Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 19, 2010

Continuing the 'Asian conversation'

Panel on emotional intelligence set for Dec. 8

by Chris Kenrick

With a growing Asian enrollment in Palo Alto schools, parent leaders are preparing a second community forum in what has come to be known as the "Asian conversation."

Students and parents were polled at the first event in March, titled "Growing up Asian in Palo Alto," to help determine a topic for the second gathering: "The Challenge of Nurturing (Emotional) Intelligence in Palo Alto."

The event will be Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.

This fall, Asian students comprise 35.5 percent of Palo Alto school enrollment, up from 29.5 percent in 2007-08.

The growth is even faster in the elementary grades, which this fall has an Asian enrollment of more than 37 percent.

School board President Barbara Klausner, school board member Dana Tom and PTA member Sunny Dykwel came up with the idea of holding a public series of "Asian conversations" early this year, inviting a small group of Asian Americans to help plan the March event. Klausner and Tom both are Chinese American. Dykwel moved to the United States from the Philippines as a child.

The March discussion on "Growing Up Asian" drew about 200 parents and students, mostly — but not exclusively — Asian.

Students and parents shared stories and perceptions about common stereotypes, such as people's frequent assumption that they are focused exclusively on math and science.

Others discussed the challenges of trying to raise "American" children while maintaining their cultural values.

For the upcoming event, parents and students are asked to complete a "time-management checklist" to analyze how the student is spending his or her time. Time blocks are sorted into "work" activities, defined as school, homework, chores, community service, music and sports, and "non-work" activities defined as hobbies, family time, religious activities, socializing, television-watching, reading and sleep.

The checklist asks parents to "challenge your knowledge about your child's current lifestyle by filling in the table."

Panelists will discuss case histories and show video interviews with University of California, Berkeley, students on the subject of student scheduling and what parents can do to nurture emotional intelligence.

Panelists include University of Tokyo psychologist and former Stanford University visiting scholar Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu; Terman Middle School counselor Bhavna Narula; and Cupertino Union School District counselor Helen Sung.

Narula, whose areas of interest include adolescent stress, multi-cultural counseling, middle school transitions and culturally responsive teaching, has led workshops titled, "Guiding the Model Minority."

Murphy-Shigematsu, founder of Multicultural Leadership, has led courses and workshops for K-12 parents and undergraduates on emotional and social intelligence.

Sung, who moved from Korea to Chicago at the age of 6, recently published an article about her doctoral research on "the influence of culture and parenting practices of East Asian families and emotional intelligence of older adolescents."

The Dec. 8 event is sponsored by the Parent Education and Community Outreach committees of the Palo Alto Council of PTAs.

Following the "Growing Up Asian" forum in March, Klausner expressed hope it would be the first of many community-wide discussions on the intersection of Asian culture with Palo Alto and its schools.

According to Dykwel, a third event, planned for next spring, is tentatively titled, "What Can We Learn from Each Other?"

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be e-mailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 19, 2010 at 10:12 am

Lately some gloss over the fact that all of us came from somewhere worthwhile, quite a variety of places and cultures. We are now here -the United States.
I am in favor of assimilation, with respectful continuation of one's culture as one wishes. I am in favor of a common language, English.
However, many of us are very close (to another country/ethnic group) in terms of our family ancestry/ethnic heritage, yet we receive no particular recognition. Excessive focus on one growing ethnic group in the U.S. seems divisive to me, emphasizing differences and/or elevating a particular group or language above others, and was not done in the past (in our experience)


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 19, 2010 at 10:37 am

I agree whole heatedly with the previous comments submitted. We are all immigrants, its just a matter of how far back you go. What has made this country great is that our ancestors came to the U.S. in search of a better life and assimilated into the culture and we learned the language. We have done this for over 200 years, lets continue doing it in the future...


Posted by Not-An-Immigrant, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:17 am

> We have done this for over 200 years

The first colonists started showing up on the shores of the "New World" around 1585 (Roanoke Island), and the Vikings were on the shores of Canada starting around 1200. There folks were not "immigrants", they were colonists--who had absolutely no intentions of "blending in", but to create a copy of their own cultures on this side of the Atlantic.

This idea that we are all "immigrants" makes one wonder what is being taught as history in the public schools?

The whole idea of "Growing Up Asian in Palo Alto" begs the question--are these people colonists, or immigrants? If they are immigrants, then why aren't they happy "Growing Up American in Palo Alto"?


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:20 am



E pluribus unum ,
Latin for "Out of many, one", is the motto of the United States adopted by an Act of Congress in 1782.
It has served us exceedingly well--- in contrast to the disasters of multiculturalism you see in Europe.

Asia is the name of a continent-not a culture.
Indians feel they have very little in common with the Chinese or Japanese.
Iranians have very little in common with Filipinos etc etc
Lumping all these radically different languages and cultures as " Asian" does not make any sense and actually causes great offense to the people involved.


Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:25 am

Thank you for keeping the conversation going! It's helpful for all of us to keep in mind the increasing diversity of our schools, such as when parents say...when I was in school, such and such. The Gunn student body is now over 40% Asian and less than 50% Caucasian. October was Diversity Awareness month. And throughout the year there are many activities to celebrate the many cultures represented in our schools.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:32 am

Not-an-immigrant,

Interesting distinction. Some of us have roots going all over the place--colonists, immigrants and whatever you want to call people who got here via the Bering Strait.

And if my ancestry's any indication--there will be just more intermarriage and assimilation. Heck, there already is.


Posted by Tea Party rhymes with bigotry, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:44 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Grew Up Asian American, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 19, 2010 at 3:06 pm

I know that the people posting here who question the need for these forums do so with the best intentions. Yes, unity is good, division is bad; we are all Americans and should all look past ethnic differences. These are all praiseworthy sentiments that no one would argue with.

I think it's helpful to look at the example of Barack Obama. In his famous speech on race and his first book, he openly talks about the identity crisis he felt as a young man growing up as a racial minority. He encountered prejudice, both subtle and overt, as well as a sense of being different because of his unusual family circumstances.

Like it or not, differences exist among people with different cultural backgrounds. And when you're growing up a different ethnicity than the majority culture, this creates some issues and is not always pleasant. No, of course it's not good to dwell excessively on differences. But it can be affirming and helpful to one's own happiness to discuss these issues with people who have also experienced them first hand.

From this perspective, I do think the President is an inspiration to all of us. He didn't deny his experience or try to pretend that differences don't exist. He dealt with it, learned to become comfortable in his own skin, and accomplished things that were simply impossible a generation ago.

Anyway, my point is that we shouldn't reflexively recoil from this kind of forum. I know that if you yourself are not an ethnic minority in a majority white country, it can sometimes be difficult to fathom--and a little irksome as well--to think that everyone just doesn't want to blend in and be completely colorblind. If prejudice and ethnic differences didn't exist, then sure, this would be a reasonable expectation. But they do exist, and if people want to get together to talk about these things, give them your blessing.


Posted by Parent of Caucasian student, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2010 at 4:19 pm

My child who graduated from high school in Palo Alto and is Caucasian repeatedly commented to me that there were high school classes in which she felt like she was part of the "minority" students, because the majority of students were Asian. She felt excluded and uncomfortable in those classes. Is this going to be discussed too?


Posted by Not-An-Immigrant, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2010 at 4:26 pm

> Like it or not, differences exist among people with different
> cultural backgrounds.

