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Guest Opinion: The academic 'arms race' and myths about Asians

Gunn High School senior addresses truths and misconceptions about excelling in Palo Alto

In the competitive academic bubble of Palo Alto, people are asking for "a cultural revitalization" and "a broader definition of success" so that high school students can relax, have fun and follow their dreams instead of slaving away their adolescent lives.

Educational administrators have implored the community to end the "academic arms race," in which students feel they have to get ahead of one another and compete for spots at elite universities. Students are afraid of peers seeking a position in their club for the sole purpose of making their college application look better. Parents have been especially vocal about finding ways to prevent students from overloading on advanced courses. But where did this fear come from?

I feel as though the fear for the competitive "arms race" stems from the preconceived notions of the Asian-American culture.

Sure, that's a loaded statement. You may ask, "How does being Asian have anything to do with this?"

All I ever hear anymore is that students are soulless machines stuck in a world of academic competition. Because of this, I feel ashamed for being a student in Palo Alto who cares about doing well in school for my own sake – not for my parents.

But it gets worse: Because I am Asian, my love for learning gets translated into the stereotypes of Asians who spend all their time studying and obsessing over Ivy League schools. In eighth grade, a friend told me I shouldn't have kids because I would become a "Tiger mom." During high school, another friend asked if I had "Tiger parents" because I stayed home doing homework one Friday night. I had to explain that I chose to study so I could spend time with my older sister on Saturday, the one day she was free.

I get the feeling that everyone who is afraid of the academic culture here is afraid of me and the many other Asian students around me who may or may not fulfill our predetermined stereotype.

I can't deny it. There is a problem with the Asian-American culture and its stereotypical definition of success. The sheer number of rigorous SAT prep courses targeted toward Asians in the South Bay (where many Asian Americans live) points to this problem. So do the Asian college counselors who focus on elite universities who have mostly (you guessed it) Asian clients.

However, that does not mean Asian-American parents aren't willing to commit to what's best for their child. It's just that most of the time, they don't know how.

The Asian culture in the Bay Area needs reformation if the "academic arms race" is to disappear. But it can't disappear if we are all subconsciously letting our prejudices shame our Asian students and families.

Take me, for example. Considering that I'm Chinese, have straight A's, and like math and science, I'm surprised that I don't see myself as an "Asian try-hard" as described earlier. I'm proud of taking difficult AP classes. I juggle three extracurricular activities every day because I love them all. I'm so lucky for the opportunity to conduct individual research in a university laboratory. But I hit a point when I was utterly ashamed of myself for doing all of these things -- when someone told me to my face, "You're too good at everything. You're the reason I'm not getting into a good college. You're the reason why everyone else here is so stressed out."

If I was not Asian, I don't think I would have ever heard that.

The Asian culture that hails high test scores, AP classes, and the "right" extracurricular activities has created the impression across the nation that my intellectual pursuits are false, my interests half-hearted, my achievements worthless, and my intentions malicious -- all because I'm "yellow." Just because some Asian parents believe in the magical formula for admission to a top school doesn't make me a college-thirsty fake.

I love learning new things and challenging myself with difficult classes to become a better scholar that way. I know my limits, yet I still work hard so I can brand my dignity into everything I care about. But because I'm Asian, my peers and their parents don't think I know my limits; they think my parents and my Asian heritage pushed me into the deep, dark oblivion. On the contrary, my parents are extremely concerned about my mental health. They have frequently consulted me about my stress levels and have supported my friends in their times of trouble.

I feel antagonized by the community because of the assumptions people have made of my background and intentions. I am afraid that people in the community believe I am the reason for the "academic arms race" and are trying to find ways to stop me from appreciating the rigorous, passionate education I have been offered by the Palo Alto Unified School District.

To prevent parents and students from getting pulled into the unhealthy "arms race," many support propositions limiting academic freedom in the district. Limiting AP courses, limiting classes offered during zero period, getting rid of the weighted GPA. But can limiting options be consistent with broadening the definition of success?

Academic limitations can only hurt me and the many other students like me who honestly care about learning and thrive in school; it will not solve the problem of the "academic arms race." The students who don't know their limits or are misguided in their motives to pursue over-the-top endeavors will only find a way around these limitations – i.e., by taking additional AP courses online. They can only change if somebody personally talks to them about what is in their best interest.

Instead of making assumptions about students who don't know any better and are overworking themselves, we should focus on strengthening the academic and emotional support system for all of our students, regardless of race, through individualization and face-to-face communication. With the help of caring peers, parents and staff members, strong personal connections from various advisers can help students find their true passions, develop a healthy lifestyle, and broaden their definition of success.

This way, we can redesign our scale of success so it doesn't range from genuine to yellow.

Michelle Zhang is a senior at Gunn High School.

The Palo Alto Weekly has created a Storify page to capture the numerous voices, opinions and our news coverage on teen well-being. This page will continue to be updated. To view it, go to Storify.com.

Related article: Trancending the assumptions: Editorial from the Paly Voice

Comments

74 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 12, 2015 at 12:15 am

I think this is an excellent essay and applaud much of what this student writes. I especially applaud her willingness to call out the elephant in the room which is anti-Asian racism which is extremely prevalent in Palo Alto. There is a lot of fear of Asian students out performing white students, and it is nauseating to hear white parents talk about it. It's racist.

I do want to take issue with one thing. In the following passage the author makes some points that are worth discussing:

"To prevent parents and students from getting pulled into the unhealthy "arms race," many support propositions limiting academic freedom in the district. Limiting AP courses, limiting classes offered during zero period, getting rid of the weighted GPA. But can limiting options be consistent with broadening the definition of success?"

First, the student refers to these opportunities as "academic freedom" and decries limits on it. That is not what "academic freedom" is. Academic freedom is the benefit (or burden) of working or studying in a college. Usually academic freedom is not actually enjoyed until tenure, though it is theoretically enjoyed by tenure-track faculty as well. It is an earned benefit and what it means is that you are free at that point, having passed all the relevant hurdles intended to prove that you will use it wisely, to pursue your own interests. Students' freedom is limited. They can only take the classes that are offered. They can only pursue courses of study that are approved by the faculty, administration, and trustees. They are not yet mature enough and have not yet proved that they can be entrusted to set their own agendas entirely free of supervision. Their choices, even in a university system, are managed.

Students in a high school, even less than those in college, are not given academic freedom. Their choices are managed by teachers, administrators, and trustees. That is as it should be. The goal is to provide not academic freedom but a well-managed course of study that provides appropriate choices and appropriate decisionmaking for the developmental needs of the child.

I know that such bright young people don't like to hear that they are not yet adults. But you are not yet adults. That is how it is. You don't have academic freedom. You have a rich, managed course of study. You cannot make all your own choices and not every choice is allowed. [Portion removed.]

Second you ask this question: "But can limiting options be consistent with broadening the definition of success?"

Yes. Absolutely. Because this is a public school. There isn't endless money to go around. Education in a public school is necessarily targeted toward maximizing the utility of the majority of students. In order to broaden the defnition of success by offering more art and music or more wellness and counseling or better food or smaller classes we have to use the funds that might be paying for some opportunities to create others. We might need to cut some AP classes (which are not the be-all end all by the way) in order to have, for example, a fantastic journalism program as they do at Paly. That allows more students to have more opportunities across a broader band. Your doomsday scenario of students taking more APs on their own time is fine. Godspeed.


54 people like this
Posted by Abby Krug
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2015 at 12:46 am

I am Caucasian and I am utterly horrified at how Asian parents are stereotyped in our community. It is rank racism to accuse a group of people of being overly competitive the way we do with Asian parents.
Do any second generation Jewish, Armenian or Russian immigrants remember their parents telling them to put academics second to their social lives? There are a lot of pressures on students today. Some of the pressures are natural- there are more students competing for a limited number of spots at top universities. How we decide to react to this problem is where things get tricky. Blaming bright children who excell academically and denigrating their motivations is awful.
Let's be honest. We ask our students to run a harsh gauntlet to get into top tier schools. It may be more productive to change how we frame success- we could drop our obsession with having our children- or more to the point our parenting- approved by an Ivy or Stanford.
But lets absolutely stop making people feel bad because they are good at school as we have shaped it.


44 people like this
Posted by Charles
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2015 at 3:04 am

"Mom" has confused the definition of "academic freedom." Mom talks about the freedom granted to faculty while Ms Zhang is talking about the ability of students to pursue the classes they want in school. We should be proud of students like her who want to tackle difficult academic courses. Instead there has been a movement by a small number of very vocal critics who want to dumb down academics in the district. They've advocated an elimination of homework, limiting AP classes, ending zero period, banishing the traditional instruction of math. They've been pushing this agenda for years. When the suicides started, they used the tragedies to call for stopping anything they perceive as stressful. The school board, wishing to be perceived as working to stop these deaths, have repeatedly surrendered to the demands of the dumb-it-down minority. [Portion removed.]


146 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2015 at 3:20 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Ms Zhang: you are not understanding what adults are trying to tell you. Many of the problems that you see as new to yourself have been repeating for generations and have spanned ethnic groups. For context, I was high school class of 1969 (rural New York).

> "You're the reason I'm not getting into a good college."
Just as colleges now limit the number of students they accept from PAUSD to support geographic diversity, that practice was well established by at least the 1950s. Many of the major cities had what are now called magnet schools, that is, they drew the very best students from a wide metropolitan area and were often highly selective (for example, the Bronx High School of Science). The students from there that were accepted into "Ivy League Plus" schools would assert that the lowliest member of their class was smarter than half the students at the college. Yet by graduation, or acceptance into grad school, they had long since ceased to be standouts. In fact many of them had suffered because they had bad or non-existent relationships with their fellow students. Some I knew from these schools said that the only thing that kept the toxic environment created by the competition in those high schools from being unbearable was that they lived in communities of extended families that helped protect them.

> "You're the reason why everyone else here is so stressed out."
Again. Nothing new. In my time in college, students coming from small school districts routinely reported this. It was particularly bad for those coming from blue collar neighborhoods and from rural districts. What may be different here is that we had many adults who had been through similar situations.

Note: The city to the west of where I grew up had one of precursors to the Columbine: The Olean High School shooting in 1974 (Web Link). The student was an honor student (8th in his class), and what I most remember was the newspaper account that described him as "well-liked, with no friends". Much of the speculation around motive was about little recognition there was for academic achievement. For example, a football team would have 20-35 players recognized as important, basketball 7-8... But academic recognition in those times rarely reached below the top two, and in many communities was very muted even for them.

> "If I was not Asian, I don't think I would have ever heard that."
Wrong. Generations of top students have heard that, regardless of their ethnicity.

> "Academic limitations can only hurt me and the many other students like me who honestly care about learning and thrive in school"
Several times you say that you care about learning, but re-read what you have written. It is very much about *grades* and other *markers* of achievement. Your mention of SAT tests is a troubling indicator of the advice you are getting. Because of research showing the SAT to be a poor predictor of college "success", many colleges have be making the SAT optional, or abandoning it. The research claim is that high school grades are the best predictor of college "success"--as measured by college grades--and those grades are at best a weak, short-term predictor of after-college success. Or rather, it isn't top grades that predict success, but rather mediocre grades that predict problems. For example, several prominent companies said that they hired only graduates with "top grades", but upon further questioning it turns out they meant 3.0 or better (B average).

> "Limiting AP courses..."
It has been widely observed that AP classes can do more harm than good. Depending on the high school, AP classes that are good enough to get the student college credit/exemptions often place them at a disadvantage in follow-on courses. When I was at MIT, AP credit in Physics allowed you to take a more intense version of the intro course, and that course demonstrated how much we hadn't learned in our AP classes. When I was a professor in Computer Science, we observed that most of the students who had taken computer programming classes in high school needed to un-learn multiple bad habits and attitudes, and consequently got lower grades in the intro course than those who were starting fresh.

"Taking AP courses" is often shorthand for NOT taking other courses that the student/family doesn't see as important to getting into college.

I can understand students wanting to take college courses in high school for financial reasons, but that doesn't seem to be part of the motivation here.

> "All I ever hear anymore is that students are soulless machines stuck in a world of academic competition."
No. What you hear is adults worried that academic competition is forcing students into that mold, and seeking ways to avoid that. This is a crucial distinction, and it is worrisome that you apparently don't get the distinction.

In college I saw the soul-crushing aspect of excessive self-inflicted competitive pressure. After an exam, the pre-med students would gather to figure out what were the correct answers and how much partial credit they might get for incorrect answers. They couldn't wait a few days for the exams to be graded and returned. The rest of us simply moved on to the new material. OK, we snickered and briefly taunted them before moving on, but it was for their own good.

> "Instead of making assumptions about students who don't know any better and are overworking themselves, we should focus on strengthening the academic and emotional support system for all of our students..."
Excuse me, but everything that you have written before is a rejection of the experience of those who have "been there, done that". The entire tone of this piece is about YOU wanting what YOU believe is best for YOU. You barely muster even token regard for students who aren't just like you. That is part of being a teenager. But it is also why adults ease teenagers into making important decisions.


21 people like this
Posted by Never assume
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2015 at 6:47 am

This thread mentions Asian so I will expect it to be locked down as quickly as the Paly Math Letter and Skin Color thread was locked down. Change the word Asian and put in Latino and you will have the same: do not assume that a Latino or Asian student values education more or less based on race, just as the Mercury News editorial said that math opportunities at Paly and all schools should not be limited by race. Check it out. Teacher expectations of Asians and Latinos are powerful.


101 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 12, 2015 at 7:29 am

There is a lot of truth, but also a lot of arrogance in this well written article.

Most of the comments we have heard about Asian students are from the Asians themselves. They look at others as being less interested in education and academics as they are. They also have problems with those students who do not have two Asian parents, but have one of another ethnicity.

When the Asian students (not all of them but the stereotypical Asian student who does exist) are willing to interact with others better, a lot of the problems will disappear.

It starts in elementary school when the parents are very wary of letting their children mix out of school with non-Asians, and the parents stand together speaking languages other than English (when they all know how to speak English) and who knows exactly what they discuss when only those in that language demographic understands the language and the topics they are discussing. This type of exclusivity is then passed on to the children who look on other ethnicities as being not quite good enough.


19 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2015 at 7:33 am

Given the anti-Asian bias of the PA Weekly, I'm surprised this editorial was published at all.


64 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 12, 2015 at 8:46 am

"Most of the comments we have heard about Asian students are from the Asians themselves."

This is simply not true. In the countless discussions on this site and elsewhere, like on a couple of the Palo Alto-oriented Facebook groups, almost inevitably, several people conclude that the source of all of Palo Alto's woes is all the Asians coming in and spoiling their once-idyllic community. It's common for these poster's to name themselves as being "native" Palo Altans, which is a laughably transparent code word for "white".

As an American-born Asian, I find these sentiments troubling. My everyday interactions with my neighbors and with people in the community are uniformly positive, and my family loves living here. But you read the racist vitriol on these pages, and you can't help but wonder what dark thoughts some are harboring when they see my family around town.

I really hope that those posting these things are a small minority of cranky malcontents.



88 people like this
Posted by Paly family
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 12, 2015 at 8:50 am

I applaud the young author for putting her views forth in this piece. Clearly she has a bright future ahead of her and has had an excellent experience in our district. However, the problem with her piece is that it conflates two different things, anti-Asian prejudice, which exists and is a real problem, with a separate issue, the discussion about dealing with the ongoing suicide clusters and other problems in our schools.

As noted above, the argument seems to be: i) it was good for me personally to pursue a maxed out curriculum, so don't limit that in any way, and ii) I experience prejudice for being a high-achieving Asian, and if you wish to limit my choices in anyway you are denying my success as an individual and somehow part of an anti-Asian bias.

I understand that teens want freedom and want to say something good about their schools these days, given the suicides and public attention about our problems. However, as noted above, academic freedom is a red herring here; if she were trying to exercise her first amendment rights and protest or publish something, or start a club and exercise her freedom of association rights, that would be relevant. I do want to honor her feelings about anti-Asian prejudice, as that is a real issue, but it's orthogonal to the issue of how we run our schools.

Instead, the net of her piece seems to be: leave ME alone to overachieve, don't judge ME because I'm Asian [agreed], and by the way I AM more capable than the rest of YOU, so deal with it and get out of the way. The main theme is "ME", which we can forgive because this is a teenager.

The following excerpt reflects a manner of youthful arrogance and an exclusionary attitude that's condescending and dismissive of other students. It suggests that only the highest achieving students like herself "honestly care about learning" and "thrive in school". However, the purpose of a public school is for everyone to have an environment where they can care about learning and thrive in school, and that is the entire point of the dialog about our problems.

"Academic limitations can only hurt ME [emphasis added] and the many other students like ME [emphasis added] who honestly care about learning and thrive in school; it will not solve the problem of the "academic arms race." The students [THEY, added for emphasis] who don't know THEIR [emphasis added] limits or are misguided in THEIR [emphasis added] motives to pursue over-the-top endeavors will only find a way around these limitations – i.e., by taking additional AP courses online. THEY [emphasis added] can only change if somebody personally talks to THEM [emphasis added] about what is in THEIR [emphasis added] best interest."

