Bias Shows Itself in Education System

Bias Shows Itself in Education System

In second installment, local educator discusses other forms of discrimination Asian Americans face in schools

Jeffrey R. Smith

Part Two

One area of anti-Asian bias that frequently gets overlooked is in admissions policies and practices. To be clear, in California Asians are attending universities in numbers vastly exceeding their state demographic. California is 12% Asian, yet for reasons we safely choose to ignore, they represent 36% of the UC San Diego undergraduate population, 35% of UC Riverside, 35% of UC Berkeley, 32% of UC Davis, 33% of UCLA and 36% of UC Irvine. Caltech, the pre-eminent technological university, is 43% Asian-American.

If Caltech demographics were to mirror public school enrollment that percentage would drop below 10% while as a wind-fall the Caltech demographics for all other ethnic categories would increase significantly. Is there any wonder why Asian-Americans are largely unsupported in their struggle? Nationwide, Asian-Americans constitute 60% of the population that scores above 750 on the Math SAT, and yet Asian-Americans represent less than 6% of the U.S. population.

Paradoxically, some of the same segments of the political spectrum that decry anecdotal Asian Hate Crimes seem to advocate for systemic speed bumps to Asian success; specifically: an end to race-blind admissions to the most selective public high schools and universities. San Francisco’s renowned Lowell High School has abolished its merit-based admissions; again, in large part because a student body selected by merit would have had too many Asian-Americans.

Allison Collins, vice president of the San Francisco Board of Education, once accused Asian-Americans of using “white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead’” and called merit-based admissions at Lowell High School “racist” since the school had a majority of Asian-Americans. Try to imagine Collins levelling identical accusations at any other ethnic group with apparent immunity and still retaining her seat of on the San Francisco Board of Education.

One measure of how unpopular the raced-based admissions programs are is how they are defended with ambiguous word salads and how often their proponents need to rename them. “Quotas” were restyled as “affirmative action” and then as “affirmative action” became toxic “equity” was substituted. The latest effort to return to race-based admissions was rejected recently by voters in deep-blue California in November 2020.

On March 25, Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, dared to mention Harvard’s biased treatment of Asian-American applicants during a House Judiciary hearing. Incongruously, Kirsanow was squelched by a Representative from California who wanted to scotch any debate about discrimination against well-qualified — indeed over-qualified — Asian-Americans by leading universities. Such a discussion was deemed “unsuited to political purposes.”

To cap the Asian demographic, admission to successful charters and private schools is often determined by lottery rather than demonstrated academic track records. Alameda Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) uses a lottery system. President Biden singled out Asian-Americans as he issued executive orders devoted to “advancing racial equity.” His orders banned federal use of terms such as “Wuhan virus,” and required the Justice Department to better track hate crimes against Asian-Americans.

Immediately following his orders, the Justice Department dropped its lawsuit against Yale University over its race-based, anti-Asian, admissions. Justice Department officials had said that race was the ‘determinative factor’ in hundreds of Yale’s admissions decisions. For a brief period, the California UC system touted its impartial “holistic review of applicants;” a thinly disguised strategy to whittle down the Asian-American demographic on campuses.

The North Thurston Public Schools in Lacey, Wash., made headlines in November when their “equity report” classified Asian- Americans along with whites instead of as “students of color” — the reclassification was implemented because of Asian-American academic success.

Mayor de Blasio’s School Diversity Advisory Group discovered that though Asians are only 17% of New York’s kindergarten population, they account for 42% of the gifted-and-talented seats. The Mayor’s plan required reducing the number of Asian-Americans no matter how qualified they are and attempted to abolish the entrance exam for the city’s high-performing high schools, where Asian- American students again are “overrepresented.”

In effect, race-based admissions policies adversely target only one markedly “overrepresented” racial group; all other groups gain seats by the discriminatory practices. Note that the same people who decry the model-minority stereotype have little to say about the stereotype Harvard’s admissions office has created with subjective personality assessments whose results consistently rate Asian-Americans as lacking in traits such as courage, leadership, and likability. This lowers Asian-Americans’ overall admissions scores and makes them easier to reject.

“What do progressives say to a Chinese-American or Indian- American when she realizes their ideology means her children will be held to higher standards to get into college simply because of their race?” wonders Wai Wah Chin, charter president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York.

Random thuggery in the streets is not systemic racism, but what about systematically crimping educational opportunities for Asian- Americans? Asian-Americans are recognizing that the progressive form of discrimination may be the most insidious of all.

A 2019 Pew survey found that 73% of Americans believe race should not be a factor in college admissions. America’s bedrock principle is that people should be treated equally and judged as individuals, not as members of groups.

Jeffrey R. Smith teaches mathematics at Encinal High School..