Am I The Worst Asian American Parent Ever?

school bus lot
With all the recent focus on Tiger Moms and dads, along with almost everything I find lately on the internet, I can’t help but wonder, “Am I the worst Asian American parent ever?” It doesn’t help that my own cousin is sending his kids to after school Chinese tutoring school for math and reading (I mean really, does a 3 year old need to know arithmetic already?) because he doesn’t think the public school and daycare are challenging enough for them.

Let me give you some context on where I’m coming from. As a parent, I’m concerned with the quality of education our daughter is going to get going to a public school that has only mediocre ratings. I spend some of my free time looking at real estate and on real estate blogs to try and determine if it makes sense for us to move to a better school district. What amazes me about these blogs is the prevalence of posts talking about buying a home just for the school district. In the Bay Area, where I live, you can only buy a home in Palo Alto, Los Altos, or Cupertino if you want a good school.

As you might have guessed, we don’t live in any of those cities, nor is buying a home in any of those school districts on our short or long range plans. First, it’s near impossible, since a reasonable home in any of those cities easily starts at $1 million. And so that’s where the “worst Asian American parent ever” comes from. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only parent not scheming or trying to figure out a way to get my child in a Cupertino or Palo Alto school. And all those posts make it seem like some how I’m depriving my child by not sending her to one of these top tier schools in these cities.

You might be thinking, well, why don’t you just find a good school in cheaper area? In fact many on real estate forums recommend looking for a school with API scores above 850 or even 900 that aren’t in one of those coveted cities. We actually didn’t go the public school route last fall. In fact where we live, our local elementary has an API of 785, but that alone wasn’t enough to convince us to send our daughter to a private school for kindergarten last fall. The straw that broke the camel’s back was that kindergarten class sizes went from 20 students to 1 teacher, to 33 to 1 at the beginning of last school year, and we were afraid our daughter would get lost in the noise. As much as it bothered my liberal ideals, I sent my daughter to private school for kindergarten. It was a stretch for us this past year, and one we’re not able to repeat for her education for first grade this coming fall.

So while it’s nearly impossible for us to move to one of those coveted cities, we were able to request a different public school for first grade for our daughter through open enrollment, but even that only got us to an elementary school with a 798 API score (although if you look at the breakdown, Asians attending our new elementary had an API of 851).

I felt a little better about myself as a parent until we started looking at Chinese language school options for our daughter. I’ve blogged previously about her lack of Chinese language skills, so we needed a way for her to start picking up some Chinese and we thought we’d better do it by first grade. You’d think that finding a Chinese school in the SF Bay Area would be easy, but it turns out it’s pretty competitive. The Chinese school we were going for, based on recommendations, location, and convenience, turned out to have a requirement for testing prior to entry (even for new students who don’t speak any Chinese). Their website warns that they can limit entry based on test results since classes often fill, so entry into a class is restricted to the highest scoring test results. So we’re re-evaluating whether it makes sense to have her in this high-competition environment. We haven’t made a final decision yet, but it still pains me that we haven’t found a way for her to learnĀ  Chinese. This makes me wondering again if I’m the worst Asian American parent ever.

That’s when I have to remind myself: I went to a mediocre school and I’ve had more successes in my life than most people I know. MY school certainly didn’t place any limitations on my achievements or my ability to succeed. Regardless, it’s hard to keep that point of view in an overwhelming flood of opinion in the opposite direction.

[Photo Courtesy of limonada]

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About Tim

I'm a Chinese/Taiwanese-American, born in Taiwan, raised on Long Island, went to college in Philadelphia, tried Wall Street and then moved to the California Bay Area to work in high tech in 1990. I'm a recent dad and husband. Other adjectives that describe me include: son, brother, geek, DIYer, manager, teacher, tinkerer, amateur horologist, gay, and occasional couch potato. I write for about 5 different blogs including 8Asians. When not doing anything else, I like to challenge people's preconceived notions of who I should be.
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