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亚裔学生的优秀不应该成为一个问题

Asian American Student Success Isn’t a Problem
亚裔学生的优秀不应该成为一个问题

Over the past three years, as universities across the country have abandoned standardized test requirements and moved toward more holistic models for admission, a persistent yet largely unexamined question has arisen: Would these changes be happening if white students were at the top of the academic food chain? The performance gap between Asian American and white high school students on standardized tests has grown over the past decade. In 2018, for example, Asian American students, on average, scored 100 points higher on the SAT than white students. Just three years later, in 2021, that gap had risen by over 25 percent, to 127. Many of the universities that have dropped the SAT requirement have cited a desire for diversity and equity and a de-emphasis on hard-core academic competition. (This has always struck me as errant and, frankly, self-serving reasoning. If elite colleges actually want economically and racially diverse campuses free from the academic stressors that plague high school students, they should take their own advice and stop competing so fiercely to prove that they are the most exclusive places of higher learning in the world.)

过去的三年里,随着美国各地的大学都放弃了标准化考试要求,转而采用更全面的录取模式,一个长期存在但基本上未被研究的问题出现了:如果白人学生处于学习成绩食物链的顶端,这些变化会发生吗?过去十年中,亚裔美国人和白人高中生在标准化考试中的成绩差距一直在扩大。例如,2018年,亚裔学生的SAT成绩平均比白人学生高100分。仅仅三年后的2021年,这一差距就扩大了25%以上,达到了127分。许多取消SAT考试要求的大学都表示,这是为了实现多样性和公平,并且不再强调硬性学习竞争。(坦率地说,我一直觉得这是一种错误的、自私的理由。如果精英大学真的希望校园实现经济和种族多样化,摆脱困扰着高中生的沉重学业压力,它们应该听从自己的建议,停止为了证明自己是世界上最独特的高等学府而激烈地竞争。)

All this appears to be a noble enough goal. But is it possible instead that the move toward greater diversity and away from academic competition might also be a way to ensure that students from white, wealthy families can still compete with high-achieving Asian American students? In other words, how much of these changes should we attribute to an evolution in the way we think about equality in education and how much should be chalked up to white parents who are now worried that their children are being outcompeted?

这一切似乎都是足够崇高的目标。但是,增加多样性、远离学习竞争的做法,是否也可能是一种确保来自富裕白人家庭的学生仍能与成绩优异的亚裔学生竞争的方式呢?换句话说,这些变化中,有多少应该归因于我们对教育平等的看法的转变,又有多少应该归因于担心自己的孩子在竞争中被淘汰的白人父母?
 

Natasha Warikoo, a sociology professor at Tufts, has published a fascinating and worthwhile book about this phenomenon, titled “Race at the Top: Asian Americans and Whites in Pursuit of the American Dream in Suburban Schools.” Warikoo details her findings from a three-year ethnography of an anonymized suburb that she calls Woodcrest. Like many other suburbs around major cities, Woodcrest has seen a browning of its population over the past 50 years. In 1970, the town was over 95 percent white, thanks to years of discriminatory zoning practices. Starting in the 1990s, well-educated Asian immigrants who came to the United States to work in the tech industry began to move to Woodcrest in search of better schools. Now roughly a third of Woodcrest’s population is Asian American.

塔夫茨大学的社会学教授娜塔莎·瓦里古就这一现象出版了一本引人入胜、值得一读的书,名为《顶级较量——亚裔美国人和白人在郊区学校追求美国梦》(Race at the Top: Asian Americans and Whites in Pursuit of the American Dream in Suburban Schools)。瓦里古详细介绍了对一个她称为伍德克雷斯特的匿名郊区进行的三年人种志研究的发现。和大城市周围的许多郊区一样,伍德克雷斯特在过去的50年里出现了人口褐化的现象。1970年,由于多年的歧视性分区做法,该镇超过95%的人口是白人。从1990年代开始,受过良好教育、来到美国从事科技行业的亚裔移民开始搬到伍德克雷斯特,寻找更好的学校。现在伍德克雷斯特大约三分之一的人口是亚裔美国人。

So what happens when a big influx of wealthy Asian immigrants, mostly from China and India, come to a liberal, wealthy suburb that has always prided itself on its academic accomplishments? Warikoo correctly notes that for years, scholars and sociologists have simply assumed that these relatively privileged and upwardly mobile Asian Americans would simply melt into the upper middle class. What she found through her research is that the transition isn’t quite so smooth, in large part because many of the white families who live in these suburbs are worried that the new competition from Asian students will harm their own children’s chances of getting into elite colleges. As a result, some white parents in Woodcrest called for a de-emphasis on academics and a prioritization of mental health. Much like the moves away from the SAT, these changes sound worthwhile, but it’s worth examining the motives behind them.

