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What Makes Asian Students So Intelligent?
DR. WALLACE: We have four Asian students in our math class, and they always seem to know all the answers. This makes the rest of us look stupid. What makes the Asian students so intelligent? — Nameless, Santa Barbara, Calif.
NAMELESS: Many Asian students enjoy being the stars of the classroom, but some find it difficult to cope with a stereotype that portrays them as academic super-achievers. According to researcher Bill Diamond, the road to academic success is not always easy for Asian students.
Although a strong family support system has been credited as one of the reasons Asians do so well in the classroom, parental pressure on their children to excel can be overwhelming. The heavy emphasis on education in Asian-American homes often begins at birth. Schoolwork is so important in some Asian-American families that children aren't allowed to have part-time jobs or even do household chores.
Education is seen as a means to bring honor and respect to one's family in Asian societies. The cultural viewpoint certainly contributes to Asian students getting good grades, but guilt can result when these teens fall short of their parents' (or their own) expectations.
Asian teenagers who are average students and have nonacademic interests may still push themselves to live up to their "brainy" stereotype. "In such cases," says Susan Chan of the Hamilton Madison House, a community service center in New York's Chinatown, "self-esteem can take a real beating."
Getting top grades can have a downside. Asian students may encounter both prejudice and jealousy, and some may be shunned by other students because their academic success poses a threat.
On the dark side, the Toronto Star reported on a shocking rise in the number of suicides committed by children in Hong Kong between the ages of 8 and 15. Some Hong Kong parents make unreasonable demands on their students while being insensitive to their needs. Thomas Mulvey, director of the Hong Kong Family Welfare Society, believes that parents are the root of the problem. The same problem exists in all Asian cultures.
TEENS CAN MOVE OUT AT AGE 18
DR. WALLACE: As a teen, do I have any legal rights if I disagree with my parents when they make a decision about my life? — Nameless, Talladega, Ala.
NAMELESS: Parents must comply with the law, which says they are legally responsible for you until you reach the age of 18. As long as they meet that requirement, what they say goes, until you turn 18. On your 18th birthday, if you don't like a parent's decision, you are free to move out and do your own thing.
This might seem like a good idea now, but being on your own would be no easy solution. It would be much better if you had a heart-to-heart discussion with Mom and Dad to see whether a compromise could be reached regarding their decision. However, you must remember that some decisions by parents cannot be overturned.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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