24 thoughts on “Are Asian-American students smarter?

  1. Michael

    Just saw a CNN special on this…and it intruigued me.

    I honestly think east-asians are genetically smarter. In a technical/analytical sense…they are not as creative(maybe due to their cultural emphasis on tangible results), but when it comes to math and science they excel. Screw the political correctness….
    Now before you call me a racist. I’m sure everyone of you here would agree that african americans are more athletic than asians right? wouldnt that be racist? So why can’t asian’s be smarter genetically? They physically have bigger brains and even adopted asian kids raised by white parents scored higher on their school tests. Just like african americans are more athletic and excel in sports.

    The most common argument that i’ve heard is that, well…asians study harder, or they have more pressure from parents… Now although this may be true to a point, you can make the same argument about african americans in the states that spend their whole adolecence, focusing on athletics rather than academics. So are they better atheletes because they just practiced more?

    People are quick to claim that asians are less athletic than whites/blacks but its not PC to say that they are genetically smarter.

    1. Chang

      In the past decade +, there are more Asian kids get into top American colleges. So the questions is not if average Asians are smarter, but ‘Are Asians in America smarter?’
      Asians are not smarter than any other race. But there is A GENERATION of smart Asians in America.
      There are three waves of Asian immigrants in America:

      1st wave: Migrated 100 years ago – majority of them worked on railroad constructions. This group was with normal/average intelligence so are their offspring. We don’t see this group’s offspring got into top colleges much.
      2nd wave: Migrated 30-40 years ago – MAJORITY are graduate students who went to top schools of their own country. They are in the top 10% of high school graduates to get into colleges and again top 10% in undergraduate classes to be able to have scholarship to come to America. These are the best and brightest in Asia. (about top 1%) Due to their English language barrier, they don’t seem as smart as they truly are.

      Their American born children (second generation Asian Americans) are in college age in recent 10-15 years and are the so called ‘smart Asians’ who got into top colleges. Like their parents they are smart and work hard. I predict this is a radiant generation and will only last for another 10-15 years. (They will marry other races mostly and not been Asian anymore.)
      3rd wave: Recent Asian undergraduate students who go to lower tier colleges. Majority of them are students who didn’t do well in high school in their countries (or didn’t pass college entrance exams) and their parents are wealthy enough to send them to non-top-tier universities in America. This group is of average intelligent mostly.

      So, it is only one generation of smart Asians in America. I feel top colleges should cherish them. It will be no more, after 20 years – due to intermarriage or reduce of work ethics.

      People can study hard and get average results, I saw too many cases like this in my high school years. Only of certain intelligence with hard work can get people amazing results. Smart kids spend less time on class materials (even though still a reasonable amount of time to do assignments) and have time for extracurricular, that’s how these smart Asians got into top colleges. No need to try to dismiss the fact that these kids are smart. Argue that only discipline and plan contribute to the success is misleading and will only make average intelligence Asian student frustrated because of the high expectations.

  2. karmadiva

    Wow! Michael, thank you for your frankness! It is very refreshing. You made some very good points, ones I can’t igore and have inspired in finding out if Asians are genetically smarter. The part about adopted asians kids scoring higher on test is interesting because they are not raised by their birth parents and yet they excel.

    A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to meet two gentleman from a high school in Texas who had at least one national merit scholar every year. They were teaching an ACT/SAT Strategy class. I was curious enough to ask them why they think Asian students score higher on their test than any other race. They said the students who take their strategy class are very ambitious. Many of the students in the class are from South Asia and have parents who are doctors and lawyers so the pressure to excel is pretty high. They said those South Asian students work harder than the American students.

    Another good point you brought up is the athletic African Americans. I have to concede that they seem to dominate the sports arena. Are they really good athletes because they practice harder or is it because they are genetically/physically more superior?

    My last word is this: if Asian are genetically smarter than why not just say it? Are we afraid to offend people? If it is the truth then why is it not okay to say it? Why worry about political correctness? Thank you for an enlightening dialogue!

  3. I’m going to concentrate closer to home, I think that we all inherent certain traits from our parents but to excel in it takes practice. Take for instance, I’m not gifted in Music, I tried, and tried because I love music, no luck at all, stink you might say, we are not a musical gifted family.

    I do well in school; mainly because I have a good memory, smart? that can be learned, the more you read the more knowledge that you’ll have, it’s like taking a vitamin for your brain. Some of my sisters have no interest in reading but excel in other areas that I’m somewhat ignorant in. They are smart in other area, just not academically book smart.

    Also, there’s always going to be an individual that’d excel academically, I went to school with a black girl, she is youngest in her family and the 1st to attend college, and I think there is a lot of pressure in her part. Her being the brightest in our class didn’t go well because she messed up the curving system that most of us was hoping that it’d help with our grades. She said that she has a photographic memory, which she’d only have to look at something once. She seemed to have more knowledge than the teacher. In this case, she is not Asian, but yes a black student, very smart lady and I’d say genetically smart.

  4. margaret

    We really need to look at everything to see the true picture. Asians are brought up to hit the books. True. Also most people adopting from Asia are from the white upper middle class (there are cultural differences between those in the upper $ brackets as well, ie education is very important to them. Also, Asians and others from around the world who come here, to America are a select few (either they are determined and capable, or they are wealthy and capable. Culture (whether race based or monetarily/capability based) factors in here. All immigrants who came , came because they believed they could have it better if they worked hard, except the Africans, whose culture has been desimated. A good point also is that we are beginning to understand that “intelligence” is not a mono-dimensional expression of human capability. The original IQ tests were developed to identify strictly defined abilities in math and language construction. These tests are only one small way of looking at someone’s potential and should never be seen as a complete picture of intellectual ability . Creativity? this is the hallmark of real, profound thinking. Americans of all races seem to excel here. Why? It’s the culture. We are not rigid, we ask uncomfortable questions and expect answers, and we are willing to think about things in radically different ways than our ancestors did. It can be unsettling. And there are some not so great things about it but we are an amazingly creative culture, constantly reinventing itself.