那么,当大量富裕的亚裔移民(主要来自中国和印度)涌入这个向来以学习成绩为傲的自由富裕郊区时,会发生什么呢?瓦里古正确地指出,多年来,学者和社会学家一直简单地认为,这些相对享有特权、向上流动的亚裔美国人会融入中上层阶级。她通过研究发现,这种转变并不是那么顺利,这在很大程度上是因为,许多居住在这些郊区的白人家庭担心,来自亚裔学生的新竞争会损害他们自己孩子进入精英大学的机会。因此,伍德克雷斯特的一些白人家长呼吁降低对学业的重视,优先考虑心理健康。与取消SAT考试的举措一样,这些改变听起来很有价值,但它们背后的动机值得研究。

I spoke to Dr. Warikoo about her book and the issues it explores, including her theories on why Asian American students in Woodcrest have done so well, the limits of assimilation, and what she thinks should be done about the scarcity mind-set that she believes drives all of this.

我和瓦里古谈了谈了她的书以及书中探讨的问题,包括关于伍德克雷斯特的亚裔学生为何表现如此出色的理论,同化的局限性,以及她认为该如何应对导致了这一切的那种资源稀缺状况下的心态。

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

为简洁清晰起见,本文对采访内容进行了编辑。

First things first: We should acknowledge that Woodcrest is a pseudonym and you do not specify which state it’s in. But can you tell us where some of these upper middle class, Asian American and white suburbs are located?

首先,我们需要明确伍德克雷斯特是化名,你没有说明它在哪个州。但你能告诉我们一些中上阶层、亚裔美国人和白人聚居的郊区在哪里吗?


To identify a site for this research, I looked at cities with median household income in the top 20 percent — above $100,000 in 2010 — and where the Asian American population was at least 20 percent by 2010 and had grown since 2000. There are 34 cities around the country that fit that description, including Cupertino and Saratoga in Northern California, Sugar Land in Texas (a Houston suburb), Syosset on Long Island and Lexington in Massachusetts. White and Asian parents alike move to many of these places to send their children to their top-rated public schools. Many are suburbs that grew during the era of school desegregation, as whites left cities in large numbers and passed laws designed to keep working-class people out, like minimum housing lot size requirements and bans on the building of multifamily homes.

为了确定这个研究的地点,我调查了那些家庭收入中位数在前20%的城市——2010年在10万美元以上——以及那些亚裔在2010年至少占20%,并且是自2000年以来一直在增长的城市。全国有34个城市符合这种描述,包括加利福尼亚州北部的库比蒂诺和萨拉托加,得克萨斯州的舒格兰(休斯顿郊区),长岛的西奥塞特和马萨诸塞州的列克星敦。白人和亚裔父母都搬去这些地方,把孩子送到最好的公立学校。许多这样的郊区是在学校废除种族隔离的时代发展起来的,当时白人大量离开城市,并通过了旨在将工人阶级拒之门外的法律,如最低住房面积要求,以及禁止建造多户住宅。

Why are Asian families moving to these affluent, white suburbs?

为什么亚裔家庭要搬到这些富裕的白人郊区?


For the same reason that white American families are moving to them — in pursuit of the public schools, because of the school system, strong reputation, high levels of achievement, and in part because the community is so well educated. Some of the Asian immigrant families are also drawn to this town because there is a quorum of people from their home country, particularly Indians and Chinese immigrants, so they like the diversity.

和美国白人家庭的原因相同——为了子女能上公立学校,因为学校系统、良好的声誉、高水平的成就,还有部分原因是社区的教育非常好。一些亚裔移民家庭也被吸引到这样的小镇,因为这里已经有一些来自他们国家的人,尤其是印度和华人移民,所以他们喜欢这里的多样性。

How are these families received by the people who already live there? You note in your book that a lot of these communities are like Woodcrest in that they’re filled with affluent, white progressives with Black Lives Matter signs in their yards.

那些已经住在那里的人是如何对待这些家庭的?你在书中提到,很多这样的社区就像伍德克雷斯特一样,里面住了很多富裕的白人进步派人士,院子里竖着“黑人的命也是命”的牌子。


On one hand, I think there’s appreciation for the diversity that these immigrant families bring. They enable those white families to say, “We live in a diverse town.” And they do. Some kinds of diversity are glaringly missing — for example, there are not very many Black or Latinx families — but it’s not an exclusively white town.

