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#51 Higher Education

Posted April 1st, 2008 by Peter · 32 Comments

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.

If you want to read more about why asians like higher education and scientific proof behind it, check out these articles:
ScienceDirect, the Onion, and Wested.Org.

R.I.P. Tri (1980′s-2008)

Last 5 posts by Peter

Tags: Activities · Chores · Culture · Customs · Environment · Habits · History · People · Relationships · School · Superstition · Tidbits · Work

32 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ica // Apr 1, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    i dont know about others, but my family is not so academically oriented. mom and dad are both college drop outs. and being book-smart isnt the only way to achieve success. i can always count on getting by on my looks (tee hee..)

  • 2 sy88 // Apr 1, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    Well Ica lucky you. I reckon the easiest way to put it is like this… Asians sometimes use academics to overcompensate in their failings or perceived failings in other departments. Be it looks, self-confidence, low self-esteem etc. (Obviously this is a gross generalisation, but you get the picture.)

    Of course it doesn’t really apply to me, as I am especially mediocre at pretty much all the above :) Yay for mediocrity!

  • 3 YASPY Chick // Apr 2, 2008 at 5:55 am

    Lucky you, Ica! I have some relatives who go further than just making their kids pursue higher education. Not only do they brainwash the kids into certain majors (that make money), but a SPECIFIC MAJOR. To these parents, I want to ask:

    “What if your kid HATES sciences? Not everyone wants or even CAN be a doctor. And it’s another four years of school!”

    (for some reason, Asian parents are obsessed with maths and sciences. It’s as if one can’t take the liberal arts route and go to law school. Jewish parents are similar to Asian parents when it comes to school, but at least the Jewish parents are perfectly fine with their kid in law school. In any case, law school is three years while med school is four. Total of seven years of higher education vs eight.)

  • 4 Asian Apocalypse Founder // Apr 2, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    This is my first visit to this blog. I think it was pretty amusing but I was really just expected a link to the blog “Stuff White People Like” under the title “Stuff Asian People Like.” Let’s be honest, that’s what we really want to be–white but also good at math.

  • 5 solong // Apr 3, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    no way! congrats to peter!
    uc berkeley is my dream school!
    wow… i just proved myself as an example of this entry hahaha

  • 6 anon // Apr 3, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    Wow, this was so true. One of my friends takes this scale even further: A low “A” is equivalent to failing. Extreme much? Definitley

  • 7 Eunice // Apr 9, 2008 at 7:52 am

    Lol, Ayabie is considered a “hippie rock band that sings only in English lyrics”?!

  • 8 Ica // Apr 13, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    actually, i am not that lucky. although my parents can’t pester me to get a degree ( i can always rub their drop outs in their faces, but i did get a degree just for the heck of it), other relatives still find it necessary to constantly remind me: do you want to be a drop out like your parents? education is the key to success, blah blah blah…

  • 9 Sherry // Apr 15, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Purely truth. I used to hate it when my parents forced me to study hard. Now I look back. I basically followed the path they designed. And now I have a baby girl. I’ve already started talking about making her a doctor… :(

  • 10 Natural // May 1, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Ohhh Sherry…I fel the same way…even though I’m still in high school and my parents drill on me for having a 90 on anything…I can’t imagine not trying to encourage my kids in the future to do ‘really’ well in school…. ohh well

  • 11 jt // May 2, 2008 at 12:12 am

    this post is so true. i think the desire to achieve comes from the constant comparisons our parents make to more successful kids: we always feel like failures, and thus strive all the harder to succeed. no asian university student is there from individualistic desires, it is all from a fear of failure.

  • 12 N // May 5, 2008 at 9:13 am

    At my high school, UC Berkeley was the minimum considered acceptable by most of the students/their parents.

    I go to Berkeley now and some of the people I know from high school look down on me for being a Spring admit!


  • 13 Crystal // May 10, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    I GOT IN CAL!! So happy (being an International), but was rejected from a plethora of others. Ugh, the headaches of being an international!

    Congrats for getting in, please tell me you’re in L&S like the rest of us normal people. NOT Engineer or MCB or Comp Sci. Maybe pre-Haas, that’s acceptable =P

    See you on campus!

  • 14 Marco // Feb 21, 2009 at 1:16 am

    Like many children of Asian immigrants, I was pressured to study hard and do well in school. Fortunately, I happened to *enjoy* studying and science. But, I always had the sense that for the family, each accomplishment was about deflecting shame for one more day, not about enjoying the accomplishment, let alone the subject. i.e. every “A” you got was to stay ahead of your cousins. What was really heartbreaking were kids who really wanted to be (e.g.) musicians who were pressured into being engineers instead.

  • 15 Thoughtpennies » Archive » Shaken, not Stirred // Mar 17, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    [...] Personally, and ironically in a sense, I blame the sterotypical (and typical, actually) Asian attitute toward education. And if you think I’m kidding, ask me, T.J., or just about any Asian that goes to U.C. [...]

  • 16 Stuff Ghetto People Like // Jun 2, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    It’s kinda sad when you think about it.

    For one, this isn’t just East Asians, this is also most especially Indians under this extreme pressure also. Some African peoples too. Telling a child they must be a doctor or engineer is cheating them of what they could probably really excel at and actually like. Makes for a not-so-diverse society. Also, it irritates my view that these grades aren’t necessarily products of a kid being a brainiac so much as having the work ethic. It’s about as bad as the emphasis on test scores in the U.S versus whether or not the child actually learns and grasps material.

  • 17 dani wong // Jul 27, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    You do know that The Onion is humerous fake news, right?

  • 18 Barron // Aug 23, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    there are no jobs out there. so asians/orientals, all the studying in the world will not mean JACK. sure you can get job as post-doc slave in white masters laboratory making nothing. but, you are science, you love it, and love the corolla/civic even more than the mice fume hood or doing stoichometry problems. yuuuuummmmy!

