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January 01, 2014


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Disclosure: I'm a student from the Stuyvesant class of 2008

I'd like to offer a response to some of your points.

The way the current exam is set up ("it would be better to do very high in one section and poorly in another than to do well in both.") means that people with the top 1-2% of the verbal or the math scores are selected. In practice, it somewhat equally selects a body of people who do extremely well in the English section but above average in the math section and people who do extremely well in the math section and above average in the English section. It does not naturally lead to bias towards to the math part unless the body of test takers that year as a whole are stronger in math than English.

Regarding your question "how good does the test appear as a metric of a student’s ability-to-benefit from a specialized high school?" - I would say that the test is designed to find the group of the most college prepared 8th graders in the city of New York. The thought I believe, is that if you have students at are already as prepared as the 12th graders in the rest of the nation in basic mathematics and/or verbal ability, then you can spent 4 years teaching them things that are not normally accessible by high school students like multivariable calculus, Existential literature, organic chemistry, etc (at Stuyvesant).

If you actually look closely at the test problems themselves, with the exception of the paragraph rearranging - most of the problems are reminiscent of PSAT and SAT problems. Some require even more problem solving skills and critical thinking ability than the SAT. A removal of the test as for admissions purposes in favor of what the critics claim is a "holistic" method of granting admission would essentially throw a lot of things into chaos. It will be difficult to guarantee that each entering class has a baseline for quantitative and linguistic competency. Say there is a high school in the city that writes recommendations for their top students that they are the top scoring in their classes, have great extracurriculars and the like, But after admitting them, you find out while they have reached the requisite citywide test proficiency level to move on to the next grade, it isn't enough to make the most of what the school has to offer. How many of NYC's 8th graders would you wager could take on something like multivariable calculus by their senior year, something beyond the material of the AP BC Calculus exam that is the end of the math track in few, privileged public schools?

It would be impossible to scale for even the most studious if they haven't reached a certain level of proficiency by a certain age. How would mathematics department of Stuyvesant now have to deal with students who are not prepared to take the most remedial math class that Stuyvesant offers, Advanced Algebra, while having MathCounts national top-scorers or MOPers that sometimes find themselves completing even what Stuyvesant has to offer by their senior year and taking graduate mathematics courses at nearby colleges like Columbia University or NYU? How will you manage to effectively challenge and both the former and the latter without compromising the educational quality of either.

And my last reason to be opposed against removing the test for admissions, is honestly, personal. I was an immigrant student who went to a zoned middle school in Queens where academics were consistently subpar and teachers were often demeaning. If it was that alone, it would have been tolerable. As a foreigner who didn't have understand pre-teenage American social behavior, who placed an emphasis on academics over "fitting in", I found myself verbally, and quite often violently bullied by my classmates.

The school staff did nothing nor did the teachers, who in class showed their preference for my tormentors. My parents didn't speak much English and was also powerless to do anything. Every day I was deathly afraid of going to school for I didn't know what condition I would arrive back in. I felt I was constantly being punished for being intellectually curious. When I learned about the specialized high schools, I immediately recognized it was my ticket out there. Most of the students from that middle school ended up the local zoned high school school with an <35% graduation rate. I took out every test preparation book I could from the library and studied as much as I could. I took the test, and obtained admissions to Stuyvesant High School. If the admissions process was based on the current Ivy League college admissions test, I doubt there would have been any way for me to attend given the strikes I would have against me:

1. I was Asian-american. There is an informal quota on Asian applicants with holistic application processes that haven't been outlawed by Berkeley's former selection process. It's well documented - http://blog.priceonomics.com/post/48794283011/do-elite-colleges-discriminate-against-asians
2. I was poor. There were few or practically no extracurriculars that I could pay for if they required any dues or fees, even free programs/events my parents could not take me to, as they were almost always working. We were not aware of many financial aid programs, and the ones did know of only targeted disadvantaged minorities.
3. There would not have been a single teacher in my middle school who would have written a recommendation letter for me out of their own will. They would have preferred to perpetuate the image that I didn't wish to fit in anywhere, and that I wouldn't be a "well-rounded applicant". I'm pretty sure of it.

The test as it is, how I see it, grants those who may not be informed or encouraged by the system to strive for an opportunity to challenge themselves academically and intellectually at the highest levels. The reformers believe abolishing the test will do that, but it already does. It will never be perfect or fair because those it is frankly impossible to define those two words in a way that it won't lead to the benefit one person at the expense of another. We should spend our time establishing more schools like the specialized high schools at a more distributed level, raising the standard for all instead of lowering them in order to from what one group believes is a more equitable student body for a school.

P.S. Apologies for any typos in advance, I wrote this in a hurry.

This response makes my head hurt.

"How many of NYC's 8th graders would you wager could take on something like multivariable calculus by their senior year, something beyond the material of the AP BC Calculus exam that is the end of the math track in few, privileged public schools?"

