post reports that, for the first time, TJ will have a plurality of Asian students in its entering class. The article focuses on the continued lagging enrollment of Black and Latino students, but underneath that there is an intriguing subtext about how Whites are getting nervous now that "meritocracy" is leaving them in the minority:
Jenny Tsai, a recent Harvard University graduate, wrote her thesis about what she perceived as a growing sentiment that "too many Asians" were at top magnet schools. She attended the selective Hunter College High School in New York, where she sensed "a certain level of anxiety" as the portion of Asian American students in the entering class grew from less than a third to more than half between 1997 and 2003. Tsai said some students felt a need to justify their admission or their contributions.

"I don't think there was ever a question of who really belonged there until the numbers shifted," she said.

Scholars studying Asian-Americans in the United States have noted this dynamic before -- how White society has, to varying degrees, reworked what counts as merit to discount Asian accomplishments (one of the more popular being to dismiss test scores and math/science acumen as "mechanical", whereas White students supposedly demonstrate greater creativity and innovation).

In any event, I'm curious to see if and how the White pushback on this issue develops. It would be interesting if Whites suddenly develop an interest in racial equity as they are no longer the top performers along "traditional" scales of merit (or if they will show continued dexterity in changing the metrics to keep themselves safely ensconced on top).


PG said...

how White society has, to varying degrees, reworked what counts as merit to discount Asian accomplishments (one of the more popular being to dismiss test scores and math/science acumen as "mechanical", whereas White students supposedly demonstrate greater creativity and innovation).

I think there is a certain amount of this in conventional wisdom, but do you think it actually gets applied in evaluations of individuals? That is, have college admissions officers or employers rejiggered their metrics to reduce the importance of test scores and to increase the importance of some measure of creativity and innovation?

Superdestroyer said...

The push back has already begun. See

Also, one of the factors affecting whites is that they see a field dominated by Asians and they decide to move on. Why get into a career field where you have to grind it out with Asians.

White kids want to major in economics, political science, or sociology because not many Asians are in those fields.

Also, look at the number of schools that are changing psychology majors to neuro-behaviorial sciences in order to attract more Asians.

PG said...

How is an article about NY parents' disappointment in prep schools that don't successfully get their kids into Ivies about White pushback against traditional metrics of merit?

Especially when the comment itself is so much more revealing.

David: "one of the more popular being to dismiss test scores and math/science acumen as "mechanical", whereas White students supposedly demonstrate greater creativity and innovation"

Superdestroyer: "Why get into a career field where you have to grind it out with Asians."

David Schraub said...

PG, *crooning*, have I toooold, you lately, that I looove you?

Seriously -- that comment just made my day.

Superdestroyer said...


One of the odd things about having a school with a large Asian population is that things like the Orchestra/Band Boosters/Drama Boosters/Athletic Boosters suffer. Asian parents may work hard for their own children's education but they do not put any effort in helping other children (espeically non-Asian) children. A band boosters or athletic boosters meeting at TJ is probably about as white as a meeting of the Republican Party.

Also, as has been said before, Asians move into science and engineering because it is easier to cheat and requires less language skill. Given that the article mentions that Chinese nationals are squatting in Fairfax County in order to send their children to TJ, it would not be much of a stretch that they lie about their children's age and experience (TJ accepts no transfers/you have to start as a freshman).

As an undergraduate science major, I was amazed to meet Chinese nationals that already had degrees from Hong Kong or Taiwan who were retaking college in order to improve their GPA.

Look at young David, we went to the liberal arts college and wants to go into law. Those are two ways to avoid large numbers of Asian students.

David Schraub said...

Hey, remember the aforementioned TJ debater and Rhodes scholar? Yes, Asian-American! And her parents were big helpers of the debate team! And she attended a Business school (the Huntsman program at UPenn -- it is the Delta Force to Wharton's special forces)! And she was an ice hockey star (all south-east in HS)!

And the senior class speaker (and summa cum laude graduate in English) at my liberal arts college? South Asian national.

Hurray for stereotype busting!

Seriously, I've had enough of your flagrant racist bullshit. Take it elsewhere.

Superdestroyer said...


If you look at the TJ Athletic Boosters Homepage, you will see that all of that none of the all-region athletes are Asian.

If you look at the officers for the athletic boosters, you will see a lone Asian name.
08-09 CAB Officers and
Committee Chairs
President Charles Hookey
Secretary Cindy Moore
Treasurer Candace Ellison
Membership Robin Hoehn
Concessions Radhika Samant
Larry Jackson
Merchandise Barbara Barrett
Liaison Coordinator Ed Sofinowski
Webmaster Vicky Linnell
Brick Courtyard
PTSA Liaison Jill Cook
Spring Banquet (’08) Sigita Clark

If you look at the band boosters you also see something missing.