  • 19 Vladan // Aug 31, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    stop hating yourselves asians, enough of the names like rocco, tyrone and other itialiano and negroid names, be proud of your RACE. stop trying to be white.

  • 20 Louis // Aug 31, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Touchy subject, but here’s my take. I think that a lot of Asian parents are really ignorant themselves about how a society functions. It needs more than people who specialize in math and sciences. They need to realize that a society NEEDS lawyers, artists, politicians, and overall creative thinkers. Whenever I hear an asian kid want to go to med school or something along those lines I honestly cringe, not because I’m envious, but it’s because they’re fueling the stereotype and I truly feel sorry for them. To me, life is not about how much money you make (I know it sounds cheesy but it is SO TRUE) It’s about finding love and experiencing life to the fullest, and when someone like that passes on a night out just because they spend their whole life trying to achieve a ‘good mark’ is being afraid. There’s more out there that these people need to realize. I just wish they could understand.

  • 21 Look // Sep 11, 2009 at 8:19 am

    people think that only asians go for higher learning, its not that. its that each and every generation wants the next to do better than the last, it has nothing to do with “honor” from what I’ve experienced it’s all for bragging within family and friends

  • 22 Jedii // Sep 15, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    This blog was spot on. All my life, the number one phrase I hear coming out of my parents is
    ” Study Hard, do everything you can and study hard! ”
    I remember crying home once when I got a B+ for Gym.
    I also remember my dear mother telling me about being a nurse ( Filipinos are more geared to become a nurse than a doctor. Takes less time and still get awesome pay checks. Not to mention plenty of countries are hiring for nurses). Of course, to her dismay I rather steer away from the ” tradition” and take up on law.
    It’s not a bad thing that Asian parents long for their children to achieve a higher education. It’s actually for the best.
    A higher population of learned citizens achieve a bigger middle class. A bigger middle class support a growing economy. A growing economy cause a country to become stronger. A country that become stronger join the league with Asian countries like China and India that did just that.
    It’s better achieving a higher education. It opens more door and it gives you the satisfaction of a hard work.
    As for me, I’m just glad I made my parents proud and brought honor to my family.
    Bringing them joy is the greatest gift I could ever give them. =]

  • 23 nhi // Jun 14, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    @Louis, I totally agree with you…at least in my parents’ case. I told them I want to into sociology, and they pretty much might as well directly say “sociology is not relevant to society, but society needs doctors more….”
    But well, I especially like what you said “life is not about how much money you make… It’s about finding love and experiencing life to the fullest, and when someone like that passes on a night out just because they spend their whole life trying to achieve a ‘good mark’ is being afraid.”
    I think it’s really inspiring since I’m struggling to focus on life instead of “good mark” because I am afraid (thanks alot…mother and father >.>)

  • 24 Tony // Jun 18, 2010 at 10:05 am

    If I had a dime for every shy asian kid who plays WoW, still lives at home, has no clue how to dress and is physically unimposing I’d have a beach house in the Hamptons.

    Many asian parents lack the foresight to or the ability to tutor their kids themselves and set unrealistic goals, emotionally crippling their children so that (ironically) they will get passed over for jobs that similarly qualified white people get because they aren’t socially awkward.

    It seems that these sort of parents forget that doing well on exams is only one part of the puzzle to success in life. The other parts are called networking and collegiate sports.

    Also, this site lacks satire. I am disappoint.

  • 25 Lisa // Jul 9, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    I’m south asian, and I can relate to a lot of this. My parents have really limited the number of careers I get into. For my mother, I have to become either a doctor or an engineer, and for my father, I can only become a doctor (even though he himself chose to be an engineer) My parents want me to study endless hours for something I know I’m going to hate, and then, pretty much drop out of it so that I can get married. I’m not allowed to play any type of sport, because it’s considered “unladylike” (and I love organized sport) and extracurricular activities would affect my grades. My parents discourage me from any career I want to pursue, unless it’s related to medicine. I wanted to be an astronomer, but I was told, “you’ll never make any money, and I don’t want to support you in my old age.” I wanted to be a lawyer, but I was told “You’d never make a good lawyer. It’s not in your nature” (By nature, my father means that because I’m a girl, I’m too soft and timid and ladylike to do something so brash, rolls eyes). They tell me that a doctor is a good job for a lady. I don’t know about east asians, but in the south, the centuries of treating women as objects hasn’t quite rubbed off yet. My parents want me to get an education so that they could marry me off to a richer family,but they don’t want me to entirely finish my education, because the most desirable woman is one that is smart, but not too smart. Bleh.

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  • 27 Kike // Aug 9, 2010 at 9:41 am


    You’re right VLADAN, stop trying to be white. What the heck are you?, Serbian-Korean or something?


    * By the way, I am latino and I am sure that will piss you off like crazy….he he!

  • 28 amazon ghd // Sep 7, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    The bedStraighteners.

  • 29 Going to school…for WHAT?! | Bad Asian Daughter // Oct 28, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    [...] their child joining a hippie rock band that sings only in english lyrics,…[sic] – from “Stuff Asian People Like #51: Higher [...]

  • 30 sharmmmmmmm // Nov 29, 2010 at 1:05 am

    i think this is true :) )
    asian families are really into this kind of stuff
    luckily, my parents didn’t push me into a specific course or something. YEY, I have the best parents ;) )

    and I also want to pursue my studies (BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO BRING DISHONOR IN MY FAMILY, joke :) )) ) so, sometimes, it’s up to the kids, what to do in their lives :D

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  • 32 ilovehorseyrides // Aug 21, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    Once I got an 88% (a B+) on a test and my mom thinks that it’s just “OK”

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