True .. but there are few places in the world (outside of the US) where tolerance of these differences can be found. Yet, even with all of this freedom and acceptance, it's not good enough for some people.

> my point is that we shouldn't reflexively recoil from
> this kind of forum.

The problem is that this kind of forum is being sponsored by the school system--which is a political subdivision of the State. It stands to reason that those pushing this forum (or "conversation") have a political agenda, and are expecting that the school somehow force some sort of "change" down our kids' throats. We have enough trouble in this country with "political correctness"--which has imposed some of the most mindless "group think" onto our kids already. We really don't need any more.

If there are people who are having trouble "growing up American" in this country, maybe it's time to have these discussions in their religious groups, or other social groups, and keep the government--particularly the schools--out of solving these kinds of problems.


Posted by Agree with Anonymous., a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 19, 2010 at 4:29 pm

I have to agree with Anonymous. I am a first generation American with a father who is African America.( and I mean from Africa)

We never, ever, worried or fretted about trying to be a "group" with others "like us". I was raised to "be American". I spoke 4 languages by the time we moved here...and was quickly assimilated by learning to speak only English, do well in school no matter where I was, and work to my best ability regardless of my color or gender.

This served me well.

We do a tremendous disservice to our kids when we divide them on color or heritage.

We are all American. We speak English outside the home. We work hard. We succeed in school. We strive to improve ourselves, and by doing so, we improve everyone around us.

We pass these values on to our children.

Who are American.

Anything else devolves into splitting us into ever smaller groups of "sub-cultures", and we all know the saying "United we stand, divided we fall".

Please stop!


Posted by Dee, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2010 at 5:14 pm

It goes without saying that any activity that enhances the comprehension of and adult ability to serve the needs of our young people is not only a good idea, but tremendously necessary in the America that we older Americans of all stripes, ethnicities and cultures have created for them.
However, I am slammed and have to acknowledge a certain resentment at all the attention and caring being shown this particular geographical and ethnic subculture of the human race given that just a few weeks ago, this very paper was a forum of totally open hostility on the part of Palo Alto schools and parents to the presence of (mostly) Hispanic "interlopers." On that ocassion there was no talking about forums for understanding or means to build up anything. That article was about the unwelcomed, who fill up the schools and take apparently scarce and badly needed resources away from "legitimate" students... sneaking in by giving false addresses or making arrangements with neighbors in order to try and give their children , our browner brothers and sisters, even a small taste of the better education and perks that America has to offer.
Nor have I read anywhere that Palo Alto parents and schools are concerned about the experience of growing up Black in Palo ALto.
So, my conclusion is that this concern has more to do with class and income, than it really has to do with ethnicity. If that is the case, I guess i should expect it, after all, former liberals across the nation but especially here in the Bay Area, have become the new preservers of the old status quo. But just be honest and say so.
Perhaps that way all of the other ethnicities who seem to misunderstand the good that such conversations hold, will understand the bottom common denominator of money and know that their experience is either the same as the current group of the month, or not, based ostly on access and income, and not on heritage and culture.


Posted by confused, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 19, 2010 at 8:33 pm

"The March discussion of "Growing Up Asian" drew about 200 parents and students, mostly -- but not exclusively -- Asian."
"According to Dykwel, a third event, planned for next spring, is tentatively titled, "What Can We Learn from Each Other?"

Who's the "other" in this statement and how can there be an "other" when the people having the discussion are almost exclusively Asian?


Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 20, 2010 at 12:02 am

I wonder how many of you have heard Greg Mortensen talk at the Celebrity Fora this week. There were many examples of community responsibility and caring given by him. (Three Cups of Tea: read it if you haven't already).

I commend the school district for any efforts it makes to be welcoming and to be inclusive.

Perhaps what is needed is a discussion with all students about being a student in a privileged community and the obligations it brings to look outside the community, perhaps to understand how lucky we are here and how we should take advantage of our education to make sure that we are involved in the community, helping the homeless children who attend our schools, being aware of the huge disparities in income and education around us and taking individual responsibility: e.g. for the environment (where is the pride in ensuring no litter on the school grounds, not permitting bullying, etc . etc.


Posted by maguro_01, a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 20, 2010 at 5:08 am

The problem with welcoming "Asian" students, actually a spectrum of xxx-American kids, is how it may well be perceived. The noblesse oblige act here could be a social game of pretending to some superiority by giving away something one does not own.

In fact if the student's parents were H1-B workers originally they may have been told that they were saving the US from its cultural deterioration and inability to educate new generations. There may be some resentments among some other parents over the reality of being displaced by the excessive work visa programs bought by corporations in Washington - which has nothing to do with these students.

All, or nearly all, the students are citizens of the US and in the same boat. In particular it may not be wise to get involved in engineering nor programming. The tsunami of money headed for Washington the next few years, especially 2012, is more and more from US corporations whose real interests are now outside the US. The students will grow up in a very different US than the last few generations did and will have to be more creative and entrepreneurial but with lower expectations.


All the students


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 20, 2010 at 11:38 am

Many Americans are certainly critical of our culture, and many Asians themselves are often the first to candidly admit the faults of their culture. Just as major problems exist around the world with Islam, some major problems exist with the economic expansionism of Chinese into the third world and even the first world.

In the past the immigration that Americans experienced was people looking for economic opportunity, or religious freedom, or just plain freedom. Today many groups coming here seem not to be sticking together to protect themselves from the lessening injustices of the majority white Anglo-Saxon majority but instead seem to be colonizing members of expanding socio-religio-economic systems from around the world.

As a WASP American I have never been treated more rudely than by Asians, and I have never seen such a mechanical almost unconscious expansionist colonial attitude than from Asians, as well as a racial/racist hierarchy of their own subgroups as with Asians. That said compared historically to what others have faced I find not much call to mention it because it is relatively minor. However, I do wonder if I see a trend beginning and it worries me.

There is a history of racial and ethnic groups melting in American culture, just as their was a history of real estate prices always going up, or the stock market always going up, or yada, yada ...

Being middle aged now, I have to admit that the deluge of races and cultures that we see in America now and the disregard for the ANYTHING conversation or any discussion or perception of what could happen or how to "conserve" (me not being a CONSERVATIVE) what we have without denying others their rights or their contributions.

Have I grown up with an unrealistic expectation that there is such a thing as an eclectic pragmatic American society that will absorb, tolerate, and unite everyone that comes to our shores to join what should have been a strong universal humanitarian system?

That was the America I expected to evolve. Instead I see what appear to be virtual attacks on our society and political system from outside and a defensiveness and knee jerk reaction from our elite and defense industry to frame this in ways that generate cash, and weapons and divisiveness, not a better country for all who come here, and a disincentive to attack our own society because it is not worthy of attack since it should be meeting the needs of all who assimilate.


Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2010 at 7:51 am

As I a parent, I almost never saw anybody socially excluded for reasons of ethnicity, gender identification, or anything like that. The schools have worked hard at addressing that, and it generally has worked. At that level, Paly and Gunn are very inclusive.

Unfortunately, at the academic level, they are very exclusive, and a number of teachers feed into this, lionizing students who take massive AP class loads, and deprecating students who won't or can't perform at an AP level. As a public school, Paly and Gunn should serve all students, not just students on the AP track. And worse, even students who are A students often feel stressed all the time, no matter how well they do. It is good if the schools provide challenges for the gifted students, but not at the expense of emotional health.


