Watch this video clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live (Wikipedia, Youtube channel).
For some, this video is funny; for others, it’s not. I don’t believe there is much truth in it, but here’s what’s true – “Not all kids. Not the Asian kids.”
Why are the Asian kids (especially, Indian and Chinese kids) stereotyped as bright, nerdy, and smart in the US, but not in their home countries? From Spelling Bee and National Geographic Bee to Intel Science Talent Search, the Asian kids dominate the scene. I have some theories.
In India and China …
- There are limited opportunities for the kids to show their talent or take paths that don’t conform to the norm. They are not allowed to take risks.
- They don’t follow their passion. Even if they are interested, the passion dies because they are forced to excel at it.
- Parents consider a professional degree (engineering and medicine degrees in India) a safe bet for landing a good job, even if the child is not interested.
- The kids are forced to work hard and get good grades. They get good grades, but they don’t learn for the sake of learning.
- The kids don’t go for higher education. They don’t aim high. They become risk-averse adults.
Why Asian kids do so well in the US
- Most of us have come to the US for higher studies. We’ve gone to great universities. We have worked hard. We inculcate the same values in our children.
- We expect our kids to go to best universities and earn at least a master’s degree (a PhD is better).
- We don’t believe in online education. We go by the US News rankings. We want our kids to go to highly selective universities.
- We encourage our kids to study hard (and force them, if required). We spend a lot of time with them and help them with studies. Their “time on task” is highest among any other ethnic/racial groups.
- Mathematically, we believe s=f(h) where s=success and h=hard work.
- Our kids are allrounders. They play musical instruments, participate in sports, and do well in studies. If studies are suffering, every extra-curricular activity is dropped.
- We want our kids to study science, math, and computers. Humanities and social sciences are for the lesser mortals.
- There are countless opportunities available in the US, so the pressure to do well is less. Less stress means more motivation and engagement.
- We encourage our kids to be highly ambitious. Not as entrepreneurs but as academics, scientists, engineers.
- For us, there are only two grades – “A” and “F”. If it’s not an “A”, it’s as good as “F”. And our kids are not allowed to get any grade other than an “A”.
- The Asian culture is collectivist. If the kids don’t do well in studies, it’s a shame for the entire family. The kids know this and don’t want to let their parents down in front of their social circles.
- Watching TV, partying with friends, and any other means of wasting time is strictly limited.