一方面,我认为人们是看重这些移民家庭带来的多样性的。它们使那些白人家庭能够说:“我们生活在一个多元化的城镇。”事实也确实如此。虽然有些多样性是明显缺失的——例如,黑人或拉丁裔家庭并不多——但也不是完全由白人组成的城镇。

On the other hand, I think over time, as the Asian American population grows and their kids are doing quite well academically, there’s — among some white families — a little bit of unease about these new Asian families. Those white families might think, These Asian families do things a little differently, they focus on academics more than a lot of the white families, they prioritize different things. That brings concern about how the community is changing.

另一方面,我认为随着时间的推移,随着亚裔美国人口的增长,以及他们的孩子在学业上表现很好,一些白人家庭会对这些新的亚裔家庭有点不安。那些白人家庭可能会想,这些亚裔家庭做事有点不同,他们比很多白人家庭更注重学业,他们优先考虑的事情不同。这引起了人们对社区如何变化的担忧。

This only really happens when the immigrant population there reaches a certain number. When there’s only a few of them, the culture doesn’t really change, but as they grow, concerns start to emerge, like: Is the high school becoming too competitive? Are too many people putting their kids in extracurricular math classes so that now you can’t get into honors unless you do these classes? Or is it impossible for my child now to become class valedictorian?

这样的事只有在移民人口达到一定数量时才会发生。只有少数移民的时候,文化并没有真正改变,但随着移民人数的增加,人们会开始担心,比如高中的竞争是否变得太激烈了?是不是有太多的人让孩子参加课外数学班,导致如果你不参加这些课程,就无法获得荣誉?又或者导致我的孩子无法成为班里的告别致辞讲者?

In the book, you describe what some white parents in Woodcrest see as a loss of status. How does this manifest itself?

在书中,你描述了伍德克雷斯特一些白人父母认为的一种地位丧失。这是如何体现的呢?


There’s two responses that I talked about in the book. One is that there’s a small minority of white families who pull their kids out of the public schools and send them to private school so they can have a less competitive, less intensive environment.

我在书中提到了两种反应。一种是有一小部分白人家庭让孩子从公立学校出来,进入私立学校,这样他们就能拥有一个竞争不那么激烈的环境。

The other thing is that they push for policies to reduce academic competition. The school had already ended class rankings, they don’t name a valedictorian — that all had happened before I started this research. Then they reduced homework. And this was something that a lot of the white parents talked about is important to them. A lot of the Asian families didn’t agree with that. The district actually ended up ending homework in the elementary schools. And a lot of the Asian families didn’t agree with that either.

另一种反应是,他们推动减少学术竞争的政策。学校已经不再使用班级排名,也不再选择毕业致辞代表——这一切都发生在我开始这项研究之前。然后学校又减少了家庭作业。很多白人父母谈到,这对他们来说很重要。然而很多亚裔家庭不同意这一点。这个地区的小学实际上不再有家庭作业。很多亚裔家庭也不同意这一点。

Interestingly, there was never any talk of limiting how many extracurriculars kids can participate in or the number of hours on the field that sports can require, or anything like that.

有意思的是,从来没有人谈论过限制孩子们可以参加多少课外活动,或者限制在球场上运动的小时数,或者类似的事情。

How much of some of today’s educational policy shifts — whether it's getting rid of the SAT or the push to eliminate test-in magnet schools with large Asian populations — comes from this anxiety over a loss of status?

今天的一些教育政策转变——无论是取消SAT考试还是推动取消亚裔学生众多的磁石学校的考试——有多少来自对失去地位的焦虑?


It’s true that Black activists have been talking for decades about how the SAT is problematic; the way that students are admitted to these exam schools is problematic. The N.A.A.C.P. has done a lot of work on this for decades and has not made much headway. And is it a coincidence that whites are listening now? I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental.

的确,黑人活动人士几十年来一直在谈论SAT是存在问题的,这些学校按成绩录取学生的方式是有问题的。美国全国有色人种协进会几十年来在这方面做了很多工作,但没有取得太大进展。白人现在关注这个问题是巧合吗?我不认为完全是巧合。

Still, I see that shift as positive. If we are going to have elite colleges and high schools, then they must be truly accessible to children of all races and from all neighborhoods. Currently, the exams seem to make elite colleges and especially exam schools much less accessible to Black and Latinx youth, especially those living in neighborhoods and attending middle schools from which very few students historically have attended the exam schools.