Pretty much by definition, almost anyone who could learn multivariable calculus by the age of 20 could learn it by the age of 18. What's the advantage, other than managerial, to put together a group of people who, by whatever developmental quirk or quirk of incentive, learn it earlier?

As bullying experiences go, of course this is subjective, but yours seem pretty mild -- although perhaps the standards for bullying have become more sensitive since my time (something which, if that's the case, I applaud).

Similarly, although some school administrations practice malign neglect or even direct malevolence, a junior high school student's perceptions of an administration aren't the most accurate guide to administrative behavior.

I'm noticing that you don't want to be thought of as part of a "disadvantaged minority", even though you clearly were. Poor immigrant family, little social capital, non-English-speaking household. The difference is, you were from a family which didn't mind you withdrawing from everyday life to study test preparation books obsessively. They were fearful of American life. Maybe they had a cultural tradition which placed an importance on tests; somehow I doubt this interest developed in a vacuum. It's a lot easier to accomplish this with people who have your back. If you had to spend every spare moment helping out at the store and put those books away, you get a very different result.

But of course, you're thinking, well I did it, anyone with my innate ability can do this.

(I've encountered the Asian-American paranoia that quotas will keep them from getting into a "good" school before. While holding no brief for admissions policies, in practice, the quota paranoia is usually used to defend cookie-cutter scholastic records: they completely miss the point that an "elite" school is looking for unique alpha, not beta in a growth industry. It hurts to realize that you raised your kids as interchangeable drones, or were raised as an interchangeable drone yourself. The response is culturally mediated: white people in the same position tend to blame affirmative action for crowding them out, not that the school has seen a thousand carbon copies of Tyler from Plano or Waco or Chico or wherever.)

Carlos, the problem is I've heard those kinds of arguments many times before;

1. You say "Pretty much by definition, almost anyone who could learn multivariable calculus by the age of 20 could learn it by the age of 18. What's the advantage, other than managerial, to put together a group of people who, by whatever developmental quirk or quirk of incentive, learn it earlier?" In this country, it seems that the general populace (including you) only seem to believe true talent exists in 3 fields - music, sports and chess. You wouldn't make the claim that you could that someone who could be a capable all-star quarterback, point guard, virtuoso musician or grandmaster in chess at the age of 20 could have reach those levels of proficiency at age 18. Why don't you give me a Fermi estimate of how many students in the students in the US will take multivariable calculus before they finish their graduate studies? My opinion is not every one can or wants to learn something like multivariable calculus. Of those who possess the potential, and can't afford a private school - the specialized high schools are one of their only options. Otherwise, they would have to wait a few more years until they hopefully get into a college that offers such courses or learn it on their own without guidance.

2. Are you implying I had the luxury of sitting around and studying all day? While my parents didn't have any stores for me to "help around at", I spent most of time doing translating for them, constantly helping them fill out paperwork, and running other errands so they could make the meager wage they did.

3. "They completely miss the point that an "elite" school is looking for unique alpha, not beta in a growth industry. It hurts to realize that you raised your kids as interchangeable drones, or were raised as an interchangeable drone yourself."

That's how admissions officers saw the Jews in the early 20th century: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/06/books/review/06brooks.html?pagewanted=print

Would you label Jonas Salk as a interchangeable drone? Considering he was one of the people rejected by such exclusionary admissions practices and forced to attend City College instead?

4. My initial post was essentially just my honest thoughts, not really an argument that is going to convince people who made up their minds already. I was hoping to explain how I saw things to Noel. I, believe in realpolitik - as long as I am alive, I will use everything in my political means to make sure the specialized high schools will remain as the equivalent of what the CUNYs were for excluded Jews but for Asians. A last bastion for Asian-american and immigrant asian students who are still restricted by number from institutions of learning with their admissions that end up putting a defacto quota on them by the hand of some administrators. Thus. I will inform, donate, and lobby as much as required to get the result that aligns with my interests. How the end result turns out is all that matters, 2 people on the internet arguing over this on a blog isn't going influence anything.

Good day sir.

Thank you for your comment, J! It’s very cogent. I’ve been thinking hard about it.

(Your unedited typos are no worse than my edited English! As my mother would say, “How wonderful that my son speaks two languages, both of them badly.”)

There are two ways to look at the issues. One is big picture; the other is a little more personal. Let’s take the big picture one first.

Start with the empirical result that the specialized high schools do nothing for the marginal admits. That is, if you’re close to the cut-off, it makes no difference to your later educational trajectory whether you got into Stuyvesant or went to Manhattan Center. (The evidence is reported in this earlier post with the deliberately provocative title -- http://noelmaurer.typepad.com/aab/2013/12/abolish-stuyvesant.html -- or you can go straight to the underlying research: http://scholar.princeton.edu/wdobbie/files/Dobbie_Fryer_SHS.pdf.)

There are two ways to interpret that result.