President Tom Reinsel
VP Long-Range Planning Sue Kohn
VP Ways & Means Felicia Schwenk
Secretary Reed Mihaloew
Treasurer - Disbursements David Lee
Treasurer - Receipts Huisuk Lineer

If you look at the Choral boosters, you will again see something missing.

Director/Teacher Luke Frels
Co-Presidents Jeff Salino
Amy Darger Stewart
Treasurer Jeff Clark
Secretary Debbie Brant
Merchandise Greta Koehl
Wardrobe Kelli Arditti
Publicity Jeff Salino
Council Senator JeanMarie Stewart
Hospitality Cindy Hann (Co-Chair)
Candace Fleischer (Co-Chair)
Webmaster Jim Kingsbury

I find it odd that out of the officers of three booster clubs, you find a grand total of one asain name. but I guess and educated and experience debater like yourself finds it easier to scream racist instead of debating the facts.

Is it still a stereotype if it is true?

Anonymous said...


Im just wondering what you really want to talk about. I dont have expert knowledge on American schooling and dont even speak English as my L1, but I still capture quite an annoying sarcasm from you post.

Ye, it may be true Asians are the best at school and whites have to invent a mechanism to save their self-esteem. It would make whites featureless mediocre regular packs, since they dont show such athlectic prowess as blacks either. Does it happen to be what you are getting across?

I assume your Jewish though its simply based on your name and amazon book list. Yes, it's on you if you dont find yourself a white. And it has nothing to do with to which extent your of white origin yourself.

But just remember one thing. If whites fall into a not smart enough minority, the Jewish will not succeed in evading from the same due course either. There are simply countless Asians smarter than your people, and they will take all the intelligent jobs from science & tech to others, where the Jewish have once established themselves. Then what kind of dexterity are you gonna show in changing the metrics for your people's sake?

To tell the truth, most white people are less racist or less race-conscious than the Jewish or Asians. Its you who are trying to depict them as miserable racists, who are so desperate to disguise their seemingly less acumen than Asians with an ad hoc mechanism. And its also you who are making such a racist remark while you freely tag others racist.

Then what's the true intention of your post? Where do you find some use in scorning "mediocre" whites in the first place?

David Schraub said...

George -- my only interest in this post is querying whether Whites (and I count myself as White, Judaism notwithstanding) want to be meritocrats or not. If they want to say "screw merit, we want what's ours", fine, we can debate that. But normally, White people justify their social position by saying they've earned and deserved it through hard work and qualifications (i.e., merit). The Asian plurality at TJ threatens that justificatory schema, so (as superdestroyer is so aptly demonstrating), it appears Whites simply will change the metric by which "merit" is measured.

SD: What part of "Take it elsewhere" did your racist (and cherrypicking -- you have three "asian names" listed, not one, not all asians have "asian names", and there are plenty more "asian names" on committees you mysteriously didn't list: Crew, Orchestra, and Academic) ass not understand? As PG noted, all you've contributed to this conversation is verifying every word I've said.

Superdestroyer said...


A man of your education answering arguments with profanity twice leaves a lot to be desired. I would think that a supporter of racial reparations and hard quotas would support the idea that if the school if 45% Asian then 45% of the parental volunteers should be Asians. You are from Montgomery county where they limit the number of Asians in magnet programs until the number of blacks and Hispanics reaches a certain level.

I looked at the crew boosters 35 names, 5 Asian names with some double counting of booth). Not anywhere near the 45% level

If you look at the orchestra boosters you find two Asian names out of eight names. Given that 14 out of the top 16 first violins are Asian and that about half of the cello players are Asian, the Orchestra boosters should be predominately Asian but are not just like my daughter's band/orchestra booster organization.

The references you cite prove my point. Asian parents are less likely than white to perform "community service" that benefits children other than their own. Pullman in his book Bowling Alone supports me. that the cities and states with the greatest social capital are the cities and states with the whitest populations.

Also on a last point, in 2007 the Fairfax County Schools were 51% white. Thus whites are close to their number at TJ that they are in the overall student body. Given that the white student body is probably more transitory due to the military than the asian students, it makes sense that Asians would have a slight advantage. What appears to happen is that virtually every seat that would go to a black or Hispanic ends up going to an Asian.

On a side note, any county where the school district is only 50% white is definitely a blue county.

PG said...


