In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 25, 2005 / 16 Iyar, 5765

Minorities, ‘racism,’ and the UMASS flap

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Consider two questions that appear to have nothing to do with each other:

1. If 22 percent of the students at Quincy High School are Asian, why do Asians account for 94.4 percent of the math club?

2. If J. Keith Motley would have been the first black chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Boston, why is the UMass board of trustees about to give that job to somebody else?

Each of those questions has been the subject of recent media attention.

On May 18, Michael Winerip devoted his ''On Education'' column in The New York Times to exploring the overwhelming Asian makeup of Quincy High's math club. What is it about math, he wondered, that attracts so many Asian kids? His answer, in a nutshell: Most of the school's Asians are recent immigrants who struggle to communicate in English.

''When I was a freshman, half year in US, English is a big problem,'' one student told him. ''I just know, 'Hello, how are you?' History is a big problem. You don't openly express yourself because you don't know what to say and stuff. . . . You don't have the basic English.''

But math doesn't pose that hurdle. In the words of Evelyn Ryan, the head of Quincy High's math department, ''Math is a universal language.'' She rejects the notion that Asians have a natural aptitude for math. ''She believes it's partly cultural,'' Winerip wrote, since ''math and mathematicians are championed over there'' — in Asia — ''the way reading and writers are here.'' Before Asians began immigrating in large numbers to Quincy in the 1980s, Quincy High had only 10 students studying calculus; today there are two calculus classes totaling 40 students, 75 percent of whom are Asian.

I agree: The secret to Asian dominance in the math club and calculus classes lies in Asian culture. But the critical cultural ingredient isn't that mathematicians ''are championed'' in Asia. It's that Asian parents make their kids do homework.

By virtually any measure, Asian Americans achieve spectacular academic success. They make up just 4 percent of the US population, but 17 percent of the incoming students at Harvard, 18 percent at Columbia, 25 percent at Stanford, and 27 percent at MIT. Fewer than 1 New York City student in 10 is Asian, yet Asians fill half the seats in the city's elite public schools, Bronx Science and Stuyvesant. One-fifth of US medical students are Asian, as are 10 to 20 percent of the students attending Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and other leading law schools. Asian students score in the highest bracket on the SAT — both verbal and math — at far higher proportions than their share of the public. Likewise the specialized SAT II subject tests, in which Asians amass triple their proportional share of top scores in writing and history, five times their share in biology, and eight times their share in math, chemistry, and physics.

These illustrations — there are many more — come from ''No Excuses,'' Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom's 2003 book on racial differences in academics. Why do Asians do so much better than their peers in school? Because, the Thernstroms conclude, they care so much more about academic success.

On average, Asian students spend twice as much time doing homework as their non-Asian classmates. They believe they'll get in trouble at home if their grades fall below A-, while for whites the ''trouble threshold'' is B-, and for blacks and Hispanics, C-. They don't believe that success or failure in school depends on factors beyond their control. ''They believed instead that their academic performance depended almost entirely on how hard they worked,'' the Thernstroms write, summarizing the findings of survey researcher Laurence Steinberg. ''Their performance was within their control. A grade below an A was evidence of insufficient effort.''

Quincy High's math club may be virtually all-Asian, but Asian American students don't excel only at math. They tend to excel, period. And they do so not because they are compensating for weak English skills, but because they grow up in an environment that places enormous value on academic achievement — and pegs that achievement to individual effort.

Which returns me to the University of Massachusetts, and the current flap over the decision to name Dr. Michael Collins to run the Boston campus instead of the acting chancellor, J. Keith Motley. One of three finalists for the job, Motley would have been the first black chancellor of UMass-Boston.

The chairman of the UMass board of trustees says the choice came down to Collins's executive experience — while Motley was a dean of student services at another university, Collins spent 10 years running a multibillion-dollar hospital network. But a vocal chorus of disgruntled Motley supporters are calling the decision racist.

Leonard Alkins of the Boston NAACP blasts it as proof ''that the plexiglass ceiling is still there for people of color.''

Donate to JWR

Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey denounces it as ''a slap in the face to our children.'' Others call it an example of how whites ''cling tenaciously to power in Boston,'' and cite a recent poll by Harvard's Civil Rights Project, which finds 80 percent of blacks and 50 percent of Hispanics calling racial discrimination a serious problem in Greater Boston.

Motley's supporters plan to flood the trustees with phone calls and to stage a protest at the UMass president's office. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino boycotted a UMass breakfast to demonstrate his solidarity with those playing the race card. No doubt the story will continue to seethe for a while.

Is there a connection between the Asian math whizzes at Quincy High and the accusations of racism against the UMass board of trustees? Not an obvious one. And yet I can't help wondering what kind of message black students absorb when racism is invoked, as it so often is, to condemn anything black politicians and activists disapprove of. Who is more likely to succeed — the child who grows up in a culture that tells him success depends on his own hard work, or the one who keeps hearing that until white prejudice is eradicated, minorities will never get a fair shake?

Asian kids don't have a gene for calculus or getting into Yale. They have a culture that demands hard work, cares deeply about academic success, and rejects ''racism'' as an excuse for mediocrity. When the same can be said about black American culture — or, for that matter, about white American culture — the math club at Quincy High will look very different.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2005, Boston Globe