The first is that the specialized high schools are not very valuable. In that interpretation, the students who get in may think that it changed their lives, but they’re wrong. They would have done fine regardless and the schools add no educational value. Since the specialized schools are also segregated, then with no redeeming quality there is no reason for taxpayers to support them.

Despite the title of my last post, I am not sure that is correct.

The second interpretation is that the specialized schools add value but admit the wrong marginal students. The SHSAT, in that interpretation, is not doing a good job of measuring merit. Students who do not need a specialized high school get in; students who need one are rejected. In that view, the test needs to be changed.

What would be costs of changing the criterion for admission? We know little about the effect of a specialized high school education on the SHSAT very high-scorers, but it is unlikely that an alternative admissions criterion would affect them. In fact, an alternative criterion could be designed precisely to avoid affecting them. I doubt that they would require letters of recommendation or extracurricular activities; but they may involve class rankings and GPAs, or take into account the students’ backgrounds. Chicago provides an example: http://tcf.org/blog/detail/what-to-do-about-diversity-at-stuyvesant.

On the more personal level, the implication is that your counterfactual might not be correct. I don’t know where in Queens you’re from, but both my wife and one of my young cousins are graduates of Cardozo, and it hard to believe that they would have been more successful in a specialized school. There are, of course, disastrous zoned high schools, but most of the public high schools in NYC are not zoned. If you couldn’t get into Cardozo or Bayside or Forest Hills, then in a world without Stuyvesant, the likelihood is that you would have gone to Bergtraum or Aviation and done just as well as you have. Most of the schools have the same course offerings as Stuyvesant, which should not be surprising, as the city directs no special resources towards the specialized schools. (A Queens-specific list can be found at this link: http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/FFF9DC12-7D8D-4301-ACCA-D46A05E13F88/0/QueensSchools_2013.pdf.)

In addition, if you were a high-flying tester, then you shouldn’t make the assumption that admissions criteria that took family background into account would have excluded you. After all, for every Stuyvesant graduate with an immigrant single parent working as a dental technician and collecting food stamps ... that would be me ... there were several with professional homeowning parents, even if those parents were foreign-born. An alternative system, like Chicago’s would reduce the latter’s change of getting in without affecting the former’s.

(That said, I am on record as believing that Stuyvesant did not have a big effect on my later life. For what it’s worth, the best man at my wedding disagrees. He did not go to Stuyvesant, or any other New York City school for that matter.)

I also think that you may have made a logical error in interpreting Carlos’s point about the ability of 20-year-olds versus 18-year-olds. And it’s worth thinking about the differences between children from our backgrounds and those who did not have family support for studies over income-generating activities. (Sins of the father and all that!) But those are separate issues, I think.

Over to you, J! My mind, it can be changed, and has been on many a thing. As John Maynard Keynes apocryphally said, “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?”

It seems my post didn't appear on the page after I submitted the captcha?

Hi Noel, you raise several interesting and compelling points.

I do somewhat agree that the marginal admits may be less benefited by what the schools have to other. But at the same time, I feel it is not much less.

"The first is that the specialized high schools are not very valuable. In that interpretation, the students who get in may think that it changed their lives, but they’re wrong. They would have done fine regardless and the schools add no educational value."

The study by Dobby and Fryer seems to use Regents participation, SAT performance, and likelihood of graduating from a 4 year college as means to measure efficacy of educational value. I'll concede to the numbers but I will say I see it as a result of the differences in the admissions process of the specialized high schools and most college admissions processes.

If you have a body of students selected by only a test and 4 years later you need to send them to colleges that use holistic factors like extracurriculars and race, then some of them group is bound to find out they don't fit in the vision of many higher institutions or fit in on their campuses if they are allowed to attend. People drop out not only from poor academic performance but also financial and emotional reasons.

I must admit, I need to take more time to read and decipher the study in detail. I will try to write more on it when I feel I more fully understand the authors' method of measuring educational value and reasons.

Onto the personal (I was always told to not divulge personal information on the internet... but this conversation is interesting to me and I do like debating with rational and well intentioned people) - I admit that I did not have impeccably grades as an 8th grader. I was often thrown into English classes where the instructor always thought my English would never exceed that of a poor ESL student when I believed my fluency in middle school became fairly good. Because of it, I was never given anything greater than a N/70 for English on a report card (equivalent is C in a A-F scale) for options. I was validated in 7th grade when I achieved the top 2% in the ELA citywide test and actually, because of it I was guaranteed admission to Cardozo as part of their Educational Option Program (http://www.cardozohigh.com/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=115562&type=d&termREC_ID=7743&pREC_ID=282557&hideMenu=1) so my 2 options for high school in 8th grade were actually Cardozo and Stuyvesant High School. But with my spotty overall grades, I would have never been allowed to attend a school through a screened process like Townsend Harris which only admits students with a 92+ GPA by 7th grade.

