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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

December 5, 2005

Written by C.N.

The New White Flight

The Wall Street Journal has an article that describes an interesting trend: White students leaving high schools because of the increasingly prominent presence of other students of color. In the past, this usually involved an influx of low-income, educationally disadvantaged Black students. However, in this case, White students are apparently leaving high schools with excellent reputations because they feel that they can’t compete with an influx of highly-skilled and motivated Asian American students:

Over the past 10 years, the proportion of white students at Lynbrook has fallen by nearly half, to 25% of the student body. At Monta Vista, white students make up less than one-third of the population, down from 45% — this in a town that’s half white. Some white Cupertino parents are instead sending their children to private schools or moving them to other, whiter public schools.

Whites aren’t quitting the schools because the schools are failing academically. Quite the contrary: Many white parents say they’re leaving because the schools are too academically driven and too narrowly invested in subjects such as math and science at the expense of liberal arts and extracurriculars like sports and other personal interests. The two schools, put another way that parents rarely articulate so bluntly, are too Asian. . . .

The article goes on to note that many Asian American parents are upset by this trend and accuse the White parents of racial prejudice — not wanting their kids to go to school where Asians are the largest racial group. On the other hand, other Asian American parents are more sympathetic and think that the reactions of the White parents bring up some interesting points that we as Asian Americans need to think about.

First, while it’s nice to be in an environment where there are plenty of other Asians around (and even where Asians are the largest racial group), that is not an accurate reflection of the national population, where Asian Americans are still only about 5% of the total. Therefore, is it unrealistic to socialize Asian American students to think that they’re the majority when, once they enter “the real world,” they’ll eventually find out that they are still a minority group.

The second point is, trying to achieve high GPAs and SATs should only be one part of being a student. As some White parents point out in the article, the schools should also emphasize teaching humanistic subjects, social development, and other aspects of making sure that kids are well-rounded individuals, not just those who can excel at math, science, or engineering.

On this issue, I happen to side with many of the White and Asian American parents who want to expose their children to a broader, more diverse, and more inclusive educational experience, not just train them to be high-achieving scholarly robots. Academic excellence and a rich, culturally-enriching education are not mutually exclusive. With a little planning and cooperation, students from all backgrounds can benefit.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "The New White Flight" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/12/the-new-white-flight/> ().

Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=174