I wish her all the best in her future endeavors and I'm sure she will continue to be very successful in school, but I wonder about her empathy and sensitivity towards others who don't fit into her concept of who is capable of excelling. It seems the message is, keep things as they are because it has worked out well for ME, and don't hate on ME if I come out on top. There is no WE in her message, just ME versus THEM.


14 people like this
Posted by the truth
a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2015 at 9:01 am

Whether asian, latino, african-american: you, we all get out of life what we put in to it! I just cannot believe the P.C stuff that goes on in our world today! Education starts at home and if parents pressure their kids to get good grades they are going to feel the pressure. The truth is what it is, Asians do very well in school because they value education! Why is this girl concerned about what others think, especially when it is true. I would be proud to be asian and thought of as a culture who gets after it in the classroom!


47 people like this
Posted by Former Gunn Kid
a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2015 at 9:14 am

Having roots in PA, but now living in another part of the state, I asked my son what he thinks is the difference between PA schools, with the high stress/suicide rates, and his school, or frankly ANY other school where students take a dozen AP classes, are on multiple nationally-ranked sports teams, are presidents of clubs, etc, but where there are NO suicides. Without hesitation, he said, "Because in my school, it's ok NOT to be one of the [high achieving] kids." I feel he hit the nail on the head.

Miss Zhang is absolutely correct. Don't punish the kids that WANT TO challenge themselves academically. That is not the problem. Rather, focus on ways to make it "ok" for kids to be themselves, with their unique strengths and gifts, that may not necessarily fit the stereotypical Stanford/Ivy profile. There's a good chance they will grow up happier and healthier.


1 person likes this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 12, 2015 at 9:23 am

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by Anna
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 12, 2015 at 9:36 am

I am Caucasian. My bright, hardworking kid with many extra curriculum activities, was challenged and motivated to learn and do best at school. At HS, I witnessed dropped activities, grades, motivation. Clubs are borring and taking time from socializing, "success is not related to college", "there is a college for everyone", "why bother"?! attitude.
I have a respect for SELF driven, determined students, no matter Assian, Latino, Caucasian, etc. do we need to limit their choices to create a better resume for some kids?


21 people like this
Posted by Mixed Race Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2015 at 9:45 am

[Post removed.]


31 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 12, 2015 at 9:58 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

This is a great article - but it talks around the real issue, which is it is so politically loaded to talk about race, that it is near impossible to have an open discussion about the impacts of the increasing Asian population in Palo Alto. I'm not even saying that the increasing Asian population is having any impact, but because we can't talk about it, and data isn't being shared openly, it kills open and honest discussion about changing the education culture.


14 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 12, 2015 at 10:14 am

"I'm not even saying that the increasing Asian population is having any impact, but because we can't talk about it, and data isn't being shared openly, it kills open and honest discussion about changing the education culture. "

The various discussions on this very website indicate that the issue is being discussed quite openly, with plenty of prejudiced, anti-Asian opinions frequently aired. I guess that means people are engaging in "honest discussion", though the intolerance often expressed is unfortunate.

You can go to Web Link and see the demographics for the district and individual schools over the past few years, so the data are definitely being "shared openly".

So don't worry, there is no conspiracy, cover-up, or censorship going on here.


76 people like this
Posted by Mixed Race Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2015 at 10:22 am

One thing is true and cannot be debated, and is widely reported by the media: the mass immigration of wealthy people from China has made it impossible, for the first time in American history, for the middle class American to buy a home.

I suspect that this fact alone makes many people very sad and angry.


5 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 12, 2015 at 10:23 am

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


28 people like this
Posted by FWIW
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 12, 2015 at 10:24 am

As a Caucasian parent, I don't agree that all people of Asian descent fit the "stereotype" that is changing the culture of Palo Alto. In my experience, it is more common for new immigrants, who bring their (highly competitive) culture with them, to fit the stereotype.

People born here, especially to parents born here, have usually assimilated the culture, irrespective of the color of their skin.

I think this is less of a racial issue than a cultural issue.


39 people like this
Posted by Let's get real
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 12, 2015 at 10:31 am

If we lived in a world without financial constraint, then the author's argument not to take away anything she likes that works for her personally might make sense. If we had a very homogenous population, like at Exeter or Stuyvessant, then we might not have to talk about whether everything we are offering makes sense for the majority.

That's not the world we are in. It is not all about what works best just for the author as other readers have pointed out. Sometimes the good of the many outweighs the good of the few or the one. Sometimes we can't arrange our whole bell schedule so you can do a high status extracurricular such as high-stakes horsemanship competition. If you need that much customization then you might need private school. Public schools cannot necessarily accommodate every single thing that every single student wants to do.

And we would still have to talk about zero period, since it is a health and safety issue.

I have realized something about zero period. It is actually the teens who are not listening.

No one has ever said that zero period was to reduce stress. Yet we have been treated to many many teen statements about how "eliminating zero period won't reduce my stress." That may be accurate but it is also irrelevant since that has literally nothing to do with why it is being eliminated.

It is being eliminated because it causes sleep deprivation in some students, and it is impossible to predict in advance which ones, and for those students, it is dangerous

I would like to now cut to the chase.

It was already discussed on this forum that Harry Lee was in a zero period AP Calc class when he died. He was also (it is known publicly) in a number of after school extracurriculars including a cycling club which might be why he wanted to take zero period so that he could "manage his time". [Portion removed due to unverifiable assertions of fact.]

Zero period was eliminated because there is already one dead student. It is dangerous. Yet despite the fact that this is common knowledge at Gunn, teens and teachers are going to line up at the microphone one more time to demand that you have this dangerous option, when you all know -- and your teachers know -- that one student has already died, and that sleep deprivation very likely played a role in that death.

Yes teens are self-centered but this goes too far.

The lack of empathy that is exhibited in this essay (which Doug properly calls out) is even more on display in the zero period situation.

[Portion removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2015 at 10:59 am

Didn’t think this student’s piece was “arrogant” at all, just straightforward. There’s a huge spectrum of kids out there, and Ms Zhang is on it. She asks for options. By trying to limit those options, the dumb-down movement (and this is not a new debate) essentially tries to deny there’s a range, and give every kid the same “one size fits all" plate – by reducing AP’s, eliminating lanes, reducing schedule latitude, etc. Of course they wouldn’t describe it that way, but that’s the essence. Apologists argue for “differentiation,” but every parent knows that’s baloney. Whether getting rid of options actually helps any kids on the spectrum is debatable, but it unquestionably disserves others, which is Ms Zhang’s justified plea.

Agreed with @Doug Moran on some points, disagreed on others.

> “It has been widely observed that AP classes can do more harm than good … > Taking AP courses is often shorthand for NOT taking other courses that the > student/family doesn't see as important to getting into college.”

Maybe. But there are other kids who take AP classes because the next lane down isn’t interesting enough. Back to that Options and Range of Kids business. Speaking of ranges, there’s a pretty big one in AP classes too. And depending on which teacher you get, some non-AP classes can be much more challenging than some AP’s. More rewarding too, for some kids on the spectrum.

> ‘> "All I ever hear anymore is that students are soulless machines stuck > in a world of academic competition."
> No. What you hear is adults worried that academic competition is forcing > students into that mold, and seeking ways to avoid that.’

Don’t agree with @Doug here, because I know adults who actually believe both of these things, and about most or all kids who take a lot of APs and get high grades. Makes for poor policy.


22 people like this
Posted by Thanks Michelle
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 12, 2015 at 11:07 am

Thank you Michelle. I completely and totally agree with you. There are some on this forum that disagree with you, but in the end, maybe one has to be an Asian experiencing this prejudice to really understand it. Any non-Asian can debate this as much as they want, but in the end, they may not really understand. I can't blame them.

Somtimes, when I take my kids out to look at nature, and we start talking about science and biology while looking at the flowers, I think that the people around us are seeing a Tiger Mom prepping his kid for MIT. If they saw a white family doing that, they would see a loving parent teaching their child the beauty of the world. It makes me so sad.


14 people like this
Posted by paly parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2015 at 11:11 am

While I totally agree with Ms. Zhang that "we should focus on strengthening the academic and emotional support system for all of our students, regardless of race" we can't and shouldn't provide "unlimited options" to our teenagers. Teenagers need enough sleep and they need boundaries set by adults. Within those boundaries, they should certainly have choices, but the boundaries are set by adults. As a school District we have limited resources that should be spent serving the majority of the students. As human's, we have limited numbers of hours in the day and we should have a limit on the number of hours students can attend school (and I also think on the number of hours we expect them to participate in school after hours, aka homework).

High school students are still kids, that's why adults run schools and kids live with parents.


14 people like this
Posted by paly parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2015 at 11:17 am

An addition to my above post - the biggest "Tiger parents" I know are NOT asian. We should stop stereotyping, there are an immense number of pushy parents of all races and backgrounds.


36 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2015 at 11:20 am

Good essay, but isn't the writer more the exception than the rule?

The trick is to separate these truly self-motivated, elite, Top 5% kids from the strivers and the over-achievers imposed upon by their parents. Not everyone can be Top 5%, but too many kids in our community are forced to try.


23 people like this
Posted by Caucasian Professor
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 12, 2015 at 11:23 am

Unremarked in the article and the comments: Quotas. Earlier, the Ivies Plus had Jewish quotas; now it's Asians. Students, such as our hard-working author, have to work harder and accomplish more to get one of those limited slots. She competes in a different pool. If she were xxxxx [I dare not say], she'd get in with scores 20 percent lower.


52 people like this
Posted by Thesaurus needed
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 12, 2015 at 11:31 am

There is definitely an undercurrent of anti-Asian racism in Palo Alto, or at least on these forums. Sometimes, it's hard to see, but most of the time, it's easy to FEEL it. The difficulty is that euphemisms are used to cloak the true feelings. Here are some phrases that I often see in these forums, followed by what they really mean:

1. "...certain demographic groups" = Asians
2. "...certain cultures" = Asian cultures
3. "Tiger parents" = Asian parents
4. "Changing demographics of Palo Alto" = too many Asians
5. "Good old days growing up as a kid in Palo Alto" = idealistic memories of life before Asians moved here
6. "Native Palo Altan" = white
7. "soul-less robot kids"= Asian kids...

And many more.

I'm hoping that the vast majority of people in Palo Alto are not proportionately represented by the posters on these forums.


36 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2015 at 11:35 am

Setting potential racism aside for a moment, it seems to me the real underlying problem is that not everyone can be an "Elite College Track" kid, but in this community too many parents push their "normal kids" that way, and that leads to bad consequences. Anyone else see it this way?


16 people like this
Posted by Lauren John
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 12, 2015 at 11:49 am

Go back forty years and substitute the word Jewish for Asian and I could have written Michelle's letter.
I had Jewish tiger parents, although they did not have the money for all of the after school extracurriculars--so I did have time to amuse myself.
There are always going to be groups that achieve and groups that do not achieve and if the achievers happen to look or act different than the non achievers-- the tensions accelerate.
This is nothing new.

Today, I am a tutor/teacher at an afterschool learning center with a primarily Asian clientele.
And I agree with Michelle that oftentimes Asian American parents struggle to determine what is best for their kids--especially first and even second generation kids.

I grew up, perhaps as Michelle did, with at a strong family structure where the kids knew the rules--work hard, study hard, and achieve.

Yes, It is harder to teach self esteem and self acceptance in the midst of these pressures.
But teaching self esteem does NOT mean saying, Good Job--when the job is not good.

Here's the Silicon Valley difference:
Ultimately, in high school and college, students need to figure out what achievement looks like for them and which rules to break.
Steve Jobs comes to mind. I assign his biography. He didn't stress about AP classes and zero period.
He dropped out of Reed College--which astounds my students!

Parents and teachers have some of the answers but not all.
If a student asks a question about classwork or life itself, that I can't answer, I always say:
Beats me--let's find out together



14 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2015 at 11:52 am

There is anti blonde sentiment here too. I joke that my daughters "glow in the dark" at school. But in reality, teachers are sometimes harder on them in their advanced math classes, etc. [because they don't belong there]. Kids make dumb blonde jokes all the time and it's totally OK. It's actually not ok.

The essay is a valid perspective though. Thanks for adding to the conversation.


37 people like this
Posted by listener
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2015 at 12:10 pm

I confess that I skimmed part of the article. But I didn't see the part where she mentions the math classes (and maybe others) where all of the table discussion goes on in Chinese. Literally white kids have no one to work with because teachers do not enforce equity in this classroom activity.

That does nothing to endear or encourage acceptance.


23 people like this
Posted by paly parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2015 at 12:15 pm

@Thesaurus needed - Your "translations" aren't all accurate -

"soul-less robot kids" or "lifeless bodies" was a statement made by a strawberry blond Caucasion girl to describe how she felt. Many students are simply expected to do too much in the finite hours of the day.

"tiger parents" are simply pushy parents. The worst ones I know are NOT asian!

@Anon - The blonde stereotype certainly exists - one of my daughters English teacher at Jordan asked if "the blonde girls (insert names) needed extra time to finish a test".


36 people like this
Posted by Keep No Zero Period
a resident of Addison School
on May 12, 2015 at 12:23 pm

@Lauren John Many people have been smart enough to not put there nose to the grindstone and dance to the beat of their own drummer. Thanks for shocking your students by mentioning Steve Job's college "path." Many other iconic geniuses never graduated from college. Not advocating for skipping college but it is definitely not for everybody!

I find the self-centeredness of the student writing this piece shocking. I guess I have to consider the source and cut her some slack for being in high school.

I am sorry that this article opened a whole can of worms about racism or anti-Asian sentiments. I have been in this area for a very long time and do have some real sadness about the fact that my newly arriving Asian neighbors don't seem to value having friendly and open relationships with neighbors. It has been my experience that they "keep to themselves" and only want their children mixing with their "own kind." I find this sad. This used to be such a neighborly kind of town but I guess this is progress.

So glad that my PAUSD children did dance to the beat of their own drummers and got great educations in areas that they chose.......yes, one of them did the Steve Jobs thing and never completed her education. She is very happy and successful doing her own thing. There are many ways to have a happy life and children should be having a happy life in their early years. Being forced to endure childhood as a sentence need not be. We need to change the whole culture. Thank goodness that the new Supt. is making wise choices such as taking away zero period. The students will survive and survive in a much more rested state I might say.

Sometimes young people have to realize that they are not in charge of making all of the decisions about their educations. Adults benefit from some years of experience and must be respected for providing good direction.

Thank you Dr. McGee for making the right decision. Ms. Townsend, please consider that you should back off and accept the decisions made by Max. He is a good man.

Speaking of zero period, it is on the School Board's agenda tonight. I am wondering why the public doesn't have the right to know whether the last two Gunn suicides were in zero period classes. The students who speak in favor of retaining zero period say there is no evidence that zero period could be a contributing factor in a student's depression. Why can't the district give this data?


43 people like this
Posted by Mom of 2 Blondes
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 12, 2015 at 12:24 pm

Yes, blonde discrimination exists. My
Daughter is a 4.5 goal student, but people assume she is a ditz because of her hair color.

Unfortunately, she has been the subject of some sexual harassment since middle school due to her hair color. I hate to say it, but most of it has been at the hands of "boys of color", but she is afraid to report it because, being a blue-eyed blonde, she fears being called a racist!


11 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Many of the private colleges discriminate against Asians by setting the their thresholds on SAT scores & GPA scores higher for Asians than any other ethnic group (NY Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal articles):

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

The so called "Tiger" parent is just a reflection of those colleges' discriminatory practices, of having a higher set of standards for Asians than non-Asians.

I agree with one of the posters above - until you've lived and experienced the discriminatory practices, you shouldn't criticize.


13 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on May 12, 2015 at 12:55 pm

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Issue of terminology: "AP Class"

Recognize that "AP" stands for "Advanced Placement" in college, allowing the student to skip, potentially get credit for, a corresponding college class.

This is NOT the same as an intellectually challenging course that goes beyond the basic high school curriculum -- they have very different intents. An AP course MAY be intellectually challenging, but may also just be moving standard, mundane course material from college frosh to HS senior. However, the school could well offer intellectually challenging courses that don't qualify as AP.

When someone talks of wanting more "AP courses", you need to be careful about whether they are talking about wanting a jump on college, or whether this is a sloppy reference to intellectually challenging HS courses.


40 people like this
Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2015 at 1:12 pm

I agree with some of the posters that the writer appears to be conflating racism with academic rigor. I applaud the author for being "a straight A student taking difficult AP classes and juggling 3 extracurricular activities". But guess what? The job of the public school is not to cater exclusively to the top 5% of the students, while leaving the vast majority of our students behind. This is not dumbing down the curriculum as much as finding a reasonable balance between challenging the overachievers while motivating the less gifted to reach their potential. This student will be absolutely fine if she is "denied" the freedom to pursue all of her academic dreams at the age of 17 or 18 while preserving her sanity (as most teenagers have limited ability to understand their limits). You will have plenty of opportunity to pursue your academic dreams in college and beyond! But for now let's focus on supporting the vast majority of students in our schools, many of whom appear to be begging for a more reasoned approach.