I believe Cardozo is a wonderful school but I honestly feel that I would be limited with certain academic options. There were 2 things I was looking forward to for high school - avoiding my tormentors (I had a hunch none of them would achieve the scores to get into Stuyvesant and I was correct, they eventually ended up in all the other schools in Queens like Aviation, Forest Hills High School. So I will say I was interested in self-preservation both emotionally and physically.) and my 2nd desire was to join a top math team, be surrounded by the brightest mathletes, and have the most opportunities to compete against other schools. Cardozo did/does have a math team but they do have seem to participate in every competition that Bronx Science and Stuyvesant or perform at that caliber. You may argue that can be remedied or that through a holistic process, you could still admit many students to the specialized high schools that will create a math team with a similar performance. I doubt it.

Some of the best performers I know were late bloomers and did not develop their aptitude until later in their high school careers while some students who had won awards as a middle schooler didn't pan out as a star performer in high school level competitions. Would a holistic admissions process, give the former a chance or would they just try to accept the latter who have won awards by 8th grade already? If so, how many and would they have the same effectiveness?

While the school directs no special resources towards the specialized high schools, at a school like Stuyvesant you have a sizeable amount of the student faculty possessing PhDs and having such experiences as having worked at NIH or other laboratories. The quality of the faculty it attracts and how they can teach things to students that can go far beyond what can be tested by national standardized examinations and study things that exceed the material the AP examinations are on like college level organic chemistry and theoretical physics is a testament to the "special resources" they possess.

These resources, I'd wager are there teaching of their own will, because they believe there is a teenage student body in New York that is capable of learning what they have to offer. If they perceive there is an increasing lack of preparedness because of a restructuring of admissions, they might leave. If they do, everyone suffers.

But again, the marginal admits might not benefit much like you say but I believe think they do, well from anecdotal evidence: I think I scored in the middle of the pack of the Stuyvesant admits of 2008 but on academic preparedness for high school, I felt I was most likely one of the "marginal admits" - I was extremely good at mathematics and poor at every other subject in the beginning. But over the 4 years, I was able to learn so much from my peers - gifted poet laureates, stage actors, playwrights, published authors (and they were all under 18!) that by the time I graduated - academically and personally, I did better linguistically than mathematically. I learned far more from my peers than any instructor and for that I am forever thankful. It seems like you don't believe your life benefitted by or was effected much by attending Stuyvesant - I can frankly say that mine was.

For that reason, I believe there are others in similar positions like me that would be denied the opportunities I had if the test were changed. It's not a completely rational reason I'll admit. Plus, it never sounds good to say this in the open, but my ideal/goal isn't one that will benefit everybody or won't benefit one person at the expense of another. But, I am very skeptical of anyone who claims they can find a way to benefit everyone or allocate resources capital more effectively, particularly intellectual, social and human capital.

Wow. Looks like I struck a nerve. J, you're twenty-three or thereabouts? At some point, you'll learn that you shouldn't let the sharks scent your blood in the water. But not yet, not yet.

You're making a number of false assumptions in your response. First off, you're not Jonas Salk. It's peculiar and borderline offensive to compare your background to that of Jewish-Americans. I will note it's symptomatic of the second-rate to blame someone else for their failure.

Second, I enjoy you trying to play "Fermi estimate" as if it were some kind of Yu-Gi-Oh card. There are a half-million STEM graduates in the U.S. a year, nearly all of whom have passed second-semester calculus acceptably. It's not a particularly difficult skill. Offhand, I'd guess one in five people could do it.

Finally, you go straight up into racial bigotry in your last point. Why on Earth should Stuyvesant, or any public school in the nation, become a safe haven for your racial group?

Those are the three most bizarre items in your comment that I care to address at the moment, J, but there are others. Music, sports, and *chess*?

My honest thought? I think you recognize yourself in the interchangeable drones I mentioned in passing. Of course you don't like that description. But ask yourself, perhaps at your next job interview: what unique alpha are you really bringing to the table? Is it something that only you could do? Or is it something that half a million other people could do with a bit of catch-up?

I think you already know what that answer will be.

Carlos, I'm a bit disappointed in your usage of sophistry -

1. I never said I was Jonas Salk or thought of myself in the sort. But I do see similarities between the body of Asian-American students today and the Jewish-Americans today. Being labeled interchangeable is not the same thing as being interchangeable. Even though Salk was not admitted to the colleges he wanted to go to, he still achieved many things going to City College so I'm sure that many of the Asian American students would achieve just as much in life if they were forced to attend another high school, it might just force them to take a longer road.

2. Neither Stuyvesant or any other school in the nation should be designed intentionally to be a safe haven for any racial group. However, if by certain factors, the demographics end up slanted towards one or two groups and one of them is mine, and I feel that group is marginalized by the rest of society in some manner - I will do everything in my ability to preserve that environment. One thing I've always been botheed by is the lack of the noise raised by the Asian American communities. We have nothing with the efficacy of the Anti-Defamation League or the NAACP, it's about time we have started accumulating our own political capital.

