One of the idols in Asian American homes is the god of Ivy-league institution. It doesn’t take long after a child is born for the word, Harvard or Princeton, to get mentioned. And depending on how hard your parents work you, it becomes ingrained in you pretty early on that getting into a top school is what will set you up for life, ie. get your parents off your back, get the girl, get the job, and make that paper.
And Asian parents are similar in this regard; I didn’t know too much about “white flight” until I grew up, but when looking for a new home in the metropolitan Atlanta area a year ago, my own dad said simply, “Look for where the Koreans go. They’re all in good school districts. That and taxes is all they look at when they move.” A generalization to be sure, but not inaccurate from what I can tell. Even Asian churches have to move to keep up with this migration to the suburbs. And “cutting edge” Korean churches offer SAT classes to reach out to the Korean community (Lesslie Newbigin would roll over in his grave). We are not tied to the land, we are tied to the opportunity, and if those prospects are strong enough to bring us over from the Pacific, you sure as hell ain’t going to stop us from changing a couple of zip codes.
And this frantic chase to get into the good schools mirrors the frenzy to get into college from the motherland. In Asia, the competition is so stiff and the awareness of the names of universities are so strong, everyone can mentally rank simply on what schools you get into (or not). Heck, we even do this with seminaries (Columbia what? What about Fuller or Princeton? Princeton is always good). But the impression that I get from a lot of people, is that in Asian universities, once you get in, you’re in. It’s like high school is four years of hazing just to get in, and college, you skate. Your “older brothers” take care of you.
But the game is different in the US, and getting admitted to these Ivy-league schools is admittedly difficult, but getting out is probably harder. There is no skating at that level. So when Korean parents, in particular, work so hard to pull strings, teach kids entrance strategy, develop those specific skills just to get in…they might get in. But then what?
They fail. And almost half of them drop out (h/t: Metropolitician).
Forty-four percent of Korean students at top American universities give up their studies halfway through.
This data is contained in Samuel S. Kim’s doctoral dissertation “First and Second Generation Conflict in Education of the Asian American Community” delivered at Columbia University Friday.
The drop out rate is much higher than 34 percent of American, 25 percent of Chinese and 21 percent of Indian students.
Read the article and here’s a clip from the first comment – scathing, but sobering.
Koreans view university degrees as receipts, not as confirmations of academic achievement. Cheap, shallow, materialism drags Korea and the rest of the world down…Koreans are predatory, see the rest of the world as a mass of sub-humans…You participate in the tearing down of your own cultures to sit with these piranhas and drink formaldehyde. You marry women that treat you as slaves, work for slave-drivers, teach little racists to ingratiate themselves with polite society and encourage Korean exceptionalism. Korean obsession with American education is a servile expression of their neurosis.
Wow. absolutely blistering. But is he wrong?
Education was never the goal, its benefits were. And when we confuse the goal with its benefits, we encourage people to cheat. It’s like learning to play the guitar to get a girl, or becoming a doctor for the money– you will never be a musician worth his salt nor a doctor worthy of being called a healer. You do just enough to get by.
And what does it means that our churches follow these types of communities out to the suburbs? Same thing…we do just enough to get by, but we rarely reflect the transformative and generative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The gig’s up…are we in it for the title? or the real thing?