12 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Since anecdotal evidence is being thrown around as if anecdotes are truly representatives of racial behavior (which is a POV I very much disagree with), I will throw in one more. My grandchildren are in elementary school with many other ethnicities, including children of Chinese immigrants, and I don't see any difference by ethnicity amongst their playmates. They have Hispanic friends, Chinese friends, Israeli friends, etc.etc. and even some friends from families who have been in the US for generations, as our family has been. All have been welcoming and I see no racial patterns amongst who they have sleepovers with and whose birthday parties they go to and who they have playdates with (pardon the dangling particles).

The vast oversimplifications of behavior by race in many of the letters above are very upsetting. I would not be surprised or upset if PA Weekly delete some of those over the top letters and shut down the thread.


19 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 12, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Marie - [Portion removed.] As a grandparent, you may not be aware of the reality of the classroom. What I see is a very large percentage of chinese students at the elementary school level who are in also enrolled in a second chinese school for several hours a day. These students, as early as second or third grade are showing much more skill in math and writing than than their peers. This gap grows throughout elementary school, middle school, and eventually high school. More power to them if it works for them, but if it is causing stress to the point of depression and suicide, it is worth talking about openly. And if you refuse to acknowledge the cultural aspect of it, the issue will be confused and impossible to deal with.

Look at the racial composition of the choice programs at Ohlone vs Hoover if you want some data to show the difference in what parents of different cultures prefer for their kids.


5 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 12, 2015 at 1:36 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@PA Parent - there is a system to deal with these issues, proven to work over decades. It is called tracking. Let students work according to their ability levels without either dumbing down curriculum, or forcing advanced curriculum on the unprepared.


32 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 12, 2015 at 1:38 pm

sI read a quote attributed to Albert Einstein: “If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

While I agree with many of the sentiments expressed so far, and disagree with equally many, a lot of people seem to be talking past each other because they haven't stopped to define the problems.

Charles above, for example, made a very good point against dumbing down academics in the district, then for his example, rails against a mishmash of issues that don't really apply, or that negate his point. Who has been advocating the banishing of the traditional instruction of math? in a district in which hundreds of parents have been trying to restore some traditional math opportunities and get rid of the traditional-math-killing EDM inflicted on us by the previous Superintendent? Railing against homework is only "dumbing down" if one does nothing at all to a ridiculously narrow sorting and weeding system -- homework is a boundaries issue and could even result in a more high-quality education if handled in a 21st century context. He ends with a sweeping condemnation of "them" - those nebulous pushy parental bogeyman being made responsible for every ill under the sun. (He doesn't even get the irony of complaining about pushy parents pushing too hard after complaining about the same dumbing down the system.) I even "liked" his post for the great point about not dumbing down the curriculum, but wish I could take it back.

Equally, "Let's get real" makes some very good points about zero period being a health and safety issue, even while making sweeping unverifiable statements about one of the students who died, and the greatest mistake of all, leading with a handwaving excuses about nonspecific financial constraints, the excuse of champions in schools. Don't like something someone says? Without knowing anything at all about the specifics, just say we can't afford it. In one of the wealthiest districts in the state, it still works like kryptonite, even though the solution in many cases requires not money, but thought and effort, or creativity and even conflict.

Michelle,
It took a lot of courage for you to write this essay, in the current environment. What I am hearing from you, and please correct me if I am wrong, is a deep desire to express what you value about your own educational experience, and how others may be misinterpreting you and that experience or even running roughshod over it as they try to solve serious problems. You feel that what you value is being maligned and threatened.

I appreciate that perspective because I was like you. I enjoyed studying in the traditional academic context and excelled at it, loved the challenge of being very engaged and doing many different things well. Like you, I faced circumstances in which people wanted to take that away because they did not understand. I am hearing that you feel misunderstand. And I think you are correct. I also think others are correct in your essay being overly focused on yourself and on a narrow idea of what constitutes success, but since the current system is narrow and works for you, I think you can be forgiven for not understanding changing ideas about the Prussian educational model and its limitations.

Please also realize that what works for you is not working for a great many kids who are equally intelligent, hardworking, engaged, and need other pathways to succeed in learning, and who need other ways of challenging themselves. This is not about being "PC" - it's about offering an educational system that works for more than just the students like you, especially since the jobs of today and the future require many of those other intelligences and skillsets. For example, a Google executive told a packed crowd at Spangenberg recently that art majors used to be the school washouts, and now they are in demand, commanding 6-figure salaries and doing quite well in a number of industries. And yet, the number of art classes is restricted at Gunn, and students who wish to focus on art -- even those who have shown artistic promise -- are still treated like they are less ambitious and they should put off challenging themselves in art until after high school. Their talents and gifts are no less valuable than yours. Yet they are treated like 2nd class citizens. The answer is not to take away what you have, but to also support what they have. That means broadening our educational approach -- not by forcing you to do something else, but by understanding that narrowly serving students who excel in the way you do is failing so many others.

Unfortunately, even though we already seem to understand that in elementary school, people seem unable to apply that understanding at the high school level, and calls for change do end up being an attack on the way of learning that you value. It ends up serving no one. Please understand that when you defend what you have, people who have been trying for years to broaden the educational program to serve those for whom what we have is not working, they also can justifiably see your calls as defending the imposition of a deadly and unhelpful status quo on others. Again, you yourself do not seem to understand that there are children even extremely talented in STEM for whom the current educational structure is a disaster (especially boys). They need options, and I don't mean more classes imposed over the same educational structure, nor do I mean middle college.

If students were educated optimally - as is our own district's vision -Competition would give way to collaboration, as students were supported and valued for their own strengths.


5 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 12, 2015 at 1:40 pm

@Slow Down,
It is exactly that narrow idea of intelligence what education means that is the problem for so many.


12 people like this
Posted by nevver
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 12, 2015 at 1:48 pm

never censor a ''mix race mom''. whatever she said might have truth even if you are offended.thats how mixed race are censored. because they see things no other race does. but the ignorance of censors is typical for America.


23 people like this
Posted by Mom of 2 Blondes
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 12, 2015 at 1:50 pm

[Post removed.]






3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 12, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Can't help but wonder which college will be graced by Ms Zhang's presence this Fall.


51 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 12, 2015 at 2:09 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

There is some anti Chinese bias in Palo Alto, but there is also a pretty obvious lack of interest by first generation Chinese immigrants to integrate and socialize with non Asian residents. I see it everywhere, even in the park where I take my dog to excercise. The Chinese dog owners congregate away from all others, and the only interaction with them takes place when a dog would try to approach their dogs, which results in pretty rude reprimanding of the dog owner.
My Chinese neighbors will not even acknowledge their neighbors with a nod, and any social invitation is declined.
I used to see it when my kids were students in the district and I see it now. I very pretty limited Mandarin, but it's suffecient enough to understand some of the comments made about non Chinese. [Portion removed.] Tolerance and acceptance must be a two way street.


3 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 12, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Parent - tracking isn't narrow. What's narrow is the idea that one schedule is best, or one curriculum is best. Tracking helps diversity in education because it allows students to move at a pace that fits them, allowing more time and freedom in and out of school. It allows teachers to focus on teaching, and not task switching between different types of learners.


3 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 12, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Mom of 2 Blondes - when was your party? I see chinese parents and their kids just as socially engaged as any other. However, like I mentioned before, a huge group of them are also enrolled in chinese school or other academic programs. So if you schedule an after school birthday party, they can't come because they have other academic commitments. Absent that kind of scheduling conflict, you are either an outlier in your experience, or maybe you are unintentionally projecting a bias.


18 people like this
Posted by South Paly parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 12, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Author,
Thank you for adding your unique point of view to this discussion. Unlike you, I don't find much real value in working hard for straight A's AND juggling three extra curricular activities. I understand this feels perfectly normal to you because you have been raised in Palo Alto. But this is not an ideal formula for the children in our community because it leaves little time to reflect, take risks, try new things. This insatiable desire for intellectual challenge AND mastery of what should be a hobby (music, theatre, sports) is proving to be less than ideal for Palo Alto children. I believe this may be one discussion that should be left to the adults, particularly adults who have grown up and lived and raised kids outside of this bubble.


18 people like this
Posted by Mom of 2 Blondes
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 12, 2015 at 2:49 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Another Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 12, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Michelle (Gunn Senior)-
Would you have written this story if a grade were not the reward "payment"?


6 people like this
Posted by Hannah Arendt
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 12, 2015 at 3:07 pm

[Post removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on May 12, 2015 at 3:23 pm

There is always a race to be class/ethnic victims in discussions like this...in other words, my people suffer more than your people. There is also an attempt to assure an egalitarian levelness of the playing field, even if it ends up being the lowest common denominator.

I think PAUSD should not attempt to be everything to everybody...just offer about three basic academic tracks, and move on. Not everyone needs to be an academic star, and not everyone needs to go to college. There are so many opportunities in this free enterprise country to succeed, if one is willing to work hard. And online courses, like the Khan Academy (free), allows so many learning opportunities.

There will always be envy of success. Best to just ignore it and plow forward with one's own success...those harping against success will soon be taking your directives, and not you theirs.

BTW, I respect Tiger Moms...of any ethnicity.


33 people like this
Posted by Another Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 12, 2015 at 3:28 pm

Michelle-
The stereotypes by Asian students against non-Asian students are much worse.
The parents of these students teach their kids these stereotypes.

My daughter told me that on the first day of AP Chemistry, her "friends" said
"Wow, I thought you were too stupid for this class".
This is from the mouth of my non Asian daughter who enrolled in AP Chemistry.

When the parents attended back to school night, the Chinese moms (I don't remember ANY fathers at the back to school night), acted as if THEY were ones taking this chemistry class (and not their kids). It was a bit funny in that classroom that evening. I wish I had a video of it.

These students used to be her friends for many years through elementary and middle school. We have invited many of them to numerous dinners at our home, movies, nature walks, and community events with us over the years, but we were never invited by any of them to an event with their families.

Now they tell my daughter that she is "too stupid" to be in their level chemistry class.
To be honest, my husband and I felt a bit strange to be in that classroom filled with those pushy moms.

My daughter decided to drop that class, and we were happy about her decision.
She can take chemistry later, and not in high school.

Even though the kids may play with one another in elementary school, they have decided to segregate themselves from the other students in high school.





24 people like this
Posted by sunnypa
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 12, 2015 at 3:40 pm

sunnypa is a registered user.

OK, here we go again. Why is it that we see articles on this community constantly talking about the themes of Asian influx, tiger parenting, achievement in PA, stress in schools and so on? Why can't we all just realize how amazingly lucky we are to live in the Palo Alto community where the weather is almost always perfect, we are all relatively wealthy compared to much of the world, have access to top notch health care close by, top schools, shopping, parks, libraries, recreational facilities, and so on? Why can't we just be happy and get along?

I think Palo Alto schools should perhaps have a class/program where kids interact with third world communities to see how lucky and fortunate they are. In any case, I'd like to make the following points with regards to this article:

1. There are many Asians, Caucasians, Hispanics, African-Americans, you name it, who are very high achievers in high school and college but do not succeed later in the workplace. With Asians specifically, just look around the top management in SV companies, top law firms, top hospitals, top etc., and you'll see that they are very much a minority. Success in high school/college and where you go to school do not necessarily correlate with success later in life. There are many other personality traits and skills that matter more for success in life than taking AP classes and getting the top grade in them.

2. I am Caucasian and married to an Asian, with mixed race children. I have encountered discrimination much more on the Asian side than on the Caucasian side. I've been made to feel part of the inferior race by some Asians who think they're better and smarter than Caucasians.

3. Stereotypes in school are prevalent and affect the general perception of the kids. I've heard from one of my children that joining the Math club at school would be social suicide and that only the Asians do it. I reminded him that he's half Asian, but he doesn't see himself that way. He sees himself as American and some of the Asians as non-Americans (which makes me sad and I'm trying to teach him otherwise). I've encountered many Asian students at school with parents who are very, very demanding. Parents that do not allow sleepovers, playdates, sports, etc., and would rather have their children spend their time with tutors and learning classic academic subjects to succeed in school.

[Portion removed.]

5. Public schools should teach to ALL kids and have plenty of options for everyone. Kids who want to take AP classes to the point of sacrificing their schedules, and kids who just want to have a good education while having fun. Those that get into an Ivy League should not feel superior to others. Again, their success is yet to be determined. As an executive, I have to say that my best people come from no name or state schools. Plenty of Harvard, Stanford, Penn grads do not know how to succeed in corporate America.

6. My son is a straight A student without overworking himself. I have never hired a tutor and do not intend to do that in the future either for my other children. I do not supervise their homework as they need to learn to do it themselves. Parents should stop helicopter parenting and leave their kids to discover their own passions. The best we can do is provide them with love and give them the self esteem required for them to succeed on their own.

Enough for now. Would love to keep writing, but I need to get back to work. My children are all relaxing at home. We'll watch some TV and play games together tonight. No need to be studying all the time. Life is precious and we need to enjoy every minute.


4 people like this
Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 12, 2015 at 4:01 pm

"osted by Thesaurus needed
a resident of Palo Alto High School
4 hours ago
There is definitely an undercurrent of anti-Asian racism in Palo Alto, or at least on these forums. Sometimes, it's hard to see, but most of the time, it's easy to FEEL it. The difficulty is that euphemisms are used to cloak the true feelings. Here are some phrases that I often see in these forums, followed by what they really mean:

1. "...certain demographic groups" = Asians
2. "...certain cultures" = Asian cultures
3. "Tiger parents" = Asian parents
4. "Changing demographics of Palo Alto" = too many Asians
5. "Good old days growing up as a kid in Palo Alto" = idealistic memories of life before Asians moved here
6. "Native Palo Altan" = white
7. "soul-less robot kids"= Asian kids..."

-- and you square this with Amy Chua's obnoxious brags exactly how....? She IS the roaring self-proclaimed lecturing "Tiger Mom" after all.


1 person likes this
Posted by Duveneck Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 12, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Michelle,

Thanks for the courage to write this article and express your thoughts. [Portion removed.]

@Mom, the housing prices in Palo Alto have gone up primarily because of stock and high salaries at tech companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Telsa, Palantir, etc...


7 people like this
Posted by NoDiscrimination
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 12, 2015 at 4:36 pm

As another commenter already mentioned, applicants of Asian descent (East Asia) are held to a higher standard by elite college admissions offices and often denied admission in favor of other applicants who may be less qualified but are wealthy, legacy, etc. It is shocking how easily admission officers stereotype and penalize high achieving students from these groups (oh another Korean/Chinese kid with 4.2 GPA and perfect standardized test scores). Daniel Golden wrote a good book a few years ago about this, The Price of Admission, where he calls Asians the new Jews (referring to bias against Jewish applicants in the past). So it is not surprising if some students of Asian descent work extra hard to try to distinguish themselves to admission officers, knowing that they will have to be "better" than their peers to gain admission. Similar to how some women and persons of color have had to work harder than their white male peers in the workplace to gain recognition.


40 people like this
Posted by Cupertino
a resident of Barron Park School
on May 12, 2015 at 4:43 pm

I think that some white Palo Alto parents and property owners are concerned that Palo Alto could go the way of Cuupertino, whose overwhelmingly Asian schools are largely shunned by white parents who want a more well-rounded education for their kids.


1 person likes this
Posted by ResIpsa
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2015 at 4:48 pm

[Post removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by Back in the Day
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 12, 2015 at 4:53 pm

When I was a kid, my BFF was a Japanese Nisei of the same age in my neighborhood. This friendship lasted through elementary school and middle school, never wavering.

The , when we were sophomores in HS, her mother decided that she could not be friends with any non-Japanese anymore. My friend was the youngest daughter, the eldest daughter having been disowned for dating, and eventually marrying, a young white man.

This hurt me very deeply, and I never really got over the shock, pain, and disappointment. I mourned the friendship for many years.

Then, twelve years later, my Japanese friend tracked me down and got in touch with me. She, like her older sister, had. Rosen away from her family due to the cruel limitations they had put on her and her other siblings as well. We even became maid of honor at each other's weddings.

However, fate stepped in again, and when she was the first to have a child, she decided she wanted to make peace with her family so her children would know their grandparents and culture. Of course, her mother, NOT her father, made the reunion conditional: she had to once again drop her non-Japanese friends. I felt hurt and betrayal beyond belief--I would never do such a thing.

My friend tried to gloss it over by telling me she loved me and hated her mother, but this would be best for her son and future children. I never saw her again.

I guess the moral of this is that culture is thicker than water, even if blood is not.