3. Alpha? You mean the technical risk ratio to evaluate hedge funds and stocks? What Wikipedia defines "a risk-adjusted measure of the so-called active return on an investment... the return in excess of the compensation for the risk borne."? Basically, the value-added that can't be explained by the norm but not easily quantifiable under the efficient market hypothesis.

I'd like to ask - what do you define as value and to whom are you speaking. Value to an employer? or to society? - I'd like to ask how you plan to measure that.

Looking at Noel's older posts - I'm actually convinced now too that with the advent of weak and strong AI, there will be few things that "only you (or anyone) could do" in due time.

4. I only wanted to offer my honest thoughts to Noel, I never thought for a moment I was going to persuade you or wasn't going to get labelled as a bigot by you the more I tried explaining. I was surprised however by your stereotyping of me into a trading card playing twenty year-old Asian American.

"I was surprised however by your stereotyping of me into a trading card playing twenty year-old Asian American."

1) Carlos is, himself, Asian-American.

2) Carlos likes tradable card games, particularly Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. Carlos and I are friends; he's had any number of conversations about them with my kids. So the Yu-Gi-Oh reference had nothing to do with your ethnicity (or his).

3) Carlos didn't go to a specialized high school, because there were none where he grew up, viz., deep in the rural north Midwest. But I'll note that when he says he's unimpressed by your account of bullying, he has some standing for that.

4) He won't thank me for saying this, but his test scores were higher than yours. Comfortably so. I say that with a high degree of confidence despite not knowing what your test scores were. Had Carlos lived in NYC, he would have been a shoo-in for Stuyvesant.

So, this isn't J. Random Dude On The Internet. Carlos is a guy a few years older than you who's had life experiences that are relevant to yours, but who has -- after considerable thought -- drawn dramatically different conclusions from them.

5) "Alpha" is a reference to primatology, not investment. Ivies and other high-end elite schools are not looking for people who have great test scores plus French and piano. They get thousands and thousands of those and, yes, from the Ivy's POV they're interchangeable and not very interesting. They're looking for people who will be the next generation's leaders and -- I hate this term but it fits -- thought leaders. Your typical Ivy program is looking for several different sorts of student (and this is something that confuses people; they're not looking for one perfect applicant, but for several different sorts). Broadly speaking, though, for most Ivy undergrad programs the brilliant, high-functioning eccentric has a better shot than the hard-working, highly organized swot with 1580 SATs, straight As, and a complete collection of Sera School ribbons in the violin. That may or may not strike you as fair, but it represents rational self-interest on the Ivy's part. (I have a longish explanation/rant on this point which is elided for length and also because Noel has heard it before.)

6) Give it up on comparing yourself to early 20th century Jews. "A hundred years ago the Ivies discriminated against this different group for different reasons and that was bad!" Well, yes, yes it was. But it's a very weak analogy to the current situation, and continually pleading to it doesn't make you look good.

Doug M.

Actually, Doug, I'm using alpha in the sense from portfolio theory. A super smart racial genius like J should have been able to figure out the analogy between an admissions officer and a portfolio manager tout de suite, and why cookie-cutter students, of whatever race, are only an average investment for an Ivy's resources.

J also seems to think the purpose of an elite university is to improve the life outcomes of its students. No, that's a side effect.

Finally, I'm pretty sure by J's standards, I'm not Asian Asian, but some sort of horrible Mischling who eats flan at Thanksgiving while watching the Packer game. (And Doug, just for future reference, I wanted to draw him out a little longer. I've noticed that bigots in 2013 respond more diagnostically to a Spanish first name.)

1. Carlos, I never made a single comment regarding your race - I have only focused on what you have written. Carlos could be the first name to any kind of person from any nationality.

2. Now that I know you are Asian, let me say clearly that personally I have no definition for "Asian-ness" whatsoever. I have immigrant Asian friends who came to the US around the same time as me who experienced culture shock as well those who were born here. I have always tried to treat them in person as individuals onto themselves not as part of a particular theoretical collective group.

3. I had a hunch you were using portfolio theory alpha - I know how Ivies see prospective students as stock. I'm well aware of that. However, the Ivies are private institutions regardless of how non-profit they claim to be. If I had my way, I'd eliminate all their federal money from taxpayers because of their defacto discrimination against Asians. The specialized high schools are public schools and should be treated differently.

4. Doug, because you say it's a weak analogy does not make it so. The point of argument a la Socrates is to not to find the truth but to stimulate thinking and illuminate ideas. Also I think of myself not as just middle of the pack compared to most of the other 2008 graduates in terms of academic or career achievement. I'm no one special, but I am entitled to my own opinions.

"And Doug, just for future reference, I wanted to draw him out a little longer."

Yes-I-know. But he was heading in a familiar direction, and I figured we could just elide that.

"The point of argument a la Socrates is to not to find the truth but to stimulate thinking and illuminate ideas."