Posted by Lena, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2010 at 1:46 pm

It is a fact that certain cultures put a much higher value on education than others, e.g. Asian, Indian, Russian.. and that is why you see these families moving to good school districts once they get school age kids. However, most people also value diversity, thus a 99% Asian Cupertino school district is not as desirable as a more balanced Palo Alto district. It was very lonely to be in that 1% at Monta Vista High school where "asian power" was a domineering theme. As always, balance is that much desired equilibrium that gives any structure or system the stability


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 21, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I think one of the things that's being forgotten here is that there is no "majority" in California. Kids from any group can be in the minority in a given situation and have to deal with that. If there's going to be a conversation I think it needs to be about more than one group.

And let's face it, a number of Caucasian parents have no idea what it would be like to grow up as part of the white minority. It's always a loaded topic because of the history white racism in this country. A "white students union" is not going to have the same acceptability as a "black students union" or a "Asian students union"--even in a situation where the white kids are a minority on a campus.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Anon - I agree, the I have not seen kids excluded for "reasons of ethnicity, gender identification". I have seen a lot of exclusion for more material reasons, especially clothing and attitude.

Student who dress the part of a "serious" student are accepted whatever color they may be (jean, tshirts and hoodies are fine). Students who are discriminated against dress what my kids might refer to as "ghetto" or too skater-like, tight jeans and huge sneakers for girls, baggy pants, backwards caps for guys or hoodies with the hoods up, mostly black clothing, etc.

Very anecdotally, kid goes to take his drivers test in a with a baseball cap backwards, baggy jeans and an attitude. Flunks. Goes again, similar outfit, flunks. Third try, wears a polo shirt, passes. By the way, the kid is white and grew up with plenty of money. In Palo Alto,.


Posted by Not-An-Immigrant, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2010 at 6:47 pm

> because of the history white racism in this country

What is this supposed to mean? Does anyone honestly believe that "racism" occurs only in "white America", and no where else in the world?

Certainly the events of WWII, just 60-70 years ago revealed some of the most unparalleled "racism" the world has ever seen. Germany and Japan demonstrated with the murderous hostility to many of the "lesser" peoples they encountered as their armies rolled over their neighbors. Whatever "racism" going on in the US at the time (and since then), pales into insignificance compared to what these two countries did.

Whatever this topic is supposed to be considering (and that is not very clear from the comments), there is little evidence of "racism" here in Palo Alto--given the clear examples of "racism" in WWII.


Posted by Third Generation Chinese, a resident of Addison School
on Nov 22, 2010 at 12:47 am

I attended the first community forum and the people who attended were interested in assimiliating rather than being divisive. People shared their stories of Asian stereoptyping. Y'all are reading into this too much.

I have found that the Asians who move to North Palo Alto are a lot more open-minded to assimilation than those in Cupertino, Fremont, South Palo Alto or other Asian-majority cities.

With the Asian influx, I think the WASPs are feeling more resentment and banding together more, clumping me in with the immigrant Asians and ignoring me. The intellectual whites and Jewish have been more open-minded. It's a shame because I grew up in Palo Alto with WASPs and was totally accepted back in the 80s, dating WASPs.


Posted by sung, a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2010 at 11:00 am

I heard Hoover in Palo Alto has 90% or higher Asian community.
Why non Asian students don't apply Hoover? I heard the principal and teachers in Hoover are excellent.


Posted by Lena, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 22, 2010 at 11:17 am

Non-Asian families don't apply to Hoover because they do not want their kids to be a minority. It is exactly the same reason why market values houses in Los Altos that belong to Cupertino school district less than houses that belong to Los Altos school district, which is not as strong as Cupertino but at least is more ethnically balanced. Many Asian parents do not want their kids in all Asia schools either, they want balance and diversity as everyone else.


Posted by Fong, a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 22, 2010 at 11:20 am

I heard that there is a "white flight" to private Catholic schools


Posted by yawn, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 22, 2010 at 11:44 am



I agree that these discussions should be held in a more private forum because it's impossible to be inclusive when you publicly single one culture out over another

there are too many cultures and not one of them is particularly special




Posted by another parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2010 at 12:02 pm

I hope they discuss a scenario I have heard about where Chinese students speak only Chinese during class periods where group work is being done, thereby leaving the Caucasian students in the group out in the cold. I'd like to know why teachers allow this to go on.


Posted by Hoover Parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 22, 2010 at 1:11 pm

My kid goes go Hoover. Like what Sung had stated, the principle and teachers are outstanding. The only draw back at Hoover is the lack of racial diversity. I heard (not sure if it is true) Harker is also trying to improve its racial diversity, by admitting more non-Asian and non-India students. I wish Hoover can do something like that, although probably not possible since it is a public lottery school.


Posted by Sung, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Thanks, Lena!
I am thinking of my son's kinder for next year.
Your point was that I wanted to know about.
I think balance and diversity are important for my decision.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Not-an-immigrant,

It means that the history of racism in this country is such that various groups have been denied access to education at various points. It has nothing to do with racism being unique to one group or country--simply what the history has been in *this* country.

I've also witnessed something I think is similar to what Third generation Chinese is saying--in some ways there's more of an Asian/Caucasian social split than there was 30-40 years ago. Back then, unassimilated Chinese emigres tended to cluster more in San Francisco/Chinatown. The families that moved out of Chinatown were fairly assimilated by the time their kids were attending suburban public schools.

I have friends who are fourth-generation Californians who are also Asian-American and it's been kind of a weird shift for them in how they're perceived.

Re: Hoover--yep, it's definitely become seen as the Asian school and hypercompetitive. I have known some white families who sent their kids there. In both cases, at least one parent was an emigre.

I actually think it's kind of a shame as I think direct instruction is a good approach for some kids who aren't academic stars. The perception of the school and the kids for whom that teaching style would work best aren't perfectly aligned. (Same with Ohlone).


Posted by Lee Th�, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 22, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Our large condo complex in South Palo Alto is now about 40% Chinese. Not Burmese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan, Phillipino, Indonesian, Iranian, Turkish or anything besides Chinese for that 40%. And it's about 10% Slavic--mainly Russian. Anglos are a minority.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

As for the challenges of Chinese-to-American assimilation, anyone seriously interested in the subject should read "The Geography of Thought." It's by an American white psych prof who once told his grad students everyone thinks the same, and his Chinese students came to him afterwards and said not so. They convinced him to do a large-scale cross-cultural study, and danged if the students weren't right. There are very real differences in thinking between these cultures.

For example, suppose you show Chinese and Americans a page with pictures of some grass, a cow, and a bird on the page. Ask them which item they'd toss out if they had to toss one out.

Got your answer? Now read below if you do. Otherwise wait until you've got it.

.....

......

........

Turns out about 80% of Chinese (in China) would toss out the bird, while a comparable number of Americans would toss the grass. And most see the answer as obvious--why would anyone think otherwise?

The prof who wrote the book said it's because Americans learn nouns first and their language and culture encourages them to think hierarchically. Cow and bird are both animals--vertebrates as well--so they go together. Chinese learn verbs first and tend to think in terms of relationships, so for them cow and grass go together, since cow eats grass.