24 people like this
Posted by Learning Expience
a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2015 at 5:21 pm

This article can be a good learning experience for any teen in a similar situation to the author or not. The author seems more intent on letting her readers know how high-achieving she is, which comes at the expense of losing the audience and drawing attention away from her intended point.

Contrast to Carolyn Walworth's (another high school student) recent editorial about the pressures we adults are loading onto our youths, and you'll see a much broader, world-centric perspective; the type you hope your kids will be able to see and convey.

Web Link

As posters above have noted, there are many factors which go into making someone a successful person later in life. Grades and standardized tests are unfortunately sometimes overemphasized over more valuable development (creativity, empathy, flexibility, curiosity, fearlessness, etc...)

I wish both girls much success in the future.


8 people like this
Posted by EC
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 12, 2015 at 5:25 pm

I'm Asian. I've marched to the beat of my very own drum all through high school. The only thing I ever did to impress colleges was take the SAT--and that's basically mandatory. I never took a prep course, either. I took the classes I wanted to so that I wouldn't be bored. Most cases, it's AP or boredom, or worse, busywork and boredom. Guess what I picked? And it didn't stop me from taking all kinds of electives--anything from history to programming.

Let me march, if you say to march, and stop removing choices. Everyone benefits from a spectrum.

Thank you, Michelle, for your eloquence.


28 people like this
Posted by Chinese Native Palo Altan
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on May 12, 2015 at 5:45 pm

I grew up in Palo Alto beginning in elementary school in the 1970s. Back then, there were few Asians, and they were Japanese and Chinese (Cantonese). At Paly, there were only about 5 Asians per grade level. So we were treated like Caucasians and I never, ever felt racism.

Fast-forward to raising my children here, and I have felt racism in Silicon Valley from parents. Honestly, we have felt it from parents in sports such as football, volleyball, lacrosse - you know, those "All-American" sports. Not all parents in those sports are prejudice, of course, but when we do feel it, there is a correlation. We attended an end-of-year party for a club sport in a neighboring town and were completely ignored by the parents. If we asked them questions, we received yes-no answers. We act like them, dress like them, but their minds are closed. Think of how hurtful prejudice is next time it crosses your mind and remember, we had no choice in being born into our ethnicity. The hard work ethic may be frustrating, but at least we're staying out of prison, crime, and drugs. Chinese have arrived in America speaking no English and by retirement age, are financially successful through hard work (not government assistance). Can't say that about some Americans who feel entitled and won't accept lower-level jobs or work two jobs to make ends meet.

We are stuck in the middle - not Caucasian, not Asian immigrant but the lifestyle of both. I don't want my hometown of Palo Alto to turn into a Cupertino either, and the funny thing is, many Asian immigrants I have met in north Palo Alto feel exactly the same. And no, not all Asian immigrants are Tiger Parents (at least in north Palo Alto) - many of them don't want the extreme academic pressure for their children and want them to have a balanced life.


16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on May 12, 2015 at 5:56 pm

[Post removed due to potential copyright infringement and inability to authenticate. Please do not re-publish the writings of another; link to it.]






6 people like this
Posted by Dreamer
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 12, 2015 at 6:10 pm

Michelle, I'm sorry you've felt some different attitudes or treatment related to your being of Chinese descent. Setting aside for a moment the "academic arms race" (which is a worthy topic but doesn't seem to be the focus of most of the comments) I think as a whole Americans have come a long way but we still need to keep in mind the dream.

Let's not have misunderstanding or miscommunication divide our community. Let's treat our neighbors with respect, without assuming bad motives where there might be none.

Last year, my kids started take an evening class once a week (not an academic class). Every class at drop off or pickup, a sizeable group of parents would be hanging around, speaking another language. I talked to some other moms on occasion, they were polite, but quickly resumed their conversations in the other language. Did I feel excluded? Sure, but I didn't read anything into it, other than that they are just more comfortable speaking in the other language --- French.


5 people like this
Posted by Fred Astaire
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2015 at 6:29 pm

The accusations leveled against the school board ("dumbing down", etc.) are ridiculous. Given the weight of opinion by hundreds of pediatricians, it would be grossly negligent of the school board not to take appropriate action. In fact they would open themselves up to a lawsuit if they did not.

Anyone think PAUSD is not already mired in enough litigation?


10 people like this
Posted by That dirty laundry
a resident of Green Acres
on May 12, 2015 at 6:33 pm

This genie is never going back in the bottle.

Web Link

But it's time for Crazy Hat Hour on the Max McGee show. We have Trouble here in River City and that's Trouble and that starts with a T and that rhymes with McGee and that rhymes with big fat suicide cluster.

I did not get an A in poetry


13 people like this
Posted by Back in the Day
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 12, 2015 at 7:31 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 12, 2015 at 7:32 pm

"and you square this with Amy Chua's obnoxious brags exactly how....? She IS the roaring self-proclaimed lecturing "Tiger Mom" after all."

She is, and she doesn't speak for the entire Asian race. She's a narcissistic provocateur who knows how to sell books by pressing people's buttons.

Just because she wrote her silly book doesn't mean that Thesaurus isn't right on target about people using code-speak to voice their displeasure that Palo Alto isn't as white as they wish.


2 people like this
Posted by Never assume
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2015 at 7:42 pm

The following was given three posts before it was locked to registered users, whereas this Asian-centric post has been left open. Anyway, the following hasn't been deleted and I believe it adheres to the use agreement. I agree that skin color is still too often a factor in how teachers treat children. It hasn't gone away yet:

"The Palo Alto Online moderator often deletes any reference to race, racism, ethnicity, and skin color, maybe because anonymous mention of these subjects don't translate well, or maybe because Palo Altans furiously click the Report Objectionable Content button. However, the color of our skin is still important in our schools, whether in Palo Alto, the Bay Area, and the United States. As my comment about the Paly Math Letter and race was being deleted, the Mercury News was publishing an editorial about math and race: Promote kids based on test scores, not skin color. And on the same day that other comments about the racism of the Paly Math Letter were being deleted, the Mercury News was throwing its support behind AB359, which according to the Merc: "will require a set of objective measures like test scores and grades to determine whether students need to repeat eighth-grade math." You can search for it, you have the title words. The Noyce Foundation and others found the following: "A far higher proportion of black, Latino and Asian Pacific Islander students are failing to advance to the next level when students with similar performance are moving on." Read the editorial, then take a look at the Paly Math Letter. I interpret it as a racist letter, because the authors of the letter, teachers of the Paly math department, wrote, in part, the following:

--Most of our students are fortunate to come from families where education matters. . . Not all of them.
--Many of these are VTP or under-represented minorities.
--Others are serious, committed Special Ed students who work very hard throughout high school . . .

There appear to be assumptions about VTP students and minorities in the math teachers' words, most troubling is the assumption that VTP or under-represented minorities are not fortunate to come from families where education matters. Plenty in the Town Square would agree with that pre-judgement, but not me. I find that comment to be racist, basing a broad belief about students' families and their beliefs about the importance of education on unknown data. Mathematicians like this should be ashamed of themselves. Please take the time to read the Mercury News editorial about math and skin color (something that PAUSD and even the Palo Alto Weekly have avoided for far too long, and then read the Paly Math Letter. Make your own opinions and post them here."


9 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 12, 2015 at 7:44 pm

I'm sorry that some of you experienced close-minded attitudes from some first generation Asian immigrants. But the whites-are-victims stance voiced here seems a little overblown. Most Asian Americans who grew up in other parts of this country in years past (and in the present, in many cases) could easily trot out a long list of direct experiences with discrimination far worse than what you describe here. Me included.

If you go to any large foreign city, like Paris, Rome, Shanghai, Tokyo, etc., you'll find large communities of American and other western "expats" who socialize with each other regularly and naturally speak with each other in their own language. How come when people who look like you do this, they are hailed as a "wonderful expat community" but when you see newly arrived Asians doing a similar thing here, you are disgusted that they don't just assimilate and leave their culture back in the old country?

Yes, there may be some Asian immigrants who are uncomfortable socializing in English and speaking with their neighbors. But there are plenty who are open to this. If many of you just tempered your own biases and made an extra effort to extend yourselves and keep an open mind, you might find that the people you demonize really aren't so bad after all.

Oh yeah, and someone previously posted that vacuous article above previously on this board. It's shocking that someone so eager to embrace generalities and demonstrating such an inability to think critically ever became a teacher.


32 people like this
Posted by Just an asian kid
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on May 12, 2015 at 7:48 pm

All this talk of limiting classes, etc. is all brought on by tutoring, and the overarching philosophy of many asian parents. Schools are environments for learning, succeeding, and following your life's dreams. Yet many asian parents send their children to tutoring not because the children want to learn college level math, but because if they do their children will go to the best Ivy-League so that the parents can go show off. I am meaning absolutely no offense with this statement, however being a part of the Asian-American community, I've noticed these things to be true in many cases. Nothing else matters in this discussion, besides the fact that to many parents of this community, school is just a giant test to get into the best college and "therefore" getting the best job and money. If everyone's "next step" after high school is going to college and comparing who gets into the best one, then this is no longer school. This becomes a breeding ground for depression, and misguided ways of looking at school. Students go to school, choose a language unrelated to their own heritage as an elective so colleges will notice them, choose a music elective, do a school sport, get into the highest lane of math, of science, start up foundations for saving the environment, etc., all in this ridiculous formula for success. As far-fetched as it seems, these are all constant goals in the minds of many Asian parents. And this is oh so wrong. School needs to go back to being an institution for raising hopeful, happy students who choose electives they want to do, and go into the college best suited for their interests. Asian parents need to stop raising their children into the "Asian Trifecta" of going into one of the following fields: Law, Medicine or Engineering. Again, these thoughts are all from the personal standpoint of an asian kid who is unhindered by such limitations.


24 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2015 at 7:55 pm

The large numbers of suicides at Gunn High could easily cause the school to be shut down permanently.

The author of this article needs to worry if her high school will continue to exist AT ALL. This is the real issue. Whether her "freedom is being limited" might seem important, but it's insignificant next to the bigger danger.


7 people like this
Posted by Zackly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2015 at 8:00 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 12, 2015 at 8:13 pm

[Post removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by out
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2015 at 8:21 pm

@anyone discussing how Asians must be getting straight A's because their parents say so

As a student, do I want to get B's and C's? Not at all. I would be unhappy with myself. I think it is very important to know that this "need" to get A's do not completely stem from parental pressure; it is pressure put on by the students themselves. I do not believe that a student (of any race) enjoys getting anything lower than an A.

So please consider the students views before pinning the blame on "tiger moms".


8 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 12, 2015 at 8:32 pm

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by UnPC-ABC
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Well, sorry to be un-PC, but growing up in the '60s and '70s in this country (not so long after the Korean War) with interracial immigrant parents, one who grew up in China (half), and having lived in the deep South, that parent says the prejudice against mixed race children is much more overt and extreme in China, and by the Chinese, than here. Not that it was so hunky dory here, I have myself been called the "n" word and endured enough of that eye-pulling and charlie chan "ah-so" crap growing up, which wasn't nearly so bad as what my parents endured. Many kids reading this probably don't know what that means.

That parent also taught us a reverence for education and achieved in one generation what normally takes minimum two (engineering, btw). This after growing up almost starving to death, with war and death all around, striking out alone at high school age, facing extreme and persistent degrading racism working to get to the US, joining the military while still a teen to support parents, ending up very successful working very hard. All 3 degrees thru PhD in 5 years total. That was inspiring to me, by the way, not depressing. My parents made tremendous sacrifices for our educations. And yet, I never ever experienced any pressure to get good grades. I had to beg for a musical instrument (didn't get one, couldn't afford it until high school). But my parents didn't understand our schools. I often had to fend for myself because my parents didn't dream of being involved, they just didn't have that cultural background.

I do not see the problem here as the parents, and I speak from personal experience with many parents here. This parent community is the most mindful I have ever seen. No one is perfect, but if you are a nerd, it's pretty darned close here. I am not dismissing the reports of parents telling kids what to do, of applying pressure, I'm sure they are true. I'm just saying it's wrong for the schools to try to blame parents and do nothing. From the article: “I feel like I’m never doing enough, not using my time wisely, not working hard enough. - See more at: Web Link" This is drilled in us like a drumbeat from school.

Parents sacrifice to bring their kids here, they are just responding to the situation same as the kids. The schools and teachers tell the parents: kids have to learn how to manage their time and plan or they are failures or will be failures in life. Not kidding, this is the msg we have gotten. Especially immigrant parents -- how are they going to know it's the schools not their kids, when the school in this great place? Often the school sends home letters and email telling parents to help them get the kid to do this or that, or explicitly instructing the parents on how to pressure kids to better manage their time. It's an absolute treadmill that never stops.

Some people are going to be fine with what we have as the writer of this article. Even as we should not measure all the students against those for whom it is fine, neither should we vilify the students who do well with what's here. This is the school system we set up. This student is saying it works for her. Why vilify her? it doesn't work for others, and I agree 1000% with Denise Herrman about offering broader pathways to success so the kids realize the way they have been taught to think of success is hopelessly narrow, wrong, and even harmful.

Parents are much too easy a target. Teaching people that unless parents are perfect, they are always to blame -- let's face it, that's what's happening here -- is a really destructive life message. Parents are not perfect, they will never be perfect. The schools should not be stressing out kids so much that they become so depressed, and they should be ashamed of themselves for the campaign to blame parents for everything to maintain defensiveness and avoid change. If we are such a great school system, we should not have to rely on parents being more perfect than perfect in order to keep kids from being suicidal.



15 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 12, 2015 at 8:38 pm

[Post removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 12, 2015 at 8:52 pm

Everyone knows that performance enhancing drugs can make athletes achieve more. So why don't we allow them? Because everyone would be forced to use them to keep up. In the end, the thrill of sport is supplanted with an unhealthy grind. In the same way, the singular focus and push of certain parents effectively sets a new enhanced standard that forces everyone else to play along, turning youth away from the thrill of coming of age into a suicidal grind for over achievement. Steroids are banned. Why do we tolerate performance enhancing parents? They are as easy to spot as bulked up athletes. It has to change.


15 people like this
Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 12, 2015 at 8:55 pm

mauricio:
"but there is also a pretty obvious lack of interest by first generation Chinese immigrants to integrate and socialize with non Asian residents. I see it everywhere, even in the park where I take my dog to excercise. The Chinese dog owners congregate away from all others, and the only interaction with them takes place when a dog would try to approach their dogs, which results in pretty rude reprimanding of the dog owner.
My Chinese neighbors will not even acknowledge their neighbors with a nod, and any social invitation is declined."

Another Paly Parent:
"The stereotypes by Asian students against non-Asian students are much worse.
The parents of these students teach their kids these stereotypes.

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comments.]

I hope she reads all these comments and takes them to heart. Chinese immigrants and their children have been very exclusionary and cliquish, something that does not go over well in America."

It took about 10 seconds to find these rude posts on this thread. Maybe it's true that the Mauricio's Chinese neighbors congregate together, maybe not - why is their race particularly relevant? Why is it acceptable to say that Asians teach their children that non-Asians are inferior? Why is it okay to assume that Ms. Zhang is racist against non-Asians because her parents are (presumably) Asian? To those who say that there is not anti-Chinese bias in Palo Alto, or acknowledge it and then go on to make comments similar to those above, you are perpetuating the problem. Chinese Native Palo Altan offers some needed perspective on what it's like to be Asian in Palo Alto...


8 people like this
Posted by Magnet School
a resident of Southgate
on May 12, 2015 at 9:01 pm

The Board should move to create at the Cubberley site an academically intensive high school for all those students who wish to engage in such intense academics. That may then reduce the stress of those students who remain in Gunn and Paly.


11 people like this
Posted by Another Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 12, 2015 at 9:02 pm

The wave of first generation immigrants from China (called PRC migrants) are also causing tensions in Singapore. People are complaining about their arrogant attitudes. The Chinese Singaporean's are complaining the loudest, so it is not race issue. The PRC Chinese are making the situation over there very tense in the schools and real estate markets.

The same thing is happening in Australia and the UK. I believe Australia and Singapore will be the first to limit the influx of migrants from other Asian countries.

Singaporean students are upset about the Stanford graduate student who poisoned her co-workers because she was a PRC Chinese and not a true Singaporean. They believe the scholarship to study at Stanford should have gone to a Singaporean citizen and not an immigrant from China.


1 person likes this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 12, 2015 at 9:14 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Magnet School - You are effectively asking for different tracks of learning for different types of students. It's a good idea, but you don't need Cubberly to do it. Our high schools (and middle schools) are plenty big enough to offer more educational choices without adding the administrative overhead of another high school.


12 people like this
Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 12, 2015 at 9:19 pm

I'm not going to address most of the comments here sheerly because I don't have enough time. But I would like to dissect this one:

"Most of the comments we have heard about Asian students are from the Asians themselves. They look at others as being less interested in education and academics as they are. They also have problems with those students who do not have two Asian parents, but have one of another ethnicity.