I don't think it's a bad thing that Asian parents prioritize what Whites used to consider the important metrics of merit, and judging by lawsuits against affirmative action, still do when it's to their advantage: to wit, improving knowledge acquisition and test scores. It's quite likely that Asian parents take less of an interest in athletics than their white counterparts do. For one thing, athletics often were fairly unimportant in the parents' home countries; the sports being played are different and unfamiliar to some of the parents. My parents certainly saw my participation in athletics and other extracurriculars as secondary to my academic work.

But the idea that "Asian parents may work hard for their own children's education but they do not put any effort in helping other children (especially non-Asian) children" is a huge lie. It's an especially funny lie coming from someone who cited a NYPost article about (according to you, white) parents who spend hundreds of thousands just on their own children's private school educations.

Asian parents are interested in helping children in the ways they feel will actually help those children, which generally doesn't include getting the football team a fancier set of free uniforms (especially when the tennis team buys all its own equipment and clothing). I'm sure you would take this as a datapoint for your belief that Asians are anti-community, but when the football boosters came to our house to collect money, my dad was absolutely infuriated. However, it wasn't because he only wanted his money to help his children. On the contrary, he has spent lots of money both in our school district and has helped to build a primary and secondary school, a medical school and a hospital in his home village.

He is thoroughly bought into what he was told when he was trying to immigrate to the U.S.: what will make you valuable in this society is not a middling talent as an athlete, but the ability to work hard in a knowledge-intensive job. He therefore hopes that his children and other children will be prepared for such work, and playing football ain't gonna do that. His money went to buying computers because he'd been told that that was what late 1980s-early 1990s students needed to have command of in order to succeed. Nor was this to help the Asian students, pretty much all of whom had computers at home already; it went to help students who had fewer educational resources at home.

This is exactly what David was talking about: at the point that a group of people have gotten very good at what White people kept insisting was the most important thing, the rules suddenly change. It's been interesting to watch. Once Asians were a model minority used to point to the Latinos and African Americans that it must be their own fault that they weren't doing well in the meritocratic system. Now the grinding, unimaginative (odd that Asians also have been successful entrepeneurs, but what the hell), cheating, lying Asians with their poor language skills seem to be succeeding in a lot of arenas -- including the liberal arts and social sciences -- being a good basketball player or (for the least meritocratic measure imaginable) having a parent who sells cocoa at the soccer games is suddenly what determines merit.

In point of fact, Superdestroyer probably is in the minority of whites in believing this stuff. I have encountered very few white people who really believe that merit no longer can be measured as it traditionally was. Indeed, I have met many white people who are eager to find out how they can mimic Asian parenting for their children's success.

Superdestroyer said...


I have never said that the Asian children did not belong at TJ. It is people like David who insist that entry to schools should be based upon race instead of merit. What the left in the U.S. will have to face is that it continuing suport for affirmative action is going to hurt Asian students as much as white students.

I have just pointed out that as the school becomes even more Asian than it already is, that things will change and not always for the better. I also brought up non-sports activities such as band, orchestra, choral, and theater. All of those need booster clubs to perform. they need more than money. they need parents to show up and issue uniforms, go on sponsored trips, and yet, fund raise. However, in my personal experience and as show with some data from TH, it is the white parents to work to ensure that the band/orchestra/choir have uniforms, sheet music, and the funds to attend competitions even if it is the majority Asian students who benefit.

As TJ becomes even more Asian it could harder for it to field football teams, marching bands, or even even have classes in things like German or European History because they will not be supported by the Asian students.

Another point that I brought up is that white children have come to avoid fields that are heavily Asian. I did not say that anything needed to be done about it (unlike the left who wants to use the government to correct every statistical difference between whites and blacks that benefits whites), I just stated it as an observation. I would say that the effect on the U.S. should be considered but that action does not need to be taken.

Superdestroyer said...


First a few articles about Asians and cheating. Officials Link Foreign Web Sites to Cheating on Graduate Admission Exams

Caught cheating in Korea

Official seized for cheating fraud in college exam

Chinese Applicants to U.S. Universities Often Resort to Shortcuts or Dishonesty

Also, math and science require studying in the form of problem solving that does not have an equivalent of studying in the social sciences. Doing problem sets and doing extra problems in order to prepare for exams is grinding work in math, physics, and engineering. Many white children just do not want to do this work at the level necessary to compete with Asians. An interesting question is can the U.S. economy function if whites (about 65% of the population) abandon science and technology as a career field?

PG said...


Oh, your entire thesis is about Asian adult immigrant students? This was unclear given your lengthy comments about U.S.-resident parents of Asian high school students, which gave a rather strong impression that the students you were talking about had been raised in the U.S.

Of course, you don't provide any real data on whether one racial group is more likely than another to engage in cheating. A massive proportion of sites for copyright infringement, gambling, child pornography, and various illegal pyramid schemes are registered in Russia and other non-EU Eastern European nations; what does this tell us about a general inclination among Eastern-Europeans/ E-E Americans to engage in illegal activity?