Well, the idea that's being stimulated here is that you find it emotionally comforting to feel you're a victim of institutional discrimination. If that's not the idea you were going for, consider trying another analogy.

Doug M.

"Now that I know you are Asian, let me say clearly that personally I have no definition for "Asian-ness" whatsoever."

Oh, J. Then why do you think of yourself as separate from the other disadvantaged minorities in New York City? Why aren't you including black or Latino kids in your definition of Asian?

I know the answer, even if you don't. You're a racist. You don't think of poor urban students of other races as being similar to you, even though from my perspective, they completely are.

And it seems to me, it's precisely because you went to Stuyvesant that you have your bizarre Asian triumphalism. It's the sort of resentment that's only found in the majority, precisely equivalent to some white asshole from a white majority area whining about affirmative action. It is the squeal of the second-rate.

Had you gone to Cardozo, where Asians are, what, only a third of the student body? I'm pretty sure you would have your bigotry ground out of you more quickly. As it is, it'll probably take another decade or two. I can smell your desire to hide among your self-defined kind through the screen. Frankly, it smells like human shit.

In fact, maybe you'll never make it as a decent human being. It's certainly possible. Many people fail at being human. It's not something you can study for in test preparation books.

I'm an outsider to this conversation, so just some data points from someone who's looked at this closely since the very late '90s.

1) First and foremost, "meritocratic" admission is used as a means to segregate by race and class. Especially when it's not judged by any outside measurements like AP exams. Well, at least in the South. In Atlanta metro, we never really had a huge bunch of "magnet" schools, and the schools that were magnet were pretty committed to being so. Exclusive public high schools with expensive houses as a barrier only became a trend in the 80s here. People who wanted really segregated schools went to private schools, or made sure their students were in "honors level" classes in the public schools.

2) Another aspect of "meritocracy" that's often overlooked is that the focus is on having the easiest to teach students, not necessarily the smartest or most talented. A really high IQ is a learning disability in most contexts, and this concept is really poorly understood at times. Giving really smart students more advanced material only suits the fraction with highly organized minds with good memories. All of the high IQ set would benefit from the same sort of high effort, high quality teaching as what's supposed to be given to people with learning disabilities--not least the high IQ sorts that have problems actually learning something.

3) The number of people smart and capable enough such that they could truly get in anywheres are infinitesimal, even relative to, say, Princeton's admission pool. Think of the sort of difference between student pool at Georgia Institute of Technology, who, while they have their share of brainiacs, are mainly successful students--and the students at California Institute of Technology, who are substantially composed of brainiacs.**By and large, most people benefit from a similar standard of high quality education** The people who need a different standard, mostly need them for the same reasons, highly intelligent people included.

The special people? Everyone more or less knows who they are at the specific level of education. There were several very young children at my high school. One was, interestingly enough, something of a racist despite being years from being able to shave. None of the kids ever really amounted to anything special so far as I very vaguely know. More or less because none had any real spark of originality or talents. They were just...smart, is all. So when it comes to the really big time sifters, and especially places like Cal-Tech or MIT, the vast majority of applicants are just not that special.

As such, serious talent sifting at the high school level and younger, is really beyond pointless as a practical matter, and only serves as a positional good utility, either for housing prices on one end, or networking purposes on the other end.

To Carlos - "Oh, J. Then why do you think of yourself as separate from the other disadvantaged minorities in New York City? Why aren't you including black or Latino kids in your definition of Asian?"

Well just because I don't have a definition doesn't mean the forms I had to fill out for college and employment didn't have a section that told me to check one of the following boxes: Caucasion, Latino, Black, Asian or Pacific Islander or Other. Given what is societally accepted here, my ethnicity would definitely fit under "Asian", all they would have to do is look at my last name. I couldn't hide it if I wanted to.

Actually, that raises a point - too many ethnicities are lumped together into the "Asian" label and there is stratification between the subgroups - not everyone is a model minority that Asians are made out to be: "So says a new report out this week by the Asian Law Caucus and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. Between 2006 and 2010, the number of Asian Americans and NHPIs living below the poverty line in California increased 50 percent, while the number of unemployed Asian Americans and NHPIs grew by nearly 200 percent. Mongolian, Hmong and Cambodian-Americans in particular have higher poverty rates and lower per capita income than whites. And while Asian Americans are broadly thought to be high-achieving, high-earning and highly educated, Hmong, Cambodian, Laotian, Vietnamese and Fijian-Americans face significant barriers to education, and some of the lowest college attendance rates in the country.

In health, too, Asian Americans in California struggle with language barriers that make getting health services a real challenge. And in part because many lack health insurance, Asian Americans deal with very real health challenges. Asian Americans are the only racial group in California for whom cancer is the top cause of death, researchers found. Not only that, but rates of diabetes in the Asian American community remain disproportionately high, and in the case of suicide, are even on the rise."