He also found that if you do a Venn diagram of personal relationships, Chinese will typically embed the individual in his close circle of relatives/friends, with everyone else in another circle far, far away; Americans typically put the individual close to but not in his circle of friends, with everyone else not much farther away.

This difference leads to important differences in behavior that I'm sure play out in our schools.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 22, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Lee The,

I think it tends to be "Asian" around here because historically it hasn't been one particular ethnicity from Asia. Used to be that the largest Asian ethnic group in California was Japanese, now it's number six. While your condo complex and south Palo Alto has seen a large influx of Chinese, my new neighbors are from India via Fremont.

The whole concept of "race" is just irritating--Africans are largely classified as "negroid"--but the genetic diversity with Africa is huge--more than the rest of the world put together. Then you get Australian aborigines, who split off well before the big three races.

"Race" is archaic terminology.

What we're really talking about are kids of immigrants from nonwestern countries--though I suspect the kids of immigrants from Russia wouldn't mind some advice.

Might be nice to think of it in terms of the situation instead of ethnicity. Because, no, it's not about being a fifth-generation Japanese-American


Posted by Parent of Caucasian student, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2010 at 8:46 pm

OhlonePar

Let me tell you that in groups (such as certain high school classes) where East Asian immigrants are the majority, their behavior can be quite different from their behavior in groups where they are a minority. See the couple of posts above alluding to this situation. Believe me, it's the non Asian kids who feel excluded in that environment, not the East Asians.


Posted by Third Generation Chinese, a resident of Addison School
on Nov 22, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Lee The does have a point about Asians being clumped together as one group. I don't think that East Indians should be clumped with Chinese. Nor should Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Thai, Taiwanese be all clumped together, because there are many differences between all of these.

And Parent of Caucasian, I too get irritated by hearing native languages spoken in public. They should speak English when around other English speakers. They are being divisive by speaking non-English. If one immigrates to this country, they should respect it by speaking the native tongue. I'd learn Chinese if I moved to China.


Posted by anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Wow, I'm somewhat surprised that kids are speaking chinese during class group projects. However, not too surprised given that at work most of my chinese immigrant co-workers speak chinese to each other in front of me, even at lunch. You get used to it and realize they do it because its easier for them, not because they're trying to exclude you or talk about you. All you have to do is ask "what was that?" and they translate to english. Its no big deal. I actually like listening to it and you can kind of understand it because they throw in some english words too.


Posted by Parent of Caucasian student, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Anon, speaking chinese during lunch is something else than speaking is during group work, be it on the job or at school.


Posted by Q, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 22, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Wow, really? Only English in public? That's kind of anti-American. Naw, people should speak whatever they want--and more power to them.

Politeness dictates, of course, that they switch to English when working with people who don't speak the other language. I have to say it's hard to imagine kids working on a school project speaking Chinese. I know a lot of Chinese kids (and have observed them in the schools), and speaking Chinese in public is the very last thing on earth they want to do. Very last. They mostly want to fit in.

The talk about people not wanting to assimilate is entirely baffling to someone who knows the community. Just doesn't exist, whether we're talking about South Palo Alto or Cupertino. The Chinese (-Americans) in Cupertino do their best to fit in, albeit without giving up the priority they put on education.

This is the classic American story of the natives getting irritated by the newest immigrants (and let's face it: being threatened by their vigor and achievement). Same complaints about the Irish, the East Europeans, the Italians, the East European Jews, etc.

Are there differences between the way Chinese think and the way Americans think? Are there differences between the way Japanese think and Americans think? How about Russians? French? So what? And let's face it, "Americans" think in a variety of ways, too.

Just relax and enjoy your new neighbors.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 22, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Third Generation Chinese,

Ummm, you do realize that the rest of us are also "clumped together"? I mean "white" covers a lot of ethnicities,cultures, religions, languages . . . black or African-American is used to describe people who usually have European and Native-American ancestry as well as African.

Historically, distinctions start to get lost as generations go by and people from different backgrounds marry.

Parent of Caucasian Kid,

I do understand what you're saying--I think there's a real push-and-pull for a lot of the first-gen Chinese-Am. kids. On one hand, it's much easier to stick with people who share your background. On the other, there is a desire to move out into the bigger, less insular, world. It's a little hard to understand this if you or your kid is the one feeling excluded as a result.

The kids change over time--some start dating outside their ethnic group in college, sometimes later. I think the Indian-American kids often have an easier time of it because Indians tend to be more familiar with anglo culture thanks to the Brits and a certain kind of extroversion just seems to be more valued, which means the Indian-American kids often just kind of get out there and talk to everybody, run for office and try out for the lead in the school play. They may not be any more assimilated, but the cultural meshing between Indian and American cultures seems to flow a little more easily--or so it seems from my perspective.


Posted by Lee Thé, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 23, 2010 at 12:23 am

OhlonePar said "race is archaic terminology"

Huh? Race is incipient speciation. Denying race is exactly the same as denying evolution. It's also medically dangerous, since many medical conditions are linked to particular gene pools--i.e. races and subraces. I should add that one of the best known--sickle cell anemia--isn't limited to blacks, but is also found in Caucasian gene pools from maliarial areas.

Your mention of the complexity of African DNA is factual, but your conclusion wasn't. All it means is that our species originated in Africa. Thus everyone who left (Caucasians, Orientals, Australian Aborigines) carried a subset of the African gene pool.

Some race deniers point to another fact: that there's no one gene for a race. But that's a red herring. Races have constellations of traits that breed true--and that's just as true for a German Shepherd as it is for a Han Chinese.

What's archaic is the urge to try to mold reality to fit our beliefs and desires, instead of vice-versa.

Parent of a Caucasian Student-- if you read my previous post's discussion of Chinese vs. Western Venn diagrams that may provide a clue. We've seen the same behavior in Chinese tourists in Indonesia BTW.

Q, if you read my previous post, you'll see that there are important differences in the way Westerners and Chinese think, and we can't just relax and expect to make it all work. We need to understand our differences before we can build on our commonalities.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 23, 2010 at 8:03 am

Q - I actually found Lee's info very interesting, especially the Venn Diagram. I think it helps to understand our differences, particularly when they represent a difference in how we view other people. For example, in the elementary schools, I have heard many other parents express their disappointment about Chinese parents and their lack of willingness to volunteer for school-wide events. Lee's explanation "Chinese will typically embed the individual in his close circle of relatives/friends, with everyone else in another circle far, far away; Americans typically put the individual close to but not in his circle of friends, with everyone else not much farther away " makes that issue clearly cultural and in my mind, less disappointing. To me, it is always helpful to see another person's point of view.




Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2010 at 8:36 am

Grouping people by ethnicity is not just cultural but also has a lot to do with where the adults were raised as children.

This is important because we see not only how family culture influenced the views and thinking of the adults but also how they were educated. Someone who was educated in an exam oriented system will appear to view exams as more important to homework projects, as an example. Someone who was educated in Europe will understand the influence of European history to American history much better than someone who was educated outside Europe, as another example. These values and thinking scenarios will be passed on to 1st generation American children.

Following this argument, there will be differences between the attitudes of say Irish and English immigrants, as well as French and German and of course Western Europeans and those from the former Eastern Block countries.

It is good to accept, welcome and encourage diversity. But, at the same time it is also understandable that like thinking peoples will develop stronger friendships with those who think similarly as well as share similar interests. We can learn from each other, but we have to understand that those who do not agree on certain issues can agree to disagree and still be completely compatible with each other.

