A recent article in The New York Times addressed a thorny issue: How should the New York City system select students for its eight elite public high schools, such as Stuyvesant, Bronx High School of Science, and Brooklyn Tech? At issue is the racial makeup of the schools. “Last school year, of the 14,415 students enrolled in the eight specialized high schools that require a test for admissions, 8,549 were Asian.”
In order to qualify for acceptance, students must take an arduous exam, which remains the sole criterion for acceptance. Yet, the disparity in racial composition has led civil rights group to call for the end of the test-based qualification. According to the article, “The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the groups that filed the complaint with the United States Department of Education in September, said that though some of the city’s poorest Asian immigrants had found their way into these schools, many were still being left out, for the same reason that poor blacks and Hispanics were: they do not have access to the grueling, expensive and time-consuming test preparation for the exam.” However, several years ago, the city instituted free test preparation classes for Black and Hispanic students. After a legal challenge, the city opened the classes to all students. Now almost half of those students in the preparation classes are Asian.
While some Asian families conceded that they sought outside assistance for test preparation, others indicated that their children studied at home on their own. “Several students said their parents did not shy away from corporal punishment as a means of motivating them. And they said that rigorous testing was generally an accepted practice in their home countries, with the tests viewed not so much as measures of intelligence, but of industriousness.” City school officials and Mayor Bloomberg have declined to alter the enrollment process.
Is America still the “land of opportunity”? Every year, millions of people struggle to reach this country for better lives for themselves and their children. Shouldn’t hard work be rewarded regardless of race or economic status? Why should Asian students face discrimination because their cultures value education?