When the Asian students (not all of them but the stereotypical Asian student who does exist) are willing to interact with others better, a lot of the problems will disappear.

It starts in elementary school when the parents are very wary of letting their children mix out of school with non-Asians, and the parents stand together speaking languages other than English (when they all know how to speak English) and who knows exactly what they discuss when only those in that language demographic understands the language and the topics they are discussing. This type of exclusivity is then passed on to the children who look on other ethnicities as being not quite good enough."

Funny how the group of people being stereotyped is more vocal against racism than the group stereotyping them. Maybe this is why they're more vocal? Anyway, you wrote, "Parents stand together speaking languages other than English (when they all know how to speak English)."

From another PA Online article (Web Link): "Gunn High School's Asian student population has steadily grown over the last several years to 41.6 percent of the student body in 2014, according to the school's WASC report. The report also notes that Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese and "any one of several other Asian languages" are spoken in Gunn students' homes and that the guidance department recently identified the need to sponsor a parent information night in Mandarin "to increase the connection of Asian families to GHS and respond to administrative questions Mandarin Chinese-speaking parents may have.""

The WASC report (found here Web Link) finds that 15.60% of students at Gunn speak Mandarin as their primary language at home. Now, it's reasonable to assume that these families have spoken Mandarin at home since elementary school, because it's unlikely that they randomly started speaking Mandarin at home. In fact, it's more likely that even MORE families speak Mandarin at home in elementary school, and some of these eventually move on to English as a primary language. Now sure - some of these people might choose not to speak English because they're more confident with their Chinese, or because it makes them feel more connected to their culture. Who are you to judge them for doing this? And what do you say to the people who honestly cannot speak English -- other parents who can understand and talk to you shouldn't bother to translate? What ave you the idea"everyone" speaks English? Clearly they don't, or the adult education school here wouldn't offer English classes, there wouldn't be programs for ESL students, and we wouldn't put signs and handouts in multiple languages.

For the record, I'm white (not that it should matter? Shouldn't everyone have a voice?) and I had no problems interacting with Asians in my grade even in elementary school. I'm sure someone is going to come by and say that I had a rare experience, so I would like to counter in advance with this: maybe your experience was the rare one?


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 12, 2015 at 9:35 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@That Dirty Laundry - That's a very informative article you posted, everyone should read it. These paragraphs seemed especially appropriate:

"The problem is that Palo Alto, in my experience, is a community with something of a tin ear, many denizens seemingly hearing only what confirms their preexisting worldview. Some of that tone deafness is understandable, given the complexity of the issues besetting the town. But some of it may be due to a general muzzling of suicide-related speech. The back stories of many of the 2009–10 suicides have long been shrouded in secrecy, leaving kids and parents speculating and rumor-mongering. The Stanford Psychiatry Department embarked on a “psychological autopsy” of the cluster, but no report was ever publicly released. In any case, Blanchard is dismissive of the study’s value: “There are many more [teens] who are not doing well,” she says. “Researching only kids who have passed away—it’s usefulness is so limited.

Often it seems as if that de facto gag order from 2009 is still in effect. Even the kids speak in euphemisms, as if they’ve signed some town pact: During a “Listening to Youth Voices” panel in March, they referred to the suicides as “the recent events.” Some experts object to this use of abstruse terminology, which they believe reflects a damaging community-wide repression. “This is exactly the time to call it suicide and nothing else,” says Levine. “It couldn’t be clearer that there’s a crisis around kids being able to manage their feelings.” - See more at: Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Magnet School
a resident of Southgate
on May 12, 2015 at 9:36 pm

@Slow Down; I agree that your tracking point is valid. My other point is that by separating the kids into a different location, would that then improve the mental health of the students remain? Does removing the hyper competitive make it easier for the other students feel comfortable getting a B?

I myself attended one of the most academically rigorous high schools in the country. This high school, however, was geared specifically for students such as me. And it was private. As someone above stated, the public schools need to serve the broader population. As it appears to me that we have a sufficient number of students in the district who desire the type of academically rigorous education provided by the best private schools in the country, perhaps it is time for Palo Alto to provide such an option. This would allow those without the economic means to access a first-rate education.


4 people like this
Posted by Another Gunn mom
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 12, 2015 at 9:58 pm

Touche, Michelle. As a Chinese mom in the Palo Alto School District for 21 years by the time my son, a Gunn junior, graduates next year, I applaud you.


Like this comment
Posted by UnPC-ABC
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2015 at 10:00 pm

"Some experts object to this use of abstruse terminology, which they believe reflects a damaging community-wide repression. "This is exactly the time to call it suicide and nothing else," says Levine. "

I did not realize the students were as suppressed as the adults. Adults speaking with just other adults on parent lists were absolutely SHUT DOWN and not allowed to do any connecting or soul searching on school lists. One of the most shameful chapters of my experience here. The excuse from PTAC -- go ask the experts. Who was right?


11 people like this
Posted by A Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 12, 2015 at 10:10 pm

Some very interesting comments here. Please remember that the author of the piece being commented on is a young person in our community. We all owe it to students who speak up that we be thoughtful and try to do no harm when responding.

As to the many comments on racism and other ethnic and cultural issues. These are very complex matters and have no simple solutions. Our best chance of coming through this for the well being of all our students will come from remembering that our ideals are founded on all of us having been created equal. However, the content of our character is up for examination, hopefully by ourselves and not so much against one another. It would be very easy for me to pick on any one of the posters. I can do more good by looking into my own struggles with all these matters and set myself the task of trying to do better than I have done today.

Am I judgemental? Yes. Am I intolerant. Often. Do I have ideals that are better than I am able to live up to? You bet. There is my work. The young people and other citizens in this community deserve nothing less of me than that I try every day to do better. No, I'm not a religious fanatic. But my heart gets broken when the suffering of our children is so clear.


4 people like this
Posted by Jetpilot
a resident of Stanford
on May 12, 2015 at 10:55 pm

Lots of good discussion at tonight's PAUSD board meeting on both the new block schedule and the "zero period" issue. Hats off to Dr. Hermann, the teachers and students who served on the schedule committee who put so much thoughtful effort into the new schedule. Dr. Pelayo was also very articulate in summarizing the compelling science behind why having school start later is the right thing to do. It made the handwaving arguments raised by many questioning the science behind later school start times seem like the "climate change deniers." I was disappointed at the selfishness, lack of empathy and arrogance of the majority of the students who spoke in defense of the status quo. Definitely not the kind of young people we want to become doctors or to serve in the military where the most important value is caring for others.


2 people like this
Posted by sea reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on May 12, 2015 at 11:13 pm

How do we motivate our children to succeed and be happy and high achieving?

My personal experience is that it takes a lot to get our children highly accomplished. Some components are

1. Healthy children. Healthy food habits; family and friends and township.
2. GOOD DNA for competitiveness, resilience and hard work
3. Good schools, teachers and peers
4. It takes a village. No Kidding

Let us all recognize:
5. We do need to work with our children to let them know we love them and it is ok if they did not meet their expectations
6. Some workshops on how to live with USA culture for those new immigrants
7. It is not a big deal if one did not achieve the desired goal but the world is out there to try again
8. Be supportive
9. Stick with family, friends, your faith in God or another way
10. Be happy
11. It is not the end of the world! There is a second and third opportunities

Respectfully


5 people like this
Posted by sue
a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2015 at 11:50 pm

[Post removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Gunn Senior
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 13, 2015 at 12:15 am

I completely agree with Michelle's sentiments that we shouldn't "dumb down" courses to generalize a student's interest and abilities at Gunn. Yes, I did take difficult courses and take APs that I was INTERESTED in (I wouldn't dare touch AP Biology or AP Chemistry and my parents completely supported my decision because they knew it was right for me.) Yet, I did struggle my first two years and racked up my fair share of B's, but in courses I don't regret taking. I would just like to make it clear that I didn't struggle with the material, I just am not the best at studying, and I didn't let the stress get to me thanks to my parents and supportive friends. But by limiting the difficult courses, I would have never found my passion and probably wouldn't have found extracurriculars and eventually summer jobs I truly looked forward to every single day.

With a GPA lower than a 3.9 (gasp) by the end of junior year, but while juggling extracurriculars I chose myself and enjoy, I managed to get myself into a top college.

Students shouldn't need to make decisions alone about the courses/extracurriculars they want to take/participate in. Parents really need to spend time understanding the limitations of their kids and being there for when their kids appear to have too much pressure. Yes, at times I felt less capable than a lot of my peers, but I have matured and eventually learned that everyone has their strengths. Mine are definitely not in Chemistry. Parents need to be there for their children, and sometimes that means telling your kids that it's okay to not be the best in something, because there is something that you WILL be good at eventually. When my grades weren't what I initially expected, my parents would assure me that grades don't determine success. Communication between students and parents is SO IMPORTANT. My parents' personal stories about their educational experience (about being compared to other students) and life experience in general helped me get through high school and properly prepared me for college.

And on the topic of zero period, I took it the last two years and zero period gave me the opportunity to take a breather in the middle of the day during my prep. I took 7 classes each my last two years (don't worry - they were classes I really enjoyed). It was such a crucial time for me and that hour break between my classes was something I looked forward to on some tough days. I'm sad to see it go.


26 people like this
Posted by Nerd
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2015 at 12:22 am

@Michelle:"Take me, for example. Considering that I'm Chinese, have straight A's, and like math and science, I'm surprised that I don't see myself as an "Asian try-hard" as described earlier. I'm proud of taking difficult AP classes. I juggle three extracurricular activities every day because I love them all. I'm so lucky for the opportunity to conduct individual research in a university laboratory"


Okay - good. The system works for you.

Sure, we get that you also don't like the stereotype of typical Asian getting all A's. But, um, you are getting all A's, and appear to be rubbing it in our face. Look, I cannot help but feel your victimization is a little thin here - you are doing well in a system designed for excellence and you don't like being called out as different. But the world has been making fun of Nerds for decades. Not just Asians.

I think the real problem is your indifference to people for whom the system doesn't work.

My concern is for the Asian kids are not superstars, who just want to do okay, play video games, hang out and who don't have a Try-Hard approach to school. For them, the cruelty of Asian stereotype is real - they get teased for getting a B, or taking an easy math lane. [Portion removed.]

So yeah, there is a problem with racism and it's conflation to high performance, but the B student Asian is the one I worry about, and the mass of kids of all races in the forgotten middle for whom the system doesn't work, and for whom you care little as long as you get what you want.


1 person likes this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2015 at 4:23 am

@Sue
I have to disagree somewhat, regarding the differences between two cultures.

I do want to point out that, in this age, children of either upbringing are able to breakout of their cultures.

I give a few examples:

Samir Bhatia, the founder of Hot Mail, whose company was bought by Microsoft in 1990s.

Charles Noski, a graduate of California State University, Northridge, retired Vice Chairman of Bank of America and President of Hughes. This proves that one does not have to be always from a big school.

John Tracy, senior VP of Engineering at Boeing currently. He graduated from Cal State Los Angeles and then got a PhD at UC Irvine.

What I gather is, America is a land of opportunity; let our children thrive, they will be what they want to be; we as parents need to nurture them, offer good schools, good libraries, good neighborhoods for children to hang around. Our duty is done; their responsibility begins when the start becoming adults and sky is the limit.

Generally, it works. When our children become successful and healthy, we smile. If they are not, we need to continue to be helpful and standby our children until we leave this world.

So, who said parenting is easy? it is not. But, that is life all about!
I would have it no other way. I have three children 35, 33, 26 all graduates and successful at different levels Living in Basel Switzerland, Goodyear Arizona and Los Angeles.

There is not a single I do not think about them, the joy they bring and the challenges they have.

We will be ok. Our children hopefully are happy and achieving adults!

Respectfully


14 people like this
Posted by Another Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2015 at 5:27 am

As the mother of the Caucasian girl who was called "Too Stupid" by her classmates to be in that AP Chemistry class at Paly, I would like to point out that the poster "Nerd" has just pointed out that Asians refer to their non-superstar "B" Asian classmates as "stupid white girls".

My daughter and other non-Asian girls have put up with being referred to as "stupid" by their Asian classmates as far back as 5th grade. I have taught my daughter to never respond or react to these comments. In Theraveda Buddhism, I learned that if someone says something mean to someone, and that person does not react, the "hurt" will land back upon the person speaking it.

The "Mom of 2 blondes at Paly" whose post was removed, also stated that her daughters were often stereotyped in this same way.

[Portion removed.]

I believe what may be missing in many of these new families, is the study and practice of religion.
Both Christianity and Buddhism teach us that humility is a virtue.
I suggest that everyone read some key sections in the Dharmapada and Bible this summer.

From professor Chen Yu-Hsi, Ph.D, Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Fo Guang University Taiwan.

"Behave without arrogance, self-conceit and other egoist tendencies such as jealousy and an impulse to show off.
Respect others and show a genuine human interest in them without a desire to please or to impress.
Come up with an objective and honest understanding of our own strengths and weaknesses, with a realization that we are far from perfect and have a lot more to learn, to improve and to accomplish."

Web Link


9 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 13, 2015 at 6:40 am

"So if you want your kids to do really well in tests follow the Asian culture of homework, wrote learning, not thinking outside the box, and not innovating copying.

If you want your kids to do well in companies or in innovation follow the caucasian culture of playing, experimenting, socializing and studying a bit. "

Yes, yes, your stereotypical automaton Asian kid beaten down by his/her parents may struggle once all the structure of school is removed in early adulthood. The nerdy white kid with no social skills--remember, they exist too!--might meet a similar fate.

Of course, there are plenty of us Asians who don't fit that stereotype by a long shot. After all, if all Asians perform so horribly in the real world as you are insinuating, why are there so many of us who can afford to live in Palo Alto? And I mean people like me, who have succeeded in our careers in the U.S., not those who are bringing money in from overseas.



11 people like this
Posted by Community
a resident of Community Center
on May 13, 2015 at 7:58 am

The "stupid white girl" comments are a meme. So is " white girl problems". Nothing news here - both are demeaning and both are fairly widespread. Even more so in Cupertino.

The real question isn't whether some Asian parents have taught their children arrogance, but rather how many of these students think they really are "better" people because of their grades, class choices, and school admissions. They may have formed a very narrow internalized model of self-worth.

It happens. How widespread? unknown. It is one thing to encourage a kid to achieve and excel, but quite another to teach them that they will excel because of their race. And that success is defined so narrowly.

This does immense harm to the Asian kids themselves - it places an inordinate amount of their self worth in grades, classes, and school. And pits them in a gladiator-like competition with white kids, and with each other. Ultimately you will always find someone smarter - if you value yourself by something so shallow as grades, this becomes a huge, huge letdown when you find someone smarter.

What are signs that such an attitude exists: sometimes it is overt comments like "stupid white girl" memes. But also in the article above discusses "we" "us" "our culture" when discussing Asians. When discussing "those", and "others" you get a sense of who "they" are:


"Academic limitations can only hurt me and the many other students like me who honestly care about learning and thrive in school; it will not solve the problem of the "academic arms race." The students who don't know their limits or are misguided in their motives to pursue over-the-top endeavors will only find a way around these limitations – i.e., by taking additional AP courses online. They can only change if somebody personally talks to them about what is in their best interest."


So "me" and "students like me" care about learning, and "students who don't know their limits" or are "misguided" "they can only change" - notice the tone shift.

You are either like me, and a winner, or you are "them" and need to be told what is in your best interest.

It is internalized message that worth comes from grades, SAT, classes and achievement.

That it is conflated with being Asian is probably secondary, and an oversight. Unless it is the Asian parents who are teaching their kids that their self worth comes only from grades, SAT and class achievement.


15 people like this
Posted by A Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 13, 2015 at 8:05 am

Of course stereotypes are just that. However, there are real issues and problems here in our town as the result of, not only our basing our opinions of others on them, but also, the unfortunate truth that stereotypical behavior does occur. This negatively affects everyone, especially people who do not fit into it. Most Palo Altans struggle to not judge others by stereotypes, but when faced with behavior that fits into a stereotype, it becomes more challenging. Are we supposed to pretend someone is not behaving in that way? Ignoring it doesn't help.

My children have also been subjected to stereotyping, and it has been painful. They were not allowed into the homes of Chinese friends, not all, but some, because they are American. They have been assumed to be less intelligent because they did not attend math classes in the summer, but pursued their interests in other areas. In fact, they are no less intelligent, and very successful. They have taken different paths from some of their peers, who went for the above poster's somewhat limited model of success.

While her model appears narrow to me, and to some of the posters, I agree that it is her lack of concern when confronted with the needs, preferences, and situations of others in her community that appears to be a problem. While she is enjoying a system that strives to take her needs into account, she seems unable to take in that it must also strive to take the needs of her peers into account as well. This is one reason for its popularity. I hope she takes the time to learn about different ways of experiencing the world and other people, and that this enriches her and the people she encounters in her life.




16 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 13, 2015 at 8:10 am

" They were not allowed into the homes of Chinese friends, not all, but some, because they are American."