Since "Asians" seem to be a large demographic group in Palo Alto, I think we should find it hard to understand why they feel the need to have special meetings for their supposed cultural assimilation. I know of one 2nd generation Asian Palo Alto high school grad who has gone to a college where finding any other Asians is nigh on impossible. This college student has to deal with "Why do you like pizza?" and "Why don't you have a chinese accent?" questions from all sides on a regular basis.


Posted by Q, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 23, 2010 at 8:38 am

Lee,

That's the wrong conclusion--you missed the point. There are differences between the subset of "Americans" (not "Westerners") your prof tested and the Chinese (based on your account). But there are differences between Japanese and "Americans." Between Russians and Americans. Between Italian Americans on the East Coast and Jewish Americans in San Francisco.

These differences are old hat, and have been studied by anthropologists and specialists in cross-cultural communications for many years.

The source of the friction is not those different ways of thinking, but rather our reaction to those differences. I mean, do we need to understand our differences with Italian-Americans before we can build on our commonalities? Naw.

So relaxing and meeting your new neighbors.


Posted by Grew Up Asian American, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 23, 2010 at 8:43 am

Regarding the kids speaking Chinese to each other at lunch, these kids would almost certainly be recent immigrants from Asia whose native language was Chinese. As someone else pointed out here, 99.99% of Asian kids who were born in the US or came here at an early age speak English as a native language and exclusively speak to their friends in English.

When you see the really foreign-looking Asian immmigrant parents walking down the street speaking Asian languages with each other, before you start thinking "There goes the neighborhood" to yourself, just remember that their kids are going to be completely American in the way they speak, think, act, etc.

And before you come down too hard on these immigrant Asian kids, just try to imagine what it would have been like for you if you moved to Asia when you were 13 and suddenly immersed in an environment where everyone was speaking a language that you didn't know very well. You might feel a little intimidated and alienated, especially also considering the cultural differences between the US and your new home country. If you decided to sit down with some other Americans in the cafeteria, do you really think you would have purposely not spoken English to them? Very doubtful.

Of course, the immigrants will have to master English if they want to maximize their opportunities and fulfillment living here in the US. And they will do this, as every generation of immigrants has in this country. This is one of the great things about this nation's history. But don't fall into the trap of becoming one of the big problems in this nation's history: antipathy toward the latest group of immigrants and hysterical hand-wringing over how they will be "unable to assimilate".





Posted by assimulation, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 23, 2010 at 8:59 am

By the third generation, they won't even be able to speak Chinese.

"English-only is the predominant pattern by the third generation. These children speak only English at home, making it highly unlikely they will be bilingual as adults.

Among Asians, the percentage who speak only English is 92 percent, with the Chinese at 91 percent and Koreans at 93 percent. The only groups for which the level of English monolingualism is below 90 percent are the Laotians, Pakistanis and Vietnamese. Nevertheless, for none of these three is the level less than 75 percent. "


Posted by Not-An-Immigrant, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2010 at 10:15 am

> just remember that their kids are going to be completely American
> in the way they speak, think, act, etc.

Very true. It's just that this might take 2-3 generations for the transformation (long enough that some might call this a "lifetime").



Posted by Lee Thé, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 23, 2010 at 10:41 am

Q said:

"The source of the friction is not those different ways of thinking, but rather our reaction to those differences."

Really? Back when I was in college I knew a group of exchange students from the Congo. They assumed that American women were "loose women" because they wore tight pants, and interacted with them accordingly. Then when they were rejected after propositioning total strangers on the dance floor, they concluded that American girls were still "loose women" but they were prejudiced against blacks. However, American black women rejected them even more ferociously than the white ones did.

Fast forward to the present. Costco had to change the way it sells produce because of all the Chinese immigrant women taking, say, the fruit from other flats and piling it on top of theirs, then trying to check out with two or three times the amount in their flat. They did this shamelessly BTW.

From their point of view their behavior wasn't only permissible--it was moral. They were looking out for their families. And if someone else's family got the short end of the stick as a consequence--well, that was someone else's family. So what? Costco wound up having to package fruit in its flats in various ways to cut down on this practice, which was widespread. I shop there regularly and observed this time and again. I almost never saw anyone of other ethnicities doing this.

I should add that they would regard someone who didn't take fruit from others' flats and pile it on theirs as the immoral ones, since they obviously didn't care for their families enough.

We do not all think the same, and failing to realize it can lead to friction to say the least.

Another example: in the Middle East, if you smile in a negotiation you're revealing weakness. I met a Middle Eastern sales manager in an auto dealership who hired fellow countrymen frequently to work as salesmen at this dealership, and he had to work on them to get them to smile as they talked to customers.

See, the trouble with entering into communications with someone who's working off a different game plan is that we assume they mean the same thing by their actions as we would.

Thus we'd see those Congolese students as even more sexist than they were, and the Chinese housewives as shoplifters, and the Arab salesmen as unfriendly. Only when we understand where they're coming from can we actually communicate other than ethnocentrically.

The large condo complex I live in needs an earthquake retrofit that will cost about $9K per unit. It's being ferociously opposed by a group of Russian homeowners who are convinced that it's all a scam, with the board of directors in the pay of the contractors--as it would have been back in the Soviet Union they grew up in.

They can't understand that America is different (partly because though they've been here many years, they have almost no contact with anyone but fellow ex-Soviets), and their inability to grasp the concept of honest government is endangering the lives of those who live here. And if you try to convince them otherwise, they just assume you're on the take as well--or a chump.

Differences in thinking can have life or death consequences that can't be papered over with platitudes.


Posted by Grew Up Asian American, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 23, 2010 at 10:49 am

"Very true. It's just that this might take 2-3 generations for the transformation (long enough that some might call this a "lifetime")."

2-3 generations? No, the children of Asian immigrants growing up in a suburb like Palo Alto will be completely American. It happens in 1 generation. That was true for me (I was born in the US and my parents immigrated from Asia) and for every other child of Asian immigrants I know.

Those students in the cafeteria who prefer to speak Chinese to each other were definitely not born in the US. If you think they were, you simply just haven't spent enough time around Asian American kids and don't quite understand them.


Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2010 at 10:53 am

PTA organizers of this Dec. 8 event, "The Challenge of Nurturing Emotional Intelligence in Palo Alto," have contacted me to clarify that they encourage non-Asians as well as Asians to participate. They're hoping for a community-wide conversation, and want to correct any impression that it is primarily for Asians. They've asked me to spread the word that the event is intended for all parents who are concerned about helping Palo Alto students achieve balance in the use of their time.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2010 at 10:58 am

Not sure what completely American is. Around here, nearly everyone is ___ American. Even someone who comes from New England or the South seems to have different ideas from each other and call themselves New Englander, East Coast, Southern, etc. All these people have different ways of looking at things. Driving is one example, home security is another and hospitality is a third.


Posted by Not-An-Immigrant, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2010 at 11:11 am

> No, the children of Asian immigrants growing up in a suburb
> like Palo Alto will be completely American

Let me clarify -- if the children come in under six, that's probably true. But the older the children are when they arrive, the longer it takes. My suggestion of 2-3 generations is based on observations of language assimilation inside a "family"--meaning everyone in a family will be speaking English (or whatever language) more-or-less as correctly (observed while living on the East Coast).