Also, your examples are pretty ludicrous -- again, how is the Chinese "application doctoring" in the Chronicle article so different from the (white) prep school kids' $40k per person program to help them with essays and applications? When rich white kids get assistance in applying for schools, it's just a sign that parents care; when middle class Chinese kids do, it's LYING AND CHEATING.

In 1982, the LSAT added an ungraded essay section that is forwarded to law schools, not because of all the Chinese-national kids who were applying to JD programs with ghostwritten essays, but because of the Americans who were. (Frankly, I don't know why every standardized exam doesn't include such an essay -- it's an easy way for admissions officers to spot whether a student has basic writing skills or had someone heavily fix his admissions essay.)

If you want to talk about language skills, why are there so many "college counselors" working on white kids' essays for undergrad and grad schools? Why does Kaplan have so many white students enrolled in their application assistance programs? Why did the Bloomfield cheating scandal at UVA -- in which students copied essays from each other or the internet -- have so many white defendants?

Also, math and science require studying in the form of problem solving that does not have an equivalent of studying in the social sciences.

That's simply wrong. In economics, often called the queen of the social sciences, obtaining a degree requires doing lots of studying in the form of problem solving. At UVa, the minimum requirement for a BA in economics included passing grades in calculus, intermediate microeconomics, intermediate macroeconomics, and introduction to statistical analysis -- all of which, to my sorrow, involved problem sets. I shudder to think how much worse it probably would have been had I gone to Chicago for economics.

Statistical analysis is a basic tool of work in the social sciences. The more menial social sciences like psychology still require undergraduate majors to pass a course in Data Analysis.

Even liberal arts degrees may require a foundation science or math course. The bioethics program at UVA mandates a class in human biology, in order to understand the basic mechanics of cloning and other technologies under discussion. Really, if white kids are as scared of math and science as you believe, they're running out of majors.

With regard to affirmative action, one type always has advantaged white students over every other group: legacy admissions. Asian students, many of whom are the first generation of their family to go to high school in the U.S., receive a benefit from legacy admissions at a much, much lower rate than white students do. Whites also receive more benefit than Asian-Americans from efforts to increase geographic diversity. Affirmative action isn't as simple as your Blacks Good - Whites Bad formulation would have it.

In any case, as this is David's blog and he has disinvited you from commenting on it, I will be polite to the host and stop responding to your comments here.

Superdestroyer said...


I guess you missed the link to the article about massive cheating in Korea on the college admission exam. Those were Korea's equivalent to high school students who were cheating on entrance exams. Of course, I found it odd that anyone in the media would post stories about cheating in school where the ethnic group was identified. I doubt that any education researcher would ever be funded to study the situation. However, just ask anyone who went through engineering school to talk about cheating.

As yes, you identified one way that schools are changing to limit the impact of Asians. The essay on the SAT test and other timed essay tests are a good way to spot cheaters. Of course, you referenced a cheating scandal that occurred in a physics class even though it was physics for non-science majors. The cheating also represents how it is much easier to catch cheating in a class that requires writing than one that requires computation.

Look at UVA legacy admission, they equal the number admitted with affirmative action. The major difference is that the legacy more qualified than the AA admits. See the Wall Street Journal,

also, comparing freshmen calculus or psychology statistics to chemical engineering Process Modeling & Control is laughable. I have never met anyone who said economics is too hard and thus became a chemical engineering major but I have met plenty of people who decided engineering was too hard and switched to economics, political science, and psychology.

Of course, you ducked the biggest issue in what happens to a high school that does from being majority white to majority Asian. As shown in California, the whites will begin to leave. Another question is what programs will be dropped due to lack of support. And will any new programs take their place. In looking at the TJ website, I was amazed at the number of extracurriculars and leadership positions that the students can participate in. That something not available in any other high school in Fairfax and is a very different from the DC public schools.

I would put the college admission counselors into the same class and SAT cram schools, tutors, and private lessons. As soon as a few students started doing it, it became expected. In Fairfax, you do not learn to play an instrument in band or orchestra. That is done in private lessons. It is humor ous to hear the parents of white children who transfer into Fairfax schools when they learn that since there child has not been taking violin lessons since they were four, there is no place for them in the top level orchestra.

And last, you really ducked the question of what will happen in the U.S. as whites go the way of black and Hispanics and give up pursuing degrees in science and technology. Can health care in the U.S. really function with a system of Chinese and Iranian physicians working with Pakistani pharmacist and Filipino nurses where most of the patients are elderly whites?