Please, "American" is not a race. You mean "white". There are plenty of us who are Asian but were born in the United States and grew up here. We're just as American as you are...right?


12 people like this
Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 13, 2015 at 8:11 am

Let me sum this up.

Racial tensions exists - both ways. The underlying tone by Asian posters like the author and 'Another' is one of superiority of there natural genetic gifts. Oppositely, the tension arises from white Americans as traditionally social development, playing nice in a community, helping neighbors, joining Boy Scouts ect, was part of the fabric of America. [Portion removed.]

Frankly it's Stanford's fault and other ivy leagues. They need diversity. They should be saying that they accept 100 A level students, 100 B level students, and 100 C level students. That's diversity. How many kids really switched on in high school? I was thrown out of much of my courses for being disruptive, barely finished my bachelors degree. But one best thesis for my PhD from one of the top universities.

High school means nothing. Today your bachelor degree means nothing. I had a hell of a lot of fun in high school and college and wouldn't change it for the world. AND no AP class needed, no extracurricular b.S.

Go have fun and you'll create your own path.

The god of all Silicon Valley Steve Jobs dropped out of REED? Didn't hurt him.

[Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 13, 2015 at 8:33 am

"The underlying tone by Asian posters like the author and 'Another' is one of superiority of there natural genetic gifts."

Uh, please re-read my posts, please.


21 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 13, 2015 at 8:35 am

What worries me most about this article, is the fact that since our demographics are changing as our school populations grow, that we are teaching and raising expectations to those of the highest achieving subset.

Those who are not high achieving, who are unable to keep up the arms race, who struggle to get Bs in one or more class, are now feeling and made to feel like second class citizens.

Carolyn Walworth has a different perspective and she spoke up. There are so many Carolyns in PAUSD who do struggle to keep their heads above water. They feel belittled by their best efforts. They feel guilty if they take time to hang out with friends, or even have a part time job. They feel guilty if they admit to feeling stressed even.

Our culture is such that the high achievers are the ones making the most noise. They protest at changes they consider is placing limitations on their desire to excel even though they will excel anyway. They protest because they feel they are not being heard. They protest because they are not the ones in charge running the schools - or that's how it comes across.

I don't worry about them as much as I worry about the Carolyns. I worry about those who struggle to get Bs. I worry about those who are afraid to ask a question in class because they get "the look" from the rest of the class and sometimes the teacher. I worry about those who fear they might not get into a State School because they are made to feel that they are not smart. I worry about those who just don't feel good enough.

We must do better at making the Carolyns feel smart, valued, and successful. This is very hard when it is amongst the students themselves are those treat others like second class students. This opinion piece does exactly that.


2 people like this
Posted by Hmm....
a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2015 at 8:41 am

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


20 people like this
Posted by Community
a resident of Community Center
on May 13, 2015 at 8:57 am

"Others resent losing the American fabric to play catch up to the Asian model of one-upmanship. "

- Not really. I haven't given up on the American fabric, community, (Scouts etc), and I don't buy into the Asian model of one-upmanship. There is no evidence that it even produces results. I think it is more a fear-driven approach to a world that views scarcity of resources. In fact, there are tons of good colleges, and good jobs; the model of one-upmanship is broken, and many of us can recognize this.

The motivation to learn is best internalized as a goal for itself, not a goal to beat someone else.


"The key is for the PAUSD and Ivy leagues to not just cater to the Asian model, but put value into social development as well. "


There you hit the nail on the head. The school has taken the easy way out by teaching to the highest-denominator, the most prepped, the most tutored kids. Some of the teachers are so lazy they sit in class and surf the web, confident that the Asian kids will get tutoring, or slave away all night to learn the material on their own. It is lazy teaching.

But the grade distribution still looks good, so nobody in the administration complains.

Who cares if they don't teach the material that will be needed for the test - the Asian kids will figure it out, and who cares about teaching the rest. It is a plague on our system, that some teachers don't teach to the class in front of them, they feel their role is to present the material in lecture, and assign mountains of homework. After all, "homework is an 'enrichment' which parents should be grateful for" (actual quote from actual teacher)

When the school district plays into the racial stereotype, and uses it to it's advantage to avoid the hard work of teaching everyone, then the gladiator games begin...


19 people like this
Posted by Paly family
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2015 at 9:03 am

@Paly Parent, I agree with you about how kids are made to feel like second-class citizens. We have rampant academic bullying that becomes very aggressive and overt in middle school, when socially immature overachievers make sure to put down anyone around them who they feel is not as smart as them, try to dominate the class discussion, laugh at others, etc. Ironically, the people they are putting down might be quietly successful but not aggressively so. In any event, academic bullying is not acceptable and needs to be called out so all kids can learn: parents need to complain loudly to teachers and administration about it. I am not suggesting that the author or any particular culture is part of this, I am just pointing out that there are many aspects to the issues that we face in our schools, and it seems that the academic bullying is part of the gladiator mentality of trying to belittle, dominate and overwhelm peers to accept a second-class status.


19 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 9:08 am

The trick isn't keep stars like Michelle down (who, by the way, I hear is a delightful person and classmate, from my much-less-high-achieving child), it is supporting and validating other kids in their ambitions.

It's funny to see people claiming the school doesn't do that - our experience is that they do fine. It's the PARENTS who freak out and convey their anxiety (directly or indirectly) to their students. They need, frankly, to do the opposite - affirmatively tell your kid that it is ok not to take the top lanes, not to take 7 APs, not to apply to Stanford, not to pad their resumes with extra-currics.

The influx of striving Asian/Indian families creates a greater need for this, since the less-striving kids worry that they are missing something, and some of the high-achieving kids do look down on the others (as their parents do). But that's high school. You combat that not by clamping down on high achievers, but by supporting and validating the various paths that all the kids take, most importantly, starting with you own.


18 people like this
Posted by Paly Sophomore
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 13, 2015 at 9:25 am

It amazes me that some of the posters on this website, presumably parents with children who simply cannot compete at the highest academic level, make so many blatantly racist comments about Asians. Yes, there are people who choose to speak in another language, and this may, understandably, cause frustration. But for these commenters to use these few individuals as an excuse to denigrate the entire Asian community is disgusting. The fact that these comments exist on this thread gives full credence to Michelle's article.

People who have claimed that their poor little children have been called "stupid blonde girls" are either erroneously interpreting an innocuous joke as a racial slur, or they're just straight making it up. This is a tactic used to divert attention away from the real problem - that some individuals hold unfair prejudice against Asians.

[Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 13, 2015 at 9:29 am

Do you think that the posts here may be given a very skewed description of the social environment at our high schools? The last few posts make it sound that academic achievement is the only thing that matters to kids, with those with the best grades viciously oppressing the miserable masses of B-students.

This differs from what I've heard from the local high school students I've spoken with. Just like at any high school, there are still "popular" kids, who, as expected, disproportionately are those who are physically attractive, outgoing, and good at sports. Kids do drink and experiment with drugs. People do go to parties. They also date and, gasp, get physically intimate.

The dystopian portrait presented here of our high schools-as-gulags seems a tad out of touch. Believe it or not, academic achievement is not the only thing on our kids' minds.



15 people like this
Posted by Appalled
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2015 at 9:29 am

[Portion removed.]

The author appears to be a nice young lady that any parent should hope their children grow to become. All she says is that she enjoys learning, manages to learn things outside of academics and schoolwork, juggles many tasks, has a loving family that does not pressure her to achieve and yet is a happy, balanced person. And what does she get instead?

Invectives, racial comments, taunting and the sort of behavior from commentators on this thread who ascribe motives of superiority etc etc to her and to Asians in general. The commentators who have written these comments must be ashamed. How many of them would write such nonsense if they had to disclose their real names? These commentators must realize that their inability to achieve or their unwillingness to work hard does not give them the right to demean those that have talent or the willingness to work.

[Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Scotty
a resident of Green Acres
on May 13, 2015 at 9:32 am

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Julie Parsonnet
a resident of Stanford
on May 13, 2015 at 9:43 am

First, I will not address the "race" issue other than to say I find many of the comments racist.
Second, I congratulate Michelle on having the strength and conviction to write her article. In doing so, she is giving to the community and contributing to an important area of discourse.

Now here are my questions for all.
If giving up 0 period and excess APs cost 5 students entry into their top school but prevented one death (or 10 hospitalizations), would it be worth it? I say yes. What if it cost 100 students entry into their top school but prevented one death? Still yes. I would venture to say that saving one life is worth EVERY Palo Alto student not getting into their top school. In fact, I imagine the majority of current students would sacrifice top tier colleges entirely if it could bring the four dead students back.

The reality is that giving up 0 period and cutting back on APs will likely not cost anyone admission to their favorite school. It might save some students from losing their best friends. We'll never know for certain but I am not averse to testing it. The adverse consequences of stress and lack of sleep are great. The adverse consequences of missing out on one's top choice college are miniscule.


Like this comment
Posted by What do you know?
a resident of Downtown North
on May 13, 2015 at 9:49 am

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


5 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 13, 2015 at 10:12 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Julie Parsonnet - If giving up 0 period and excess APs cost 5 students entry into their top school but prevented zero deaths and prevented 0 hospitalizations AND made non AP classes more intense and competitive AND totally distracted from discussion of real causes, would it be worth it?


7 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 10:17 am

@Slow Down - exactly ;-) You beat me to it.

Now that Measure A is passed, can we bring Zero Period back?


12 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 13, 2015 at 10:29 am

I think that yes of course it is right to support our B students as parents and tell them that they are still excellent students and they will do well with a couple of Bs.

The point is that our kids don't feel that we know what we are talking about. I get rolling eyes when I tell them that a B is fine, or that a State School, or even Foothill, is good. They are getting the message from school that this is not good. They feel second rate because they are not straight A students, because the school culture makes them feel this, not because of parental pressure. As parents, we can say a lot to help them, but if they don't believe us because we "don't know what it's really like at school", or because "things have changed since you were in high school", or even, "you just don't get it, I can't get a B and hold my head up in school, everyone will think I'm dumb".

As parents, we can support our kids, but it isn't our support that matters to them. At least for our Carolyns it isn't.


11 people like this
Posted by Brian Kaplan
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 10:43 am

he comments have strayed very far from the topic the author was trying to address. I am a Barron Park dad of two kids at Gunn. As I posted earlier, I do not agree with the zero period decision.

This was a decision not based on evidence, but on pressure exerted by a small group of vocal parents who are "trying" to do something to address the much more complicated issues of mental health and suicide. What's continues to be lost by those who so strongly endorse the "banning" of zero period is that this was a CHOICE for students. If these student who were choosing zero period were forced to do so by aggressive parents, then the real problem is the parents and not zero period. These hyper-competitive parents will just shift the focus to more tutoring, etc.

In direct response to Fred Astaire, I must say your argument that Gunn "would open themselves up to a lawsuit if they did not." is ridiculous.

See Web Link

Of course, parents can sue a school district about anything. Any lawyer representing the family would advise then that they need to prove a direct causal relationship between their student choosing (again, choosing) to take an early class and the resulting suicide. Not gonna happen.

Let's Get Real writes, [Harry Lee took] a "number of after school extracurriculars including a cycling club which might be why he wanted to take zero period." Never mind the parents have stated they do not believe stress was a factor. You might as well make an argument to ban the "cycling club" and other extracurriculars as, for all we know, this caused the student stress or occupied so much time, that the student was up late at night studying - hence sleep deprived.

Lastly, Another Dad, goes even a step further into the realm of the absurd. To say that "the large numbers of suicides at Gunn High could easily cause the school to be shut down permanently," is just laughable. Gunn will certainly continue on.

Removing "academic" zero period while leaving PE & and the morning broadcast class at Gunn is silly. Getting proper sleep and early rising are two different things. You might as well mandate that every parent sign a waiver affirming their child is getting the recommended amount a sleep. Wait a minute...I wonder if zero period critics would be appeased if they knew that these students were actually getting equal (if not more) sleep than their peers in majority (85%) who had chosen not to take a zero period. Sadly, my guess is not.

See Web Link

All the science being referenced is good reason for high schools to have a later start, but in no way should it be used to disallow those that choose to manage their sleep, homework, and life style from taking a zero period.

If you are a concerned parent, please attend to your own child's needs. If you don't like the public schools here, make other choices for your own kids. People seem very interested in helping other parents "parent" their children.

Lots of ranting here about Tiger Moms, hyper-competitiveness, my kid is made to feel bad, my kids' elementary school friends are now being shunning him, etc. Do your job; parent your kid. You set the tone. Explain your views on topics of concern; especially the value/love you place on them versus just their academic success.

Anti-zero period parents are concerned about kids. I get it. It just led to a very political decision that (as many, even in the anti-zero period camp, acknowledge) does very little to address the larger issues. Start by talking to your kid. Even if the school environment is a contributing factor to your kids' stress, you have primary responsibility, well above the school and the district, to help your teen manage that stress.

Thanks for listening,

Brian


7 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 10:48 am

@Paly Parent. A couple points - all teenagers eye-roll and ignore, but they do hear you. Your vocal support matters a lot.

The school certainly does need to validate that there are multiple paths to success. And they do; they can probably do more The peers do not always deliver the same message - but isn't that the nature of high school? Bad influences, "peer pressure", cliques, etc.?

Rather than clamping down on peer behavior - e.g., telling kids how many APs they can take, limiting choices - it seems better for the parents, community, and schools to validate and support the various paths to success our kids take. It has worked well for us.

BTW, we don't tell kids that B's make them an excellent student. That's not reality. We tell them if they tried their best, all things considered, then as the saying goes, "angels can do no more" and the grade is fine.


23 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2015 at 10:48 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Ironically, those who have artistic predisposition, are able to deal with ambiguity, think outside the box, question authority and long held orthodoxy, tend to be much more successful and happy in the long run: professionally, in relationships, and in their ability to get along with others. They are generally happier and more complete human beings. The academically intense and ultra ambitious students will not get their childhood back, and a childhood is immensely precious and important, even to the tiger students who don't think it is. The lack of a normal childhood that includes lazy days and non academic unschedules activities, including just naval gazing and dreaming, will come back to haunt them a bit later in life, and no Ivy league education will be able to make up for it or bring it back.


17 people like this
Posted by AlexDeLarge
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2015 at 11:13 am

Personally, I prefer Robert Frost to Ellen Pao. However, The Road Not Taken does not run through Palo Alto.


5 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 13, 2015 at 11:30 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@mauricio - "those who have artistic predisposition, are able to deal with ambiguity, think outside the box, question authority and long held orthodoxy, tend to be much more successful and happy"

I know you want that to be true, and it would be nice if it were true, but there is no data to show that it is true.


15 people like this
Posted by MoreAsianThanThou
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 13, 2015 at 11:37 am

Interesting perspective to add here - I spoke to a parent who is on an expat assignment in China with his kids. He felt that the Palo Alto Asian community is trying to be more Chinese than the Beijing community. It seems all the hyper competitiveness is more us than actual China. I guess the self-selection of people who made it here generates more of this competitive-gladiator aggression where it is not enough that I win, but the other guy must lose.

If I am smarter taking the upper lane, the people in the lower lane are not only dumber, but worse people.

He is concerned about bringing his kids to Palo Alto. Too much stress.


10 people like this
Posted by Hear Hear
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 13, 2015 at 11:59 am

Thoughtful piece written by a thoughtful student. This is a post adding to some of the others here that ask for respect in response to ALL student voices and not just the ones who tow our personal party line.


10 people like this
Posted by Julie Parsonnet
a resident of Stanford
on May 13, 2015 at 2:18 pm

@Slow Down and Fred.

Great question but we can never know the answer. Here is what we do know.

1. The Palo Alto community hasn't been terribly successful in keeping our kids healthy with our current strategy or lack thereof (4 deaths and 52 serious suicide threats is not a great record) .
2. Lots of kids in lots of schools without zero period classes to quite well getting into the colleges of their choice.
3. Lots of kids who don't get into the colleges of the choice also do quite very well in life. In fact, some kids who go to community college do quite well (imagine that!)
4. From a college application perspective, AP classes only help students to a point--more is not necessarily better. From a learning perspective, AP is not synonymous with either accelerated or good.
5. Sleep affects both stress and resilience.
4. Many PA students have admitted being extremely stressed and stress can be a major factor in suicide.

So lets stick to what we do know, make some changes based on informed expert judgment, and hope for the best. And if the best isn't good enough, we'll need to do more.


2 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 2:55 pm

@Julie - we did move the start time later - that's why *optional* zero period exists. Or at least it did, and no doubt will again, after the current craze moves along.

BTW, am I the only one who finds it odd that we only eliminated "academic zero period" - so kids who are sleep deprived due to PE, sports, and broadcasting are not at risk? Umm, ok.

As for AP classes, since neither you (nor anyone) seem to offer any relationship between AP classes and "stress," mental health, or suicide, how about we just leave that to the educators, students, and their parents?

Like you say, let's stick to what we know!