Maybe Palo Alto's draw of highly educated immigrants accelerates that process, but I would be surprised.


Posted by Q, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 23, 2010 at 11:56 am

Lee,

You again missed the point entirely.

Everybody thinks differently. Old hat. Will problems develop? Sure. Will they be resolved? You bet.

So the question is how you will react. You can moan about the immigrants, how they are completely different from all westerners, are to blame for all problems, and will never integrate. (This has been tried many times before and causes much greater problems.) Or you can just relax and enjoy your neighbors.

And it's really out of bounds for you to make claims about Chinese pilfering--and then give us your pseudo-academic reading on their culture. Reminds me of the stories about Vietnamese eating neighborhood dogs....

Not,

Even if they arrive at 14 or 15, the kids assimilate at a deep level very quickly, sometimes too quickly for their parents.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 23, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Lee The,

Gene pools aren't race. "Race" is an incredibly awkward, scientifically outmoded way of classifying people. Are there various ethnic groups more inclined to carry a genetic disease than others? Sure. But that ain't "race."

Resident,

No, some of us aren't really hyphenated Americans. It becomes quite difficult to be hyphenated when your ancestors have been marrying outside their ethnic group for hundreds of years. If you can't decide on a particular old country and you have no idea where to even look for any distant relatives you may have there, I think you can give up the hyphen. (You can do so earlier as well, but that hyphen becomes impossible after a certain amount of exogamy.)

Chris,

But, let's face it, why would most non-Asians think that "Growing up Asian" would be something that's relevant to them?


Posted by Not-An-Immigrant, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2010 at 5:12 pm

While one or two people continue to fail away on "race", we should be talking about "culture"--which deals with how people think, act, and see the world. Race does fit into our cultural models, but few of the examples offered in this thread speak as much to race, as they do to culture, which we begin to learn from our first breath.

It would be a real step forward to stop seeing "things" in terms of race, and more in culture.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 23, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Not-an-immigrant,

I agree--we are talking about culture--and how families transition from one culture to another. What is retained, what is left behind.

The Asia-to-America transition is an interesting one. On one hand, immigrants from many parts of Asia are seen as doing well in the U.S.--i.e. high-achieving "model minorities". On the other hand, the kids seem to experience a lot of internal conflict--i.e high rates of depression and suicidal ideation. A first-gen. friend of mine calls the clash of cultural expectations "toxic"--something about the conflict between the American emphasis on the individual v. the more traditional focus on the family as a whole.

It's really not simply a matter of "enjoying your new neighbors" on either side. The differences in viewpoint lead to very real conflicts about what is right and wrong.


Posted by KidsData, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 23, 2010 at 8:07 pm

OhlonePar,

Where are you getting your data from?

Guess what?

It turns out that in PAUSD, Asian students are the happiest of the bunch.

The saddest? Our under-represented minority students.

Web Link



Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 24, 2010 at 1:49 am

KidsData,

I'm not talking about Palo Alto, but more generally--the rates of depression and suicide for Asian-American teen girls is higher than for any other ethnic group, for example.


Posted by Lee Thé, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 24, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Readers, Q's response (11/23 @ 11:56am) to my last entry (11/23 @10:41am) is typical of many who preach love and understanding: the velvet gloves come off when someone dares to disagree with them.

People show their true nature in how they handle challenges to their beliefs—not in the way they behave around those who agree with them.

Q starts by saying "You again missed the point entirely." See, that's the way to crush your opponent. Right off the bat, deny them the slightest shred of validity. Get them on their back foot with your withering scorn. It's the "Me Tarzan, you Jane" opening gambit, to be applied before you actually make any arguments.

Next, Q follows up by misstating my argument so as to make it fit the leftist stereotype about immigration opponents (you know, the aged white Tea Party mouthbreather waving a racist poster of President Obama). In rhetoric this is called the straw man gambit. It's reinforced by using the trick Don Rumsfeld made famous—of both asking the questions and giving the answers to your own questions, instead of addressing the actual opponent's actual points.

Then Q invokes the Boundary Rule: there are things that are not to be questioned, and anyone who does so can be safely denounced and ignored instead of trying to deal with his/her points.

The Boundary Rule has lots of valid applications, mind you. If someone claims the Earth is flat, the Holocaust didn't happen, or that he/she was abducted by space aliens and probed, you can safely assume you're dealing with a crackpot. No reason to deal with questions/claims like these (other than to placate the speaker while you look for the nearest exit).

But it's also easy to apply the Boundary Rule fallaciously. This can happen especially to people who limit most of their interactions to people with the same beliefs as themselves. Anything from outside just seems ridiculous.

For example, I attend a church whose membership is at least 95% Republican. Recently I was talking with one of them, and he referred to President Obama as a socialist in passing. I replied that he was no such thing—he was a pragmatic centrist (who actual socialists regard as a crypto-corporatist tool of Wall St.). My friend just snorted derisively. He KNEW Obama's a socialist. Case closed.

Here Q invokes this principle by saying "It's really out of bounds for you to make claims about Chinese pilfering—and give us your pseudo-academic reading on their culture…"

So was my observation Flat Earth stuff…or is Q reacting just like my very Republican churchmate?

It has been widely observed that Americans have, more and more, retreated into like-minded communities of thought. Certainly I've observed (pseudo-observed?) that this insularity has left many people simply unable to defend their ideas. For them, political discussions have devolved into mutual back-patting combined with ritual denunciations of The Enemy. I know many Republicans and Democrats personally, and I've seen (pseudo-seen?) both sides do this repeatedly.

Appeal to authority is another tool used to truncate debate. But, that said, I do have a BA in sociology from a Top 20 university (UCLA). I also earned teaching credentials in both life sciences and social studies later on. And the book I referred to, while intended for a lay audience, is based on peer-reviewed research.

It's "The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why." If you read the reader reviews on Amazon.com, you see people like Q hotly denouncing it, with others applauding it.

However, it dovetails with my own observations based on traveling in Indonesia, the Phillipines, Japan, and China, as well as living in South Palo for decades among many Asians.

Q says "the [only] question is how you [Anglo Americans] will react.{" Thus Q puts the entire onus for assimilation on native [i.e. born here] Americans. No need for immigrants to try to assimilate. We must simply adapt to their ways. Anyway, their kids will assimilate even if they don't.

Let's apply Q's assertion to another culture: Bali. Bali, an Indonesian island with 3 million people, is 95% Hindu. Over the last few decades numerous Javan Hindus have been emigrating there. And wherever they've gone they've used Saudi money to build giant mosques with sound systems Metallica would envy, from which calls to prayer and various harangues emanate at earsplitting levels from before dawn until after midnight.

The Balinese hate this with a fiery passion. The invading Muslims have even built a huge new mosque on a hillock above one of the most revered Hindu temples there, on Lake Baratam. The new mosque drowns out ceremonies at the temple and never adjusts its timing or volume to take those ceremonies into account.

Q would tell the Balinese to "just relax and enjoy your neighbors." Maybe they should move that ancient temple to accommodate their new Muslim neighbors (though the mosque was built there precisely to impinge on the temple).

I'd love to watch Q making this argument with the Balinese I know.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 24, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Lee Thé, a resident of the Charleston Gardens ... are you saying that Saudi Arabian money is going to build Hindu "mosques" ... is that a typo?

