Education Bias or Social Justice?

About two months ago, a group of more than 60 organizations has filed a complaint with the federal government claiming Harvard holds higher expectations for its Asian applicants than other minorities. The coalition is made up of nonprofit organizations, including Chinese, Pakistani and Indian groups, and it claims Harvard uses racial quotas to control the number of Asian-Americans on campus.

This Asian-American-initiated event bring the pubic a very tricky but extremely important issue of education: What is social justice in education? Asian Americans are a special group when discussing racial issues. They are minorities and protected by the laws and rules against discrimination based on race and ethnicity. However, a considerable percentage of Asian Americans are high in SES and enjoy social privileges, which is represented in education. A lot of Asian Americans come from families of skilled worker immigrants who received higher education. These families are able to provide ample financial support to their children’s education. Another interesting observation is that Asian American families consider children’s grade as the most important part of their school work. Most Asian parents require their children to get high grade and control their leisure time. Even some Asian parents encourage their children to participate in activities other than doing homework, they have a very clear goal — to get admitted by an elite university or college. It’s no doubt, Asian American have taken much more education resources and the advantage of the education system in U.S., compare to African Americans and Hispanics.

The consequences of this situation in education for Asian American are complicated. First, because Asian students tend to spend more time on studying and improving their grades, they are more likely to get a higher GPA, which makes them more competitive in applying for elite schools. On the other hand, when Asian students are enrolled in top schools, they are not doing better than students of other races. To do good in college, there is much more than just maintaining a high GPA. Second, if we looked the ratio of Asian students in elites schools, we will find that this ratio is somewhere between 10% and 15%. However, the Asian American only account for 6% of population. In other words, other races are inadequately represented in U.S. higher education. Under this circumstances, to control the ratio of Asian students is an approach to increase the chance for African American and Hispanic students to get higher education.

However, from the perspective of Asian Americans, these elite schools did have a higher criteria for Asian applicants. Now, the problem becomes whether we should hold same standards for all students or should give the equal chance for all racial and ethnicity groups: education bias vs. social justice. I’ll leave this question in my blog and hope we’ll have to discuss this problem of diversity in U.S. education in class.