Source: http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/02/who_you_calling_a_model_minority_new_report_dispels_myths_about_asian_americans.html

Doug - I don't THINK Asians have suffered from institutionalized racism. I KNOW they have, go look up the Japanese internment camps (post war apologies and reparations were a joke, admit it) and the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act which all the restrictions were truly repealed by 1965, so actually even with the SHSAT, the percentage of the Chinese population at least would have never exceeded 5% of the demographics in the 1950s even 50% of all Chinese 8th graders were guaranteed admissions: http://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0056/tabC-07.pdf

Look under Chinese and 1950s (it counts the entire decade) and you'd see the number 20,171. This is the entire New York State (we can't assume they live all in NYC and the number counts all ages. The number of 8th graders in any given year that were Chinese I would estimate to be around 300 if all the ages are distributed equally 20k/average life expectancy of 60 years (which they most likely aren't). The amount of Japanese American student would be even less. It is mathematically impossible for the Chinese part of the Asian demographic of a school like Stuyvesant or Bronx Sci or even Cardozo back then to exceed 10% because new ones simply weren't allowed to enter the country and the ones that were there were the poor descendants of the railroad workers that emigrated from the West Coast.

To Doug and Carlos:
Us arguing on the internet affects nothing. The only way the Asian demographic doesn't suffer further de facto discrimination from the removal of the test is the taking of any position that tries to abolish it is made into a political liability for any elected official that proposes it. Like I said, I honestly believe Asians need an Anti-Defamation League of our own. If I fail as a human being like you say I am for believing such a thing, then pffft.

BTW, thank you for participating in my trial balloon.

The colorlines site had a broken link: This is a viewable copy of the study http://advancingjustice-la.org/system/files/Communities_of_Contrast_California_2013.pdf


I wish I had some insight to give to this. I am not a NYer. I haven't lived anywhere much past the Rio Grande. California and New Mexico, my home states, are really different than NY.

I am going to contribute one little bit though.

If you were white, I'd immediately peg you as someone who had grown up around those with strong opinions and remain with a group with similar opinions now that you are an adult. It appears you have a bubble. One you are vigorously defending. Not unlike a Young Republican. Or a kid who grew up with Rush Limbaugh on the radio all the time with DittoHead parents.

Asking rhetorically, no need to answer. How diverse is your circle of friends now? Do you discuss this with them, assuming it is diverse?

PS. Any immigrant with English problems and cultural baggage (*) has a HORRIBLE time here. My kids' grandmother is from Ukraine. Her english is on the 1 year old level, frankly. Getting healthcare, coping with the country, etc is almost impossible for her. Yet she's probably more white than myself. She's at least fully European.

*. Virtually everyone does save for, perhaps, Canucks and others in the Euro-anglosphere.

J, let me add my voice to Will's, and try to explain why you've gotten such strong push-back.

Asian-Americans do very well in the United States by every metric save Fortune 500 board membership. That includes entrepreneurship and elective office.

In addition, the East Asian subset exhibits the highest exogamy rates of any immigrant group, adjusting for time-in-country. That is as strong an indicator of mainstream acceptance as one can imagine.

That is far different from the situation faced by African-Americans. It is even farther distant from the situation faced by African-Americans at the time the NAACP was established. To suggest that Asians need an “NAACP,” therefore, seems silly. After all, the only resentments mentioned are immigration laws from a half-century ago and putative current acceptance quotas at elite universities which may not in fact be quotas.

The ethnic politics around Jewish-Americans are more complicated, but few would believe that Jewish-Americans are subject to serious prejudice in the modern United States. Now, that was not always true: in 1946, Jews were subject to serious discrimination. As were East Asians. But that does not really apply to 2014.

It is clearly true that new Asian immigrants face serious challenges deriving from a combination of poverty, prejudice and poor English. You mentioned the plights of Hmong and Cambodian-Americans. But that puts them in the same category as poor Mexican (or Ukrainian) immigrants, not wealthy second-generation Chinese-Americans.

It seems odd, therefore, that you would support policies that help the children of well-off Asian-American doctors from Bayside to the detriment of poor undereducated black and Latino and Asian-American teenagers from Corona.

You still might favor keeping the current selective categories, of course! The issue goes beyond support for immigrants to America. But no plausible change in admissions criteria — not to Boston Latin’s, not to the City of Chicago’s — would hurt poor immigrants of any ethnic background. (More arguably, neither would abolishing the specialized high schools, what with the counterfactual being that people go to places like Cardozo.)

Your reasoning puts racial solidarity ahead of both class interest and the greater American good, which is why you’ve produced such vociferous pushback.

You might want to re-evaluate your position. Even if you stay with the same conclusions, the reasons might differ.

My post is still not showing it seems. Hmm.

Hi Will, I know your question was rhetorical but I would like respond to your sincere post.