Like this comment
Posted by Speculating
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Back in the Day,

It was interesting to read about your (Nisei) second-generation Japanese friend who ultimately broke off your friendship. I'm wondering when this took place and if you are using "Nisei" in an historical sense, which would have been the younger, American-born generation of WWII. That generation was, generally, under thirty at the time of the war. I'm wondering about this, because you can't really think about that generation without considering the effects of WWII. If this friend grew up in California, or anywhere on the West Coast, her family would probably have been sent to an internment camp. The trauma of that experience should not be underestimated. This might have been the case for your friend's mother, in particular. Perhaps her reluctance to trust and interact with white Americans was due to that trauma. I'm not trying to justify the behavior of your friend's mother, but I suspect and speculate that there were real, historical traumas at play.


6 people like this
Posted by E. Jacobsen
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on May 13, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Here is a link to some data on youth suicide rates in the U.S. from 1999 to 2013 that may provide some helpful context to the overall discussion. It was helpful to me to get a perspective on where we sit in relation to the rest of the country.
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The basic test for racism in a statement or attitude is to change the ethnicity of the speaker and the target. Whether a group is numerically, socially, politically... dominant is irrelevant. For example, various countries in the world have competing ethnic groups that have stereotyped views of each other. Suppose there is a revolution in which the out-of-power ethnicity wins. Do their stereotypes now become "racist" and those of the ethnicity that lost cease to be "racist". This is not a rhetorical question: There are many in the US who believe that by definition nothing a minority member does or believes is racist.

For example for yourself (not discussion), apply this test to the below section of a comment from 5 hours ago, and see how you would rate it and then use it to guide how you think about other comments here.

"Paly Sophomore": "It amazes me that some of the posters on this website, presumably parents with children who simply cannot compete at the highest academic level, make so many blatantly racist comments about Asians. Yes, there are people who choose to speak in another language, and this may, understandably, cause frustration."


8 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2015 at 4:26 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

@slow down:there is no data that shows it isn't true. Over the last ten years ,I've been following with interest the post high school lives of a number of ultra competitive former students, peers of my children at the PAUSD. In their case, and I believe in many cases of such students, this is definitely true. Their private lives are a mess, they are quite unhappy, and some of them don't even do so well in their careers. My children, nuanced, artistic and worldly, refused to be hyper competitive academic gladiators, and were encouraged by their parents not to be. Shockingly(sarcasm here), although they didn't attend Stanford, MIT or Ivy league colleges, they are both successful financially, and much more importantly, happy in their private lives. I don't consider their refusal to ever set foot in Palo Alto again a huge setback.


10 people like this
Posted by Interesting Discussion
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 13, 2015 at 4:50 pm

While it's clearly not the case for all academically high-performing students, in my role as manager and colleague, I continually see those who have done extremely well academically and attended the "good" schools, have a harder time dealing with ambiguity, thinking outside of the box and most important, knowing how to behave socially in such a way that will lead to success.

Frankly, most of the successful people at my company with whom I interact (not that it matters but if we're tracking "success", my company is routinely voted one of the top places to work and is highly desirable for college grads and all others) are not those who had the best grades, etc., rather it's those who didn't attend the top schools and who know how to handle undefined situations. They understand that academic success is important, but it's not what's going to make you succeed. Many of these former "star student" are struggling because they can't function outside of being graded at school and they don't think creatively when faced with a problem.

As a parent, I'm often torn on the approach for our own children. We want them to do well at school but also want them to be well-rounded and have time to play. That means sometimes pulling back from this over-competitive culture at school. It's a challenge since that approach isn't always respected here.


8 people like this
Posted by Back in the Day
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Speculating: my Japanese friend ( nisei to her and her mother means first generation American of pure Japanese descent) were both born in 1984. At that time, there were a LOT of Japanese immigrants in California, particularly in Cupertino, where we grew up. They were inflating the prices of homes back then, which also also caused a bubble, though not as big as this one. That bubble broke in 1991, I believe, but it was nowhere the size of the current one, because the Chinese immigrants vastly outnumber the Japanese ones who came here in the late 70s and early 80s.

Another big difference is that the Japanese were always very polite and friendly, if somewhat exclusionary. My father, who spoke Japanese fluently, told me time and time again to be wary of this friendship. While riding the bullet train, several times over three decades, he had overheard Japanese men telling " American Jokes", such as "How many Americans does it take to change a light bulb?"

Somehow, I always thought our friendship rose above race--it did for me.


5 people like this
Posted by Julie Parsonnet
a resident of Stanford
on May 13, 2015 at 5:55 pm

@Fred.

I listened to an NPR story recently that basically said people are incapable of changing their minds. I hope NOT to be that way. So let me first say that I agree with you.. we should leave things to the educators (I'm not sure about leaving it to students and their parents who are often too self-interested).

As a mother of a Gunn student,I find it hard not to see that more APs lead to more stress. I hear so many complaints from parents and from kids. As an epidemiologist, though, I know personal observations are not always true. So I searched for the data you would like. ChallengeSuccess at Stanford compiled information from 20 studies on APs. In turn, their work appears to be heavily weighted towards one research group at Harvard (Sadler, Sonnert, Kai and Klapferstein). ChallengeSuccess reports that studies did not find that students taking many APs were more stressed than those who take just one (they don't say how they compare to none). On the other hand, the ChallengeSuccess group said 'Rarely do we see students who can handle 4 or 5 AP courses at once who are still able to participate in extracurricular activities and get the sleep they need, but setting general caps may not work as well as helping each student find the right courses and challenge levels that will allow for optimal learning". A different study from Cal found that "while A.P. exam scores are strongly related to student success, the number of A.P. classes that students take in high school bears almost no relationship to college performance." My conclusion from this is that the PAUSD approach is well-reasoned. They are not capping APs but they are requiring serious discussions about balancing academics and having a rich, healthy, teenage life.


9 people like this
Posted by Back in the Day
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2015 at 6:02 pm

BTW, I seem to remember an adage in the tech industry about being wary of anyone with perfect grades, or something to that effect. I would imagine it means they do not do well in real life.

I remember as a child of the eighties and nineties in Cupertino that many Japanese mothers locked their sons in their rooms after school, where they studied until the wee smallsThey were not allowed to eat dinner with the family, but rather ate dinner while studying in their rooms. The missed childhood often hit them by or before age 18, when they would remove the screens from their bedroom windows and sneak out after the parents went to bed. When they were caught, all fiery hell broke loose and the whole neighborhood would be awakened by the shouting and door slamming.

I am supposing the Chinese mothers do something very similar, because once the Chinese children in our neighborhood now start preschool, they are never seen outdoors again.


3 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 7:08 pm

@Brian Kaplan

Zero period was eliminated because the medical authorities in Palo Alto stated, in writing, in a public forum, that they discourage too-early start times, since they could lead to depression (and suicide).

Neither the school district nor you are in a position to contradict the recommendations of medical authorities. There is no choice. When the doctors say "it's too dangerous, don't do it" then the school -- and all students -- are obligated to follow those recommendation.

It doesn't matter if students want choice. They don't get that choice. Because the local medical experts have said NO.

That's called "the law" and we are obligated to follow it, despite our personal preferences. It's a great lesson for the kids too.


9 people like this
Posted by A Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 13, 2015 at 7:14 pm

Another, Do not put words into my post. I said American because that is why my kids were not allowed into their friends' homes. You may discriminate because someone is one race or another, but that doesn't give you the privilege of exchanging your words for mine.


20 people like this
Posted by Back on the Day
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2015 at 8:39 pm

I honestly do not think the problem is with Asians or Asian-AMERICANS in general, but with people from the People's Republic of China. They bring some unsavory cultures with them --such as the culture of winning at any cost ( such as cheating); the culture of superiority; the culture of "we are here to take over your country, we can outnumber you"; the culture of "we cn buy your country out from under you"; " we are too good to talk to you"; etc, etc. This offends most if not all Americans.

The Vietnamese, Tibetans, Cambodians, Laotians, Thai, we're all very happy to be here and become citizens. They made very good contributions and are excellent citizens. People from China seem to hate being here, put down and insult American citizens at every opportunity, and act like invaders, interlopers even, who are disgusted by the natives. That makes it hard to like them.

However, if they have no plans to become citizens, why do they stay?


10 people like this
Posted by FWIW
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 13, 2015 at 9:06 pm

I want to defend "A Gun Parent" whom used the term "American." It was not so long ago that people who immigrated to the US and wanted to be a part of this country readily did so and became "American." It was only after some immigrants decided they should come here and not only retain their country of origin's culture, but also force everyone else to acknowledge it and accept it as well. That's when the "Italian-American" and "Mexican-American" and Chinese-American" became politically correct.

Decide whether you are American or Italian, Mexican, Chinese, or whatever. But don't insist on being "Chinese-American," and "American" at the same time. "Americans" call this country home, express their allegiance to it, and don't split their citizenship/loyalty/nationality between multiple countries.

People who only identify with one country, the United States of America, should not be chastised for calling themselves "American," no matter the color of their skin.

I make an exception with African-Americans, who were largely brought to this country against their will. I will refer to them in whatever way they want me to.


5 people like this
Posted by Speculating
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2015 at 9:31 pm

Back in the Day,

Thanks for clarifying. Your posts make something even clearer for me, which I felt when reading the original post: We, of course, experience different generations, versions, and self-definitions of "Asian American." I actually found it difficult to relate to the author, the Gunn senior. I was never interested in STEM in high school, college, or graduate school. As an Asian American, I always felt the pressure to be interested in those subjects, but I always knew the STEM fields were not my thing. All my degrees are in the Arts and Humanities. As an undergraduate, I chose a relatively unknown liberal arts college that "changes lives." I turned down the Ivy my older sibling attended. I chose to pursue what appealed to me most. I'm glad I had parents who never interfered with my interests, even when I picked a major that is something of a nightmare for most parents. I look back now, and I see my parents gave me the gift of choice, and I know that's the same gift I need to hand down to my kid like an inheritance.


4 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 10:42 pm

@Julie Parsonnet - then it sounds like we agree. Let's have the educators, in collaboration with students and parents, figure out what's right for the kids on an individual basis. Which is the way it has been for as long as I know at Gunn (I have one college junior and two others still in high school).

FWIW, our current Gunn senior finds her non-AP courses (Physics and English) meaningfully more stressful and less enjoyable than her AP courses (Econ, Psych, and Calc). On the other hand, she steered clear of APUSH, which she thought was too much reading for her. Our older kid loved APUSH and is now a history major; she took her first AP course sophomore year (Spanish) which worked out great. Our experience is that kids are different, courses are different, and one size fits all restrictions are neither necessary nor appropriate, esp in a district like ours that tries to deliver individualized learning programs.


9 people like this
Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 13, 2015 at 11:02 pm

I find offensive the belief that one ethnicity is superior to another in terms of I.Q. and academic achievement. Such talk should not even come up in the first place. How about having options for students yet encouraging a congenial, supportive school community instead of me, me, me, I am so superior to you. The poor manners of bragging by some students who are convinced of their superiority (especially on social media) is stunning to me nowadays (I am middle-aged).
Charity, courtesy, modesty - all go by the waysides.
The paper record can be doctored - a sad thing taken to extremes by some now.
Self-reliance, an American value -- how about that?
For those who are so certain they are superior and infallible, how about we take into account years of parents requiring, arranging and paying for costly prepping and tutoring? One's SAT scores can be significantly raised with artificial means (extensive, costly tutoring), so I am guessing similar contrived efforts can assist with AP courses and other challenging courses. How about we let the students do their own work and not rely on their parents' elaborate arrangements. I think we'd find a range of "achievement" from all types and ethnicities of students and that would be fine...


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 13, 2015 at 11:09 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@concerned parent - do you only find it offensive when we talk about asians having superior levels of achievement, or do you also find it offensive how to talk about the latino and african american performance gap?


2 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on May 14, 2015 at 3:29 am

It is good that we are speaking from our hearts

I predict by 2050, we all will have one passport and can live anywhere on earth. The world population will be 10 billion.

Honestly, each of us have things to contribute to society. When I listen to children that are here, the look may be from different regions of the world, they are thinking similar.

Let us get along; respect each other; learn for each other.

We made it to Palo Alto, top ten communities in the USA if not world.

Let us get along!


6 people like this
Posted by Back in the Day
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2015 at 7:09 am

My own father was from the Netherlands originally, and became a citizen. When he registered me for school, he was asked what ethnicity I was, other than just Caucasian. He was insulted and loudly replied, "American!" The registrar kept repeating the question and he continued replying that I was American. She finally got the point and let it be.

However, I know realize we were coming up on a census year--1990-- and the info was probably needed for demographics.

I think we know how the PRoC immigrants will answer this in 2020.


5 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2015 at 7:48 am

I hope any new policies from PAUSD will make ALL kids comfortable in their choices. We should not limit academic pressure to make a larger group feel better at the expense of a smaller group.

I keep hearing the argument that it is better for the majority of students to limit academic stress/achievement. It is the same as saying we should limit gay rights because the majority is not gay.


6 people like this
Posted by Brian Kaplan
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2015 at 9:05 am

I fully realize that "Another Dad" and I are having a side conversation.

I would be happy to meet this Dad for a coffee and try to come to some shared perspective. I have said before that allowing anonymous posting contributes to a very toxic environment in these types of forums. There have been 146 posts (as I write this) and only Doug Moran and I have been willing to use our real names. Sad.

OK, here goes:

"Another Dad" have you ever read the "August 2014 policy statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics on school start times"?

This is the report that the Statement of Health Professionals on School Start Times in Palo Alto March 26, 2015 is predicated on.

I would invite you to cite anything you find there that is relevant to a discussion of parent/student choice when it comes to later school start times.

I fully agree with the policy statement. The majority of students greatly benefit with a later school start. My daughter (sleeping now at 7:47a) is just one of numerous examples.

Insufficient sleep is the issue being addressed - see Web Link. This is a real problem and the evidence seems clear that most students benefit from a later start time (defined as later than 8am).

When the August 2014 policy statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics was published, they found that "According to the US Department of Education statistics for 2011–2012,49 approximately 43% of the over 18 000 public high schools in the United States currently have a start time before 8:00 AM"

Gunn and Paly were in the 43% up until about 2012 when Gunn shifted from a 7:55 to 8:25a and Paly shifted from 7:50 to 8:15a the year before - see Web Link.

So we can at least agree that a later start time is good thing for a majority of students.

Let's take a look at the letter signed by the local medical folks - Web Link

The signers write, "We agree with this conclusion and recommendation and urge that our high schools begin no earlier than 8:30 am for all students."

So, let's track this backwards. The American Academy of Pediatrics sees 43% of high school starting before 8am and knows that a vast majority of students benefit when there is a school-wide later start time (8:30am or later). So, they publish a policy statement imploring high schools to shift to a later start time. The issue they are addressing is sleep deprivation. They can't mandate students are in bed and asleep at a certain time. Nor can they/we mandate that every students is getting the optimal 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep

So they write, "The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes insufficient sleep in adolescents as a public health issue, endorses the scientific rationale for later school start times, and acknowledges the potential benefits to students with regard to physical and mental health, safety, and academic achievement. The American Academy of Pediatrics lends its strong support to school districts contemplating delaying school start times as a means of optimizing sleep and alertness in the learning environment and encourages all school administrators and other stakeholders in communities around the country to review the scientific evidence regarding school start times, to initiate discussions on this issue, and to systematically evaluate the communitywide impact of these changes (eg, on academic performance, school budget, traffic patterns, teacher retention).

Both Paly and Gunn are out of compliance with the policy recommendation - though Gunn by just 5 minutes and Paly by 15min.

Let's go back to the pediatricians and other medical experts. They see sleep deprivation in teens on a regular basis and know this to be a real issue for a vast majority of students. Along comes a policy recommendation spearheaded by a new School Board Member to eliminate the option for students at Gunn to take (ONLY WITH THEIR PARENTS PERMISSION) a zero period class.

The anti-zero period is energized and puts energy into getting a bunch of local doctors to sign off on a letter supporting the elimination of zero period. There is no time for those of us who think elimination of this choice is a rash decision not based on any direct evidence but on fear that "something has to be done to stop these suicides (my quote/interpretation)." The students tried to gather actual evidence that zero period students (15% of the total population) were getting equal if not more sleep than their peers. Many student stories came forth that having the option to take zero period actually reduces their stress (as is the case with my son).

There has been no study/research on whether there are differences in students willing to wake up early and take classed as it relates to sleep deprivation, stress, and suicide. If so, please share!

We do have the one data point that a Gunn student who committed suicide was taking a zero period class (as well at cycling, etc.). I don't know anything about this family or the student, his sleep patterns, or his stress. All I can go on is the parents own statements that they did not believe stress was a factor.

So this all comes down to a discussion of when government (or authority) should act when evidence exits (or strong beliefs) that the individual will not act in his or her own best interest. People who support the elimination of zero period believe action must be take to protect individuals from making a bad decision for themselves or those under their care.