Is the gist of what you are saying that Asians and others are essentially invading American, whether by accident, intent or just numbers and that "assimilated" Americans should want to do something about it, and that doing something about it is not racist or wrong, it is natural and necessary to preserve the nature of this country?


Posted by Lee Thé, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 24, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Anon--yes, that was a typo. There are virtually no Javan Hindus. They're Muslim. And it's Lake Baratan, not Lake Baratam. Sorry about that.

As for your second question--you're describing an anti-immigrant stereotype. Such people exist, and I'm guessing that feelings such as those you characterized are a significant element in what happened in the midterm election.

But what I was saying was that any immigrants to any country have an obligation to understand and respect the values of the country they immigrate to, while the native population has an obligation to be consistent with its principles and not treat immigrants prejudicially.

America isn't an immigrant nation--the vast majority of Americans were born here, so that's false on the face of it. And, for that matter, every country's population's ancestors immigrated there at some point in the past, except for some East African countries.

But America is a country that explicitly values more heterogeneity than almost any other country on Earth. Our popular music, for example, blends elements of European, African, Latin American and Asian music. That's our strength.

On the other hand I've traveled a fair amount in a country that encompasses many distinct cultures and religions--Indonesia--and I've seen what a struggle that country has had to build and maintain a national identity.

We need to balance respect for immigrant cultures with respect for our own. My fear is that many people seem to believe that every nation, culture, ethnicity and religion should be revered and supported--except for Anglo Americans.

Today a majority of California public school students are Latino--mostly of Mexican heritage. Yet in 1940 America's Latino cohort was around .5% of the total. That's a titanic demographic shift, and it's one that no one has ever gotten to vote on. I don't believe there's any country on Earth whose natives would vote to approve a comparable demographic shift. In fact Mexican immigration law expressly forbids it.

It's one thing to have one's own culture enrichened by many inputs. That's what we have in the Bay Area. It's another to have one's own culture supplanted by another. That's what's happening in northwestern Bali and in many parts of the American Southwest. For that matter, it's what happened in northeast Ireland hundreds of years ago, and that still hasn't been resolved. Today the Han Chinese are doing this to the Tibetans, and we've all seen how that's going down.

Every country's own culture and language deserves primacy in that country, and the type and amount of immigration that country permits should be up to that country's people. Most Americans welcome immigration by people who can contribute to America. Most Japanese don't. And most Europeans are in a tizzy about this.

Hope this answers your questions.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 24, 2010 at 3:41 pm

I disagree with this statement conditionally:
>> But what I was saying was that any immigrants to any country have an
>> obligation to understand and respect the values of the country they immigrate
>> to, while the native population has an obligation to be consistent with its
>> principles and not treat immigrants prejudicially.

I think people only have an obligation to uphold human rights and there are some countries, such as the Islamic countries that should I live there I could never respect their way of life and would always seek to change it - based on human rights.

I agree with this paragraph though, strongly:
>> Today a majority of California public school students are Latino--mostly
>> of Mexican heritage. Yet in 1940 America's Latino cohort was around .5%
>> of the total. That's a titanic demographic shift, and it's one that no one
>> has ever gotten to vote on. I don't believe there's any country on Earth
>> whose natives would vote to approve a comparable demographic shift.

It is an idea that I have that the "native population" has no rights as such, any more than the native population of any country under the guns of the American system anywhere. To that extent the importation of many cultural groups are explicitly meant to fragment, divide and cause social chaos to prevent the actual melding of society and the demand of "indigenous" people for their rights, beause first they are always battling with others, as well as the rulers of their lands ... who they do not know or elect.

I do feel that the many cultures enrich our lives in America. I am old enough to remember "white bread" society, and it had lots of faults and was lacking in so much. The food, music, language, ideas, physical traits are wonderful.

I also agree with you about TIbet, China is worse than we are, so I do not exactly support ethnic colonialization either. I would hope that eventually there is enough understanding to realize that all people need to demand their rights, and respect others, it is not particular group that is doing this in the West, although the majority beneficiaries are mostly white Americans, it is a class, a class that is failing in its managerial and moral obligations to all people.


Posted by Lee Thé, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 24, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Anon,it's kind of tricky to consider the ethics of immigrating to a country whose values you don't respect. I've been to two naturalization ceremonies in the last few years (for a Russian and an Indian friend), and they were required to swear allegiance to our nation, our Constitution, and the like.

I don't think that meant they had to agree with every single law in America. But if they had a major beef, I'd think they should have emigrated elsewhere.

In one Islamic country recently--I think it was Afghanistan or Iraq--the courts sentenced a Christian citizen to death for "blasphemy" because she'd been accused of dissing Muhammed.

I'm sure we'd both agree that this is a violation of fundamental human rights, but this country (and a majority of its citizens) sure doesn't see it that way. So I wouldn't emigrate there.

Otherwise I'd have to lie during the naturalization ceremony.


Posted by KidsData, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 24, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Ohlone Parent,

Asians' relative happiness is pretty much the same statewide:

Web Link

Aren't we talking about "growing up Asian" in Palo Alto though?


Posted by Lee Thé, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 24, 2010 at 5:27 pm

On race: actually I agree with Not-An-Immigrant, OhlonePar and others that questions of assimilation are mostly cultural.

For example, my spouse and I are friends with a genetically 100% Chinese couple. One immigrated from Taiwan fairly recently, while the other was born here of immigrant parents.

The one born here is a Banana (Chinese-American slang for someone who's "yellow on the outside, white on the inside"). And we've seen them have cultural conflicts, even though the one born here does speak Mandarin.

Nevertheless we'll always have to deal with race, even if it isn't linked to culture. Race perception is built into the human brain—it's not a cultural artifact.

Thus Chinese Americans visiting our hinterland will find people speaking to them slowly and distinctly, assuming that they're foreign. And a Brit who spoke fluent Japanese discovered that many rural Japanese couldn't believe that he spoke Japanese—even as he was speaking Japanese to them.

The Rwandan genocide was Hutu-on-Tutsi, both black, but of different subraces (most Tutsi are taller and more slender). American blacks discriminate on the basis of skin color—among blacks. The director Spike Lee made a movie about this, "School Daze," on the campus of Howard University—until the school officials discovered what the subject was and revoked his film permit.

A friend of ours is a Balinese teenager whose mother is Javan, dad Balinese. Culturally she's pure Balinese. Yet schoolmates in Bali would ask her "What are you?" They were reacting to distinctions few Americans would notice (Balinese have slightly rounder faces, and this girl's is in-between).

Denying that there's such a thing as race flies in the face of biological reality. That's what I meant earlier by calling race "incipient speciation," meaning that all the different species of animals and plants on Earth didn't just pop into existence. They evolved from ancestral forms into difference races, and eventually into different species.

That evolution took place by gene pools of a given species becoming reproductively isolated from the parent stock—usually geographically, sometimes via exploiting a particular ecological niche—then adapting to their new situation.

The Wikipedia entry on race gives as an example "the Key lime and the Persian lime, both of species Citrus × aurantifolia. The Mexican lime has a thicker skin and darker green color."

A good rule of thumb is that races of a species can interbreed easily, while different species of a given genus produce infertile offspring—such as mules. All humans can interbreed, and we all came from the same ancestral stock in East Africa, so we're all one big happy species.