"If you were white, I'd immediately peg you as someone who had grown up around those with strong opinions and remain with a group with similar opinions now that you are an adult. It appears you have a bubble. One you are vigorously defending. Not unlike a Young Republican. Or a kid who grew up with Rush Limbaugh on the radio all the time with DittoHead parents.
Asking rhetorically, no need to answer. How diverse is your circle of friends now? Do you discuss this with them, assuming it is diverse?"

The thing is, my parents and many (at least half I'd wager) who would be consider themselves "Asian" have always thought and behaved the opposite of me. I was always told by my parents when was younger to keep my head down and not be a "nail that sticks out" or I would get hammered. They taught me that every group/class has a position in society and to question it is asking for trouble. I'm sure they were aware of the issues of discrimination in this country against Asian-Americans and Asian immigrants but their response was always a shrug of their shoulders and said "What you do? It's a white person's country and only African Americans and Latinos are considered disadvantaged minorities here. All you can hope for is to outwork your fellow Asians in your same age group in a field that can be quantified and disregarded, something tangible like grades."

Trust me, it wasn't something nice to hear as a 7 year old but I quickly learned it was true and everyone else in neighborhood who was in the same boat as me felt the same. They never sought political representation or ever complained no matter how they were marginalized at their workplaces, schools, media or in the public perception, they accepted it as the way of the world and would never change.

When I got to Stuyvesant, during the first year - a few students that I befriend basically told me to quit some of the activities I liked doing on my own (my parents have never steered me towards them, in fact they wanted me to focus entirely on grades) like playing chess and solving chess problems, and classical music because of the stereotype threat when I would be applying to college 4 years later. I couldn't help but silently nod as I realized these 14 year olds basically already considered all the factors and had things planned out at their age to get into their dream colleges.

Several of them jettisoned their personal passions at a younger to look "more well rounded" to admissions officers but they admitted there was nothing to do besides grind for grades to outcompete their fellow Asian classmates. Even if all the Asian students did different things and had different experiences, from a wide spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds - apparently we would have to struggle to be seen diverse group within ourselves.

I soon accepted this way of thinking that "this is just how things are" because frankly everyone else seemed to accept it and never gave a single audible complaint. By my junior year, something stirred inside me when I saw a lot of my friends essentially try to work themselves to death juggling a ton of extracurriculars and still compete for essentially 1/100th of a percent on their GPA for senior college admission time. Honestly, I basically grew angry when I learned of the side effects of affirmative action and how the model minority description of Asian Americans was basically a myth. The pressure that it creates on so many in that group to fit the stereotype or else they would be labeled as just a failure or outlier (not a positive one) grew to be unconscionable to me. Why my parents held Asian values of their ethnicity, I just as myself as an individual actor trying to do the best I could in my life, the majority of the time I didn't think about my skin color or anyone else's. But I couldn't avoid other people making judgements/assumptions or stereotyped first impressions based on my skin color or name.

First of all, I don't have a bubble because most of my friends still accept of "way of things" and believe success is just trying to far as you can within the system with that it permits the racial group that it lumps you in. My opinions I don't really raise to them often because I am in a small minority of those who would dare complain like Jian Li who tried applying to Princeton. I actually did not every have a dream college that I put all my hopes on and was rejected, so all my complains are from the bitterness of rejection if that's what you're thinking. I got into most of the colleges I did apply to. But in college, the way I was treated by many classmates both Asian and non-Asian, faculty and employers made me really realize that part of the problem of institutional discrimination against Asians is perpetuated by their political influence, from their lack of desire to complain and lobby.

The fact the Carlos exhibited more outrage against what I professed to believe** than the actual problems of the group that is labeled Asian American is very telling to me. But I can't change his mind nor stop his ad hominem/guilt by association logical fallacies and attacks against me.

Secondly, my group of friends is diverse in socioeconomic status, ethnicity/race (if you want to use racial labels), gender, age and political affliation.

** (and didn't encourage anyone else to believe either, just wanted Noel to hear something that isn't mostly heard I think. I doubt Noel hears from his Asian American colleagues or students complaints of institutional racism even if they did suffer from it, I would say they wouldn't dare to speak out)

Sooo... I am guessing based on your post here, that you don't normally discuss your POV with your friends? Is that the case? Or am I mistaken?

Christ, what a sad sorry stupid son of a bitch. J had every scholastic advantage -- a specialized high school, classes tailored for the needs of smart students, sympathetic teachers and administration, a supportive community that valued scholastic achievement -- and he still couldn't hack it.

(Guess how many of those things I had. Hint: it's not a positive number.)

Now he blames whitey. Sorry, kid. That sound you hear is the world's smallest Suzuki method violin playing "Cry Me A River." You're an absolutely typical drone -- no, worse than that, because I can't imagine this sort of feeling passes by unnoticed by Human Resources -- and the system has worked accurately in its assessment of you.

Yeah, I think I'm done with posting here. The more I try to explain, the more I seem to misrepresent the situation as I see it. It's a lose-lose scenario. Consider this your victory, Carlos, whatever that means.

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