John recently blogged last week about a recent SJ Mercury article talking about Asian Americans and the high-stress environment of Mission San Jose High School, in Fremont CA. While the link — and the corresponding CNN article asking the world if Asian kids were really smarter — had its share of stats gathering and experts talking, what there wasn’t a lot of was actual opinions from students themselves. We received a bunch of eloquent responses from MSJ students last week, which brings a different light: that the pressure is a positive outcome, exaggerated in the media and merely an unpleasant by-product of all the accomplishments of their school, like how the public school is ranked 60th in the nation.
The hyper-achieving, nerd-school stereotype exists because it’s in many ways true, but the media has decided to focus only on the negative side of it. Is attending a “normal” high school somehow better or healthier? Schools where only two-thirds of the student body can be reasonably be expected to show up to school every day, where only a handful of students graduate, let alone go to college, schools with serious gang problems and high rates of teen pregnancy? By ignoring the hard work and achievements of the students in favor of writing a juicy story with a gratuitously racist title, the media too often do a disservice to the students (and the faculty!) of MSJ.
From Sophia, via her blog:
The stress and pressure was definitely there, but I saw it as a good thing because it motivated me to work harder and be more involved. Although, I’m not going to lie, I still cringe every time people talk about grades and competition … So I guess the Mission environment did affect me in a way, but whatever, it’s something I can deal with. If anything, learning how to not let all the pressure and expectations get to me gave me the confidence to take my life in my own hands and question what I really want out of my life (which is why I still have no idea what I want to major in). Everyone knows that stress is bad, but there’s stress everywhere, and at Mission at lot of it just happens to come from academic pressure. In other places stress comes from crime, poverty, or even popularity contests, but you don’t see headlines with “Lots of teen pregnancy, lots of stress for Latino students.”
… When students at Mission graduate and get out of the Fremont/Bay Area bubble, they’ll discover what the real world is like, and it’ll be tough for some to adjust. But at least they will, and they’ll grow up just like I’m still growing up and learning, and realize for themselves what is really worth more in life: grades or LIVING. Until then, the national competition to get into college is predicted to peak this year and then settle, and generations of Asian Americans with less culturally conservative parents are reaching high school age, as current high school students learn their own limits and relax… and life goes on.