At the same time our DNA "audit trail" shows how groups migrated from East Africa, became geographically isolated, evolved adaptations to their environments, and thus became different races. It also shows how increasing human mobility has led to complex interbreeding, with more and more humans containing at least trace DNA of other races. There's even a TV ad for women's "hygiene" products that makes fun of our admiration for "racially ambiguous" people. And of course most Mexicans are mestizo—part Asian, part Caucasian. Phillipinos are typically even more complex racially.

You can say that race and culture are totally independent variables. But that's very different from claiming that race doesn't exist. Doing that requires subordinating science to one's politics—exactly the same as some fundamentalist knuckle-dragger in Plano denying evolution because it conflicts with his peculiar interpretation of the Bible.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 24, 2010 at 9:13 pm

>> I don't think that meant they had to agree with every single law
>> in America. But if they had a major beef, I'd think they should
>> have emigrated elsewhere.

Maybe in an "ideal" world, but in this world people go where they can
for some pretty strong reasons. There are few countries, I think, that
are friendly to "the human being" besides the developed world, and
even that is under attack in many ways from inside and outside.


Posted by Q, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Lee,

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

You seem to have two main points.

1. Chinese (your guru says east asians) think differently from Americans (your guru says westerners). At one level, this is, as I said, old hat. You think differently from me. So what? At another level, you think that Chinese reason differently from other people in some deep and fundamental way. This is dangerously wrong because it invites the jingoistic nativism you display. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

2. We need to make the new immigrants dump their culture and adapt to our ways just as all immigrants have done. The first point to make is that immigrants have never done this--the whole melting pot thing was a myth. Immigrants do dump their cultures, but only over a long period and only after adding to our own. Second, it really just isn't up to you to wag your finger at people and tell them to toe the line. It's counter-productive and frankly immoral. Third, it is simply false that immigrants are failing to adapt to our ways.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Sylvia Sanders, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2010 at 8:51 am

Lena,
I would be very surprised if you could provide evidence for this "fact."

It is a fact that certain cultures put a much higher value on education than others, e.g. Asian, Indian, Russian.. and that is why you see these families moving to good school districts once they get school age kids.


Posted by Evidence galore, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 26, 2010 at 9:01 am

Look around you. Evidence is right here in your neighborhood. It is not predominantly Spanish or African-American. It is transforming towards Asian.
Is this magic or a trend? Is it due to higher value Asians (I include Indians here) put on education.
It is time folks stop asking questions that have obvious answers.




Posted by Lena, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 26, 2010 at 11:44 am

"It is a fact that certain cultures put a much higher value on education than others..." - there have been plenty of studies on that topic, you can google it. You can also prove it empirically - just look who sends their kids to the most academically intense private schools, take Challenger or Harker, for example. Or look at the cultural make up of Hoover in Palo Alto and Faria elementary in Cupertino or Lincoln High in San Francisco - public schools with the highest API scores. Also, take a look at the student body of UC Berkeley...Or look at who attends Kumon supplemental classes...


Posted by excluded, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 27, 2010 at 6:05 pm

I volunteered to help out for a huge Thanksgiving feast at my son's high school. My job was to cut up apples for an hour. I looked forward to this event. PAUSD is always asking parents to stay involved. I was looking forward to meeting new parents since high school is so much larger than my children's elementary and middle schools. I felt this would be a good way to meet some of the bi-zillion new parents.

I took my big basket of apples to an empty table and proceeded to start chopping. Along comes five other women. For the entire hour they spoke Mandarin. Not once did they look at me or translate for me. For the entire hour they spoke and laughed. They had a GRAND old time. I can't believe how much they laughed and laughed.

I was so tempted to get up and go over to the english speaking table. I just thought that it would be rude to leave my table. One of the mothers knew me from elementary school. We were close 5-minute moms back in those days. Even she didn't speak one word of english to me.

I felt excluded. I don't know if they were entitled or not to speak their language, which presumably is easier for them, or it is polite to speak english in such situtions. I just know I felt very excluded. So much for meeting new parents.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 27, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Thanks for that story "excluded", it rings very true and angers me when the ideal in our country is to be inclusive and polite. As a white American I am never quite sure how to take an experience like that. Due to my race's history in the world am I supposed to forgo complaint or feeling bad, or if the majority in our country is going to do the fair and just thing in terms of multiculturalism, do we then have some right to complain about this kind of thing? Rudeness is bad enough, but somehow when there is a racial component of any kind it seems twice as bad.

I would be offended is any white American expressed a racist attitude to me, because that is not what we are supposed to be striving for in this country, but the more I see what seem like racist or classist attitudes from minorities or whatever kind in my country, the more I wonder if what we are attempting can work in the long run.

Since there is no way to judge the magnitude of this kind of behavior, there is no way for average people to know what to make of it or how to react to it. We simple do not talk about it because it is too edgy and susceptible to misinterpretation or errors. How widespread is what happened to you, and what about the reverse? Is it a problem or an outlier?


Posted by JK, a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 27, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Assimilation of immigrants happens much slower if the immigrant community is large. At some critical point it starts overriding the hosting nation.


Posted by Sylvia Sanders, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2010 at 12:39 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Evidence vs. Spew, a resident of Ohlone School
on Nov 28, 2010 at 10:43 am

According to California's most recent API report, there are 2,497 Asian students and 3,953 White students in Palo Alto School District.

Web Link


Posted by 1st gen Chinese American, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 28, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Excluded:

I am sorry to hear about what happened to you. Thank you also for sharing. Similar thing happened to me when I lived in Japan for five years. I felt excluded and unwelcomed. Then I realized that there is nothing to loose, so I started talking to other Japanese speaking mothers. I found out that they were not excluding me at all- they were afraid to speak to me because they were ashamed of their English abilities. Once, I started talking to them, they couldn't stop talking and sharing- even today they're my best buddies.
Please don't be discouraged and talk to them.


Posted by Similar, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 28, 2010 at 8:29 pm

This is similar in some sense.

Yet, there are two key differences. Japan does not claim or aspire to accommodate diversity, but the US does claim and aspire to accommodate diversity.

And these people were speaking Japanese in Japan, whereas in the story told by excluded, the people were not speaking English in the US excluding someone who spoke a foreign language. They were speaking a foreign language in the US excluding the lone local.


Posted by riseofchina, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 28, 2010 at 8:45 pm

china is rising rapidly.it does not matter what people think or like it or not,it will become a huge power in the world. we need to understand it and learn to deal with it, starting to learn its culture from our own community.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2010 at 12:41 pm

To claim that certain ethnic groups "value" education more because theire kids are in greater numbers at schools like Harker (check the cost!!!) and Faria in Cupertino, etc. is nonsense. This is a MINISCULE sample of the world.


Posted by Born Here, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2010 at 12:29 am

Too bad so many PC mudslingers have forced the organizers to highlight that everyone is invited to avoid offending anyone. The Asian culture is different than American culture and the Asians should be allowed to share their common culture together, not for purposes of excluding, but because other Asians understand the feelings.

Excluded, your posting was very well-written. Such a shame that happened. You should have left the table with no concern for being rude because they were being rude by speaking a minority language in a public gathering.


Posted by B, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 9, 2010 at 2:25 pm

As Asian Americans we are graduating at much higher numbers from the top schools, including those in Palo Alto. The next century will belong to Asia so its good that our kids will be learning Mandarin in Palo Alto schools. It is also good that they are not so concerned with "cool" and more with work.


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