City Can Learn From Asian Education Process


There is a business term called asset management, that is missing when it comes to the city’s political leadership learning from the Asian American community in regards to education.

Statistically, there is little doubt that this sub-sector of our society knows  what they are doing when it comes to schooling their children. This is a huge asset.

There are eight specialized high schools (SHS), elite public institutions, that require passage of a rigorous academic admissions examination (SHSAT) for entrance. These schools enroll 15,540 students. Of these students, 62% are Asian Americans and roughly half come from low-income families.

Additionally, Asians score the highest in SHSAT tests with a 424.5 average and have the highest admit number, 2,554, compared to black students with the average SHSAT score of 349.9 and admit number of 221.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams

So given these statistics, it was almost an absurd mismatch, when Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams faced a roomful of mainly Chinese mothers in Brooklyn’s Chinatown yesterday to “respectfully disagree” and debate the merits of the city’s plan to eliminate the tests in favor of a more holistic approach to education so more black and Hispanic kids could gain entrance into these schools.

While I have much respect for Adams, he was out of his league speaking about education. It would be like somebody who ate at McDonald’s every day telling Adams, a serious health foodie, about eating healthy. Listening to these Chinese American parents speak about education it became quickly apparent to me that they really knew about which they spoke.

And for Adams, Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Department of Education, and anyone else trying get rid of these entrance exams and make radical changes to the admission policy without even consulting the Asian community is unwise. A wiser approach would to humbly ask the Asian American community how to better educate the black and Hispanic children that are failing. Ask some of these mothers to come into black and Hispanic communities and hold forums with parents to explain how they get their kids to study more.

But just because this Asian community really has it together when it comes to education does not make them morally, socially or ethically better people. And certainly they can learn a thing or two about street smarts.

Brooklyn’s Asian American community, for example, knows very little how government works and political empowerment. In this regard, Adams had to school the parents on how legislation regarding the entrance to these schools changes several times before a final bill is passed. This seemed to go right over the parents’ head.

Brooklyn’s miniscule Asian American political leadership tends to make excuses when it comes to securing political empowerment. They say this is the first generation over here and they are too busy working to care about politics.

It should not be lost that Adams’ visit to Chinatown yesterday came on the eve of the petitioning process to get on the ballot to run for the state assembly or senate. There isn’t one person that looks like them in the Asian American community in Brooklyn running for either chamber.

So here is the lesson for all the Chinese parents that protested to Adams yesterday. Just as you put time and energy into educating your children, you also have to put time and energy into political empowerment.

In this regard, the Asian American community can learn from and start building political alliances with the black and Hispanic community. There are positives in both.

In business terms it’s called managing your assets. If done right it would be to the benefit of our society. If done wrong it could be a disaster in the making.

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