This is where the whole debate gets a bit crazy. There seems to be a strong belief that their or certain parents who would not act in their child's best interest. These parents seemed to be viewed by the anti-zero period crowd as hyper-competitive and pushing their kids too hard to succeed (which around here typically means building the student's resume that will get them into Stanford or Harvard). This is where we sadly get connected to racial stereotypes of Asian-Americans. There seems to be a concern that these parents (or parents like them) would not act in their child's best interest.

I can only speak to my experiences with my kids. For us, my son has handled zero period quite well. He loves it. He gets enough sleep and is certainly not stressed out (which I admit is a real issue for many high schoolers).

If there was evidence that some percentage of parents who signed off on their child taking zero period did so knowing their kid was not getting enough sleep or was already super stressed out, I would be fine with the decision to eliminate zero period. I am not a libertarian. There are certainly times when government needs to step in to protect the individual from himself. Take the motorcycle helmet law as one of countless examples. My frustration is that this decision to impact a small minority of students (15%) was made without really understanding the nature of the circumstances of each family that had made a zero period decision for their child. This was frankly a very easy decision. The much larger issue affects the 85% of students as well as these 15% who are dealing with too much homework, too much stress, and not enough emotional support.

One red-herring that must be addressed in this debate was the notion that "students are not mature enough to make these decisions." etc. I saw this all over the place. For example, even one of the doctors signed with the following:

Stephanie Lai, M.D. Pediatrician, Palo Alto Medical Foundation
I understand the desire to respect children's need for choice and autonomy. However, this does not mean that we should allow children to make choices for themselves that are unhealthy. For instance, I am sure that given the choice, there are 14 year olds that would choose to start driving. However, we know that younger drivers are more likely to get into car accidents, so we impose restrictions on them ­ we make them wait until they are at least 15.5 years old and go through a graduated license process. By the same token, we know that early start times negatively impact children's sleep and well being. Why do we continue to give them the option to make an unhealthy and unsafe choice with a zero period?

Really this is quite unbelievable. It is amazing that the organizers of the letter allowed this comment to be included. It shows a total lack of knowledge about the situation at hand and the role that parent choice played.

So, the anti-zero period crowd should just have been forthright and said, "We don't trust the parents (as a group) of zero period kids to make a good decision for their child." I would have wanted to see some evidence that zero period parents were not making an informed decision about their child's well being when they signed off on zero period, but even so, I would have been more accepting of this generalization than the assertion that zero period is just plain bad, end of story, for every kid.

I don't really have a dog in this fight. My son graduates and will be free to set his own schedule in college. G-d knows I did not want to take early classes when I went to college, but to each his own. My daughter would never have taken a zero period class as would 85% of the other Gunn students.

Best,

Brian


p.s. offer to have coffee still stands.


5 people like this
Posted by GoCougars
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2015 at 10:05 am

Lauren John comments about assigning Steve Jobs' biography to give students some perspective on the high-school and college experience of someone they have heard of. Another helpful perspective might be the new autobiography of Bill Kreutzman (Paly '65) who became a professional musician with the Warlocks his senior year in high school. It is titled 'Deal.'


5 people like this
Posted by A Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 14, 2015 at 10:50 am

Brian Kaplan, I've tried to follow your logic, but I'm left with two things: One,you advocate for a general rule on behalf of just one person. There are a lot of people whose lives are affected by what time school starts. Two,we already have more than ten students whose lives are lost, and many more who are struggling with serious mental health issues. None of the parents of these students intentionally forced their children into a situation where the results would be so dire. I believe we have zero parents in this district who would choose these outcomes for their children. This is why the adults responsible for setting rules for our students have to consider things like medical experts' advice, research, stuff like that. Many people, including the author above, have personal opinions about what is best for them. Our district is best served by decisive, informed, educated adults, rather than these.


1 person likes this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2015 at 11:34 am

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 14, 2015 at 2:29 pm

TWO-HUNDRED-AND-EIGHTY-EIGHT PEOPLE--students, parents, grandparents, alums, doctors, LMFTs, lawyers, working people, engineers, professors, teachers, rabbis, an Oscar-winner and the chief health strategist at Google--have signed an "Open Letter to the School Board," asking for immediate action to bring a healthier, more forgiving life to our high schools.

To read the letter and consider signing, visit:

www.savethe2008.com


4 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2015 at 4:32 pm

@Brian Kaplan

I realize you believe strongly in what you say, but again, this is a question of the district's legal liability.

The school's attorneys are almost certainly advising Max McGee that he must, mandatorily, follow the no-zero-period rule. Otherwise the district is opening itself up to massive and crushing lawsuits should (god forbid) another student commits suicide.

I realize that you might not understand how liablity law works in these cases. You are speaking from a perspective of science (maybe) and emotion (maybe) but these aren't the controlling factors.

The controlling factor is legal liability and the demands of the insurance companies that insure the school district. The will see, rightly so, that the open letter from the Palo Alto pediatrician group puts the district in a very dangerous position. They MUST follow those recommendations, or they will be seen as negligent by a jury in event of a lawsuit.

And yes, such a lawsuit COULD shut down the school. Absolutely could do it.

And no I'm not going to "sit down and have coffee" with you. If my anonymity bothers you, sorry.


5 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 14, 2015 at 5:10 pm

I'd say there's more chance of a meteorite shutting down the school.


4 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 14, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Another dad - can you point to an example where a liability lawsuit caused a public school to shut down?


15 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2015 at 6:03 pm

It's really important when you come across a negative experience in your life, you don't associate that negative experience with a certain race. There are crazy competitive parents of all races in this town. Perhaps, certain cultures might sometimes share a more similar looking crazy, but just remember that crazy affects all races equally.


6 people like this
Posted by Mixed Race Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2015 at 9:12 pm

My mother is Indonesian, my father was Dutch. They met and married in Indonesia, but upon moving to the U.S. in the early 60s, they began the process for becoming US citizens. In those days, dual citizenship was not allowed, so you HAD to choose.

My husband's mother was Filipino, his father German-American. They met and married in the Phillippines, but after becoming a bride, my mother-in-law was a citizen within two years.

I have friends from the Netherlands and Belgium who have become dual citizens of the U.S. And their home countries.

Neighbors from China have told my husband ( who is often mistaken for a Latino), that China is trying to steal and seize the earnings of its wealthier citizens, so they must come to the U.S. to hide their money. They say the best way to do that is to buy two or more houses. That way China cannot get at the money!

Sounds cheesy and paranoid to me, BUT if this is true, why not become citizens? Many of these people admit to having taken out large loans and then absconding with this money and leaving China. Now the Central Bank of China has vowed to force these people to return and ready the debt or face prison there ( probably for life). Wouldn't the best protection from this be to become an American citizen? I realize there is no dual citizenship agreement with China, but if the immigrant Chinese are so fearful of their country, would it not be in their best interest to become citizens?


4 people like this
Posted by Another Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2015 at 9:29 pm

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by M.T.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 14, 2015 at 10:49 pm

We relocated from Hong Kong to Bay Area five years ago because my husband got a work opportunity here. We wanted to live in Palo Alto as it is a vivid city. We stayed here, and later got our first son. We worked hard and we paid taxes here (which is such a big difference when comparing to hong kong' insanely low tax rate). We are waiting for our green cards got approved.

We wanted to stay in U.S. And we are not those Chinese who hide money by buying houses. And we are not those people who would like to invade culture here. Not all Asians are the same. Not all Chinese are the same.

This article and comments indeed shock me. I have a 3 year old son who will be in PAUSD soon. I thought that this is a diversified community. Is that Asians or Chinese got labeled here? I hope not. I hope that my son will be called by his name instead of being known as "that Asian" or "that Chinese".


11 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2015 at 10:53 pm

@M.T.

Elementary school in Palo Alto is a really good experience. The concerns are really more high school, and even then, I think the local schools are actually more accepting than many places.

I have many criticisms of the local schools, but the social environments in the elementary schools are not one of them. Enjoy.


3 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2015 at 11:25 pm

@Fred,

" Our experience is that kids are different, courses are different, and one size fits all restrictions are neither necessary nor appropriate, esp in a district like ours that tries to deliver individualized learning programs."

And that's what I don't like about our district. Some families are more equal than others when it comes to "delivering individualized learning programs". :-( Certain people can make life hell if they don't like you.


4 people like this
Posted by Another Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2015 at 11:56 pm

The Paly Voice is reporting that a student was dismissed from the AP Biology test.
The College Board was contacted and her test scores were dismissed.

The expensive ******* test prep schools use many previous College Board AP tests (previous SAT tests too), and instruct their students to memorize patterns and sequences of answers, since the tests are recycled over the years.

My kids told me the tests are bunk and do not reflect actual knowledge of a subject. They only prove how good someone is at memorizing test answers.

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by A White guy who can dance
a resident of Barron Park
on May 15, 2015 at 5:32 am

Yes, people stereotype in this country. I feel your exact pain.


11 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 15, 2015 at 7:40 am

"This article and comments indeed shock me. I have a 3 year old son who will be in PAUSD soon. I thought that this is a diversified community. Is that Asians or Chinese got labeled here? I hope not. I hope that my son will be called by his name instead of being known as "that Asian" or "that Chinese"."

We have had a great experience in our elementary school with our children (we are Asian, but not immigrants). The hostility found in some of the more unhinged posts here is nowhere to be found. Yes, there are lots of immigrant families from China, Korea, Taiwan, India, etc. And contrary to the stereotype promoted here of antisocial Asian automatons, these first generation parents do actively volunteer in the classroom and in school events, and attend school functions. Many have mentioned to me that they chose Palo Alto instead of places like Fremont or Cupertino, because they did want more diversity. The children are happy, and friendships cut across ethnic lines. And contrary to what some have posted here, all the kids speak English to each other. Even those recently arrived from Asia.

[Portion removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 15, 2015 at 7:51 am

I would like to add that even in high school, there are only a subset of Asians who act like this.

I know many students and parents who are Asian who are truly shocked by the subset of those who fall into the tiger mom/cub category. To those who want to integrate and are shocked by what they are reading here, please understand that we are only speaking anecdotally by what we have experienced from this subset. If you follow the cliché, when in Rome, and, actions speak louder than words, then you will not be included in the subset and neither will your kids.

The typical Asian tiger mom/cub does exist, but so does the Asian family who integrate into the wonderful diversity of our schools.


4 people like this
Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 15, 2015 at 8:02 am

[Portion removed.]

Maybe there is something to educational ability? Just as there is no musical aptitude? Why are we trying to make this an even playing field?

Some kids are good at sports, some at maths, some at music, some at cooking, some at all of these things. It doesn't matter until the colleges say they only care about getting the kids who do everything well. Then it's an arms race to produce kids like that "perfect sheep".. Change Stanford's admissions to be more diverse (beyond color) and you'll fundamentally improve this toxic high school environment.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 15, 2015 at 10:50 am

@Bunyip, I don't understand your reasoning. Stanford had room for 2144 out of 42,487 applicants this season. It will be just as competitive no matter what criteria are used, unless the criteria become such that fewer students want to go there. Anyone who wants different admissions standards can choose a different school. There are 20 million students in college. Nobody has to be a genius. Unless that's the standard you accept for yourself.


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Posted by M.T.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2015 at 11:13 am

Thanks @parent, @Another, @A White Guy Who Can Dance, @Paly Parent. Your comments have made me more relieved. This aritcle written by Michelle is the second episode of "The sorrows of young Palo Altans" written by Carolyn. What I learnt is studying at Palo Alto is very competitive from Carolyn. And now the concerns about diversity and racism from Michelle.

I have been talking to parents, teachers and Palo Altan natives lately. From what I learnt from them and also from some of the comments here, there are some very competitive parents / students and there are also chill out and relaxing parents / students. Maybe there are more competitive ones but my son is only three so I could only hear from the others instead of seeing them by my own eyes. Indeed, everyone is different. Everyone has their own talents. Some students could perform better under stress and some could barely stand for stress.

But there is one previous comment about high school student being called as stupid to take AP Chemistry. I think it's really really bad. especially once-upon-friends said so. It's bullying.

Though it's only five years I have been living here, I like Palo Alto because of the diversity, trees, downtown and Stanford Shopping Center which got sprinkles, pink berry and chipotle all-in-one-place! Hope that the diversity will be kept going..


18 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 15, 2015 at 11:19 am

mauricio is a registered user.

I find it fascinating that comments that suggest there is anti Chinese racism in Palo Alto never get deleted, but comments that describe overt unfriendly behavior by Chinese immigrants toward non Chinese residents are immediately deleted. How can this issue ever be tackled and discussed if only one side is allowed to be heard?


3 people like this
Posted by zero gone
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Zero period should be a mute point if the school is moving to block schedule. The block schedule calls for longer classes and thus would make the zero period classes have to start even earlier. End of zero period, period.


3 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 5:26 pm

@M.T.,

I would go one further and say that although our high schools have problems, and we have to solve them, I have more hope for this community than I would anywhere else. This is an awesome place for so many reasons, and our schools have serious problems for so many reasons we must fix. It is worth it to fix, especially for this great community.

I'm on the other side of town so we probably won't cross paths, but good luck!


8 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 5:29 pm

@Bunyip,

Changing Stanford won't change our high school one iota.

Hiring a management firm to come in and root out lying conniving CYA people who are the type that create drama and destroy organizations, reorganize, and make sure we have a well-functioning team in the district office to help McGee would, though.


Like this comment
Posted by Need
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2015 at 9:48 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2015 at 9:40 am

@M.T.
"Some students could perform better under stress and some could barely stand for stress."

Students have very different learning styles, that is very true, especially those who tend to be creative have difficult constantly sitting still at a desk and doing what Sir Ken Robinson calls "low=grade clerical work."

I think attitudes about stress probably need updating in our district if we are to help our students. I think everyone intrinsically recognizes that some stress is good -- without gravity, our muscles would waste away -- but it turns out that even our attitudes about stress are important for whether stress is good or bad. If you didn't hear this program, it is well worth listening to or getting the book: (The Upside of Stress by a Standfor psychologist):
Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 16, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

From USA Today - "A coalition of Asian American groups filed a federal complaint against Harvard University Friday alleging the school engaged in "systemic and continuous discrimination" against Asian Americans during its admissions process.

More than 60 Chinese, Indian, Korean and Pakistani groups came together for the complaint, which was filed with the civil rights offices at the justice and education departments. They are calling for an investigation into Harvard and other Ivy League institutions that they say should stop using racial quotas or racial balancing in admission."

full article here:
Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2015 at 2:50 pm

There's a similar article in the Wall Street Journal: Web Link

Are Asian-American students overworking themselves to make up for Ivy League discrimination against high-achieving Asian-American students?


1 person likes this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 16, 2015 at 6:09 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

It's good news/bad news. Good news is that Asians should deservedly get more access to the top tier schools, and they may not have to work so hard to be above and beyond qualified. Bad news is fewer spaces for everyone else, so even more competition to match Asian achievers.


14 people like this
Posted by person
a resident of Barron Park
on May 16, 2015 at 8:54 pm

I think this issue of racism would be solved if race, gender, religion, etc. were not used for college admissions, as colleges in California have done. Personal background cannot be changed, so why race is even considered in college admissions is such a shame. Nobody is hired based on their race, so why do colleges accept students based on their race? America is supposed to fight racism, but it sure doesn't show in the admissions process.


8 people like this
Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 17, 2015 at 10:21 am

Web Link
"China Hit by Another SAT Cheating Scandal"
This is one reason why Harvard and other schools have holistic admissions policies.


6 people like this
Posted by Unbeliever
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 17, 2015 at 8:30 pm

I have a hard time believing the stories of Adian quotas in universities. If you go to ANY of them, you will see a majority of Asians. Janet Napolitano has defied Jerry Brown by refusing to adhere to the law that states admission to the UC system is to give top priority to qualified CA residents. She has been giving top priority to residents of China,my hose government pays for them to get an advanced degree from an American school. She has threatened to privatize the UC system if Jerry Brown forces her to comply with the law, thus raising tuition even higher. Ms Napolitano wants the higher tuition that foreigners must pay!

[Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 17, 2015 at 10:17 pm

Unbeliever, well, for starters you could read this article: Web Link

And you're confusing Asian Americans with "foreigners". Unfortunately, that can be a common mistake.


6 people like this
Posted by To Marc Vincenti
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 18, 2015 at 2:01 am

To Marc Vincenti,

We have about 4,000 high school students in PAUSD. Let's assume most of them have two parents. 4,000+8,000=12,000 people who have a current stake in this discussion. Your 288 supporters seems like a VERY unimpressive number in that context.

Why so few? Your web site has been up for some time now. Who are you speaking for?


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Posted by careful
a resident of College Terrace
on May 18, 2015 at 8:27 am

Unbeliever,
You are also confusing the situation at the UC schools with the private universities that are listed in the lawsuit.


2 people like this
Posted by Unbeliever
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 18, 2015 at 1:26 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Terry
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 19, 2015 at 12:55 am

[Post removed.]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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