不过,我认为这种转变是积极的。如果我们要拥有精英大学和高中,那么这些学校必须真正接纳所有种族和所有社区的孩子。目前,考试成绩似乎使黑人和拉丁裔青少年更难以进入精英大学,尤其是当他们居住的社区和就读的中学过去很少有学生考入那些按成绩录取的学校。

One of the questions the book raises is about how much we should ascribe Asian success to cultural differences. This is a very contentious topic for the understandable reason that if you say that there are Asian American cultural norms that help them to perform well academically, the question then turns to why other populations don’t do as well. What did your research find on this question?

这本书提出的一个问题是,我们应该在多大程度上将亚裔的成功归因于文化差异。这是一个非常有争议的话题,原因不难理解,如果你说亚裔美国人的文化规范能够帮助他们在学业上表现出色,那么问题就会转向为什么其他人群表现不佳。对这个问题,你的研究有什么发现吗?


What I reject is this idea that Asians value education any more than the white families or Black families. The school did a survey, and one of the questions they asked kids was to what extent your parents pressure you to get good grades. And the group that reported the highest level of pressure was the Black kids. Most of those kids are actually kids who are part of the busing program, so they’re coming from the urban center; they’re not living in Woodcrest.

我所反对的是亚裔比白人家庭或黑人家庭更重视教育的观点。学校做了一项调查,他们问孩子们的一个问题是,你的父母在多大程度上向你施压,要求你取得好成绩。报告压力最大的群体是黑人孩子。这些孩子中的大多数实际上是坐校车的,所以他们住在市中心;他们不住在伍德克雷斯特。

So I think this idea that Asian parents pressure their kids and that’s why they’re doing well in school is not true. What I do see is this: I use this idea of “cultural repertoires” in the book. The idea is that we all have a tool kit for how to get ahead. We get these tools from our parents, from our neighbors, from our cousins and aunts and uncles.

所以我认为,亚裔孩子在学校表现良好是因为他们的父母施加压力的说法是不正确的。我所看到的是:我在书中使用了“文化家学”(cultural repertoires)的概念,它指的是,我们都有一整套工具来帮助我们取得成功。我们从父母、邻居、表亲、姑姑和叔叔那里得到这些工具。

So, the bulk of these immigrant parents went to school and did well in China and India. That’s how they ended up in Woodcrest. And almost all of these people would have gone to supplementary academic classes after school when they were children because that’s just what you do in those countries, right? And so that’s the tool kit they bring with them. And because they come from countries where these decisions are made by evaluating their scores on standardized tests, that’s what they prepare for. And then they impart that on their children.

因此,这些移民父母中的大部分都在中国和印度上学并表现良好。于是他们最终进入了伍德克雷斯特。几乎所有这些人在他们还是孩子的时候都会在放学后参加补习班,因为在那些国家这样的事很平常,对吧?这就是他们带过来的工具包。而且在他们的国家,录取取决于他们在标准化考试中的分数,他们的目标就是这个。然后他们把这些传递给他们的孩子。

The American-born, mostly white parents in this town also went to selective colleges. They get that those colleges want a more well-rounded student; they understand the pathway to sports through recruiting and having a talent that’s beyond academics. So that’s something that becomes important to them. Again, different tool kits.

在这个镇上,大多父母是出生在美国的白人,他们上的也是精英大学。他们知道这些大学想要一个更全面发展的学生;他们懂得通过招募走上体育道路以及要拥有学习以外的天赋。所以这对他们来说变得很重要。这也是一个不同的工具包。

When I think about families who are not in this community — mostly Black and Latinx families — they have their own strategies, and they are trying as well, but they may not have a supplementary education class center in their neighborhood. They may not have relatives who went to a residential four-year college who can explain: What does it take? What does that look like? What do you need?

当我想到那些不在这个社区的家庭——主要是黑人和拉丁裔家庭——他们有自己的策略,他们也在尝试,但他们附近可能没有校外教育课程中心。他们可能没有上过住校四年制大学的亲戚来解释:上这样的大学需要什么条件?那是什么样的?你需要怎么做?

And so it’s not that they want it any less, it’s just that those strategies are not there. For me, those cultural repertoires are a way to think about what people do that’s different.

所以并不是他们不想,只是那些策略不存在。对我来说,这些文化家学是看待人们处事方式差异的一个办法。
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