    Let’s look at Martin Luther King Junior (of both African and European heritage really) and note his dream: that we should be judged not by the color of our skin (ethnicity/race) but by our character and what we can offer the world through our individual talents. I wonder what ever happened to integrity and character…hmm. I Wish there was a test for that !

    1. Bobby

      Actually, it is a well known fact that Martin Luther King copied his “I am a dream speech.” He also plagiarized most of his academic papers. The reason that is is largely an issue that is not discussed is because it would be career suicide for any academic to tackle the issue.

      The facts. Don’t hate the truth.

  5. Laotian Teacher

    Margaret, you have made so many good points!

    First, I have to agree that there are many white upper middle income families adopting kids from Asia. My friend Janice, who is Korean was such a case. Her adoptive parents stress the importance of school and how it came first.

    Also, affluent immigrants from South Asia (India i.e) do better in school than Southeast Asian students (Laos). The rich South Asians statistically do score higher on the ACT or SAT then any other group. Does this mean they are more intelligent? If so, in what area? Like you said in the past couple of years, the methods/test we use to test an individual’s IQ is more complex now. For example, there are multiple intelligence test given to students to determine in what area they have a special talent in as well as to determine the student’s intelligence and talent in seven areas: spatial, linguistic,logical-mathematical,Bodily-Kinesthetic,musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. These Multiple Intelligences test are used to determine if someone is gifted and talented or not. Some of my former students were gifted in at least three areas.

  6. Dallas

    I feel that if I fail it would somehow make my parents look bad. Another thing, I feel I am not as smart as the White kids in the class there fore I need to study harder because I thought I need to be in par with them. Later I found out that they are no better than I am so I didn’t study as hard. As a result, I dropped from top 10 to number 39 in my class of about 200 kids.

  7. Laotian Teacher

    I was brought up the same way, if I fail in school it would reflect badly on my parents. As for thinking or feeling that the white kids were smarter… I felt that way too because I was the only Asian in my English Honors class. I felt that I had to constantly prove that I was as smart as they were. The weird thing was, I thought I was not as smart, but a lot of people thought I was smarter then them and that’s why they always try to copy my answer in class.

  8. ken

    I remember back in highschool my friends and I spent less time on math and science than anyone else and we scored above 90 so easily.

    I am not trying to offend anyone but if you are going to asian one day. I suggest you to look at the math system of asia. They are way harder compare to any western country year 12 math.

  9. Laotian Teacher

    Ken, you are right, in America we ar behind when it comes to math and science. I had a Korean student a couple of years who was a foreign exchange student. She told me they did not rely on using the calculator to figure their math problems as much as here. They had to work out their problems.

    Right now I have an Indian (from India) student who is only 16 but taking microbiology in college and other college course while attending high school. She is brilliant.

  10. rey

    I am a filipino, and studied here in the philippines in an international school in college. I noticed that most of my european and american friends that took their high school education in america tend to learn slower than an average filipino student in our school. Well frankly i consider myself as an above average student, most of my american and european classmates tend to talk a lot to make them appear smarter but in actual case scenario they are really weak analytically. They prepare for an exam even 5 times longer than i do but they still got lower scores specially in math and science. Honestly from my experience, americans and europeans are only good at talking.

  11. Greg

    ok all of you, listen i’ve dated a chinese girl, it’s not genetics ok, anyone could be good at anything if u try ahrd enough, sure you have natural talents but you can be good on anything you want, my girlfriend used to study for like 10 hours a day, that is why she is so smart, not because of genetics, i apply the same to myself, i study nearly as mcuh and i am a math major from the u.s. and i scored higher than almsot any asians in my math clasees (calc through partial differential equations) because i ahve the drive, and i spend lots of time on it, i’ve noticed many asians think that the math will automatically be easy, whiule they have an adcantage form their strongh base yes, many can’t accept when they get a genuinly challenging teacher and then make up excuses why that teacher is bad because they are too lazy too put enogh effort forward, in my calc 3 class this was the case me and a girl were the only ones to get an A out of 40 students but he was the best prof i ever had, so it depends on your will noting more i think (and a little natural talent never hurts) but you know even a failure can defeat a genius through hard work and determination.

  12. Ryan

    Like everyone else has stated, there are many different ways people can be considered intelligent. One person may be able to draw a beatiful painting, but suck at mathmatics. You could argue that they never ‘practiced’ at math so they suck at it. but we all know, some people just aren’t very good at certain things. Like myself for instance, I am a white male, 19 years of age. I am very athletic, but at the same time, math and science were easy to me. I was, and still am, a pot smoker. I would come to class, fall asleep, wake up when the bell rings, almost every day. Mid term would roll around and I’d have one of the highest marks in the class. No studying, I would never do assignments, but when test time came I would blow it away.

    Back to the point, I really believe all people are equal in a sence that everyone has there own talents and capabilities, being educated doest not necessarily make one intelligent.
    The dumbest people, can have the some of the smartest ideas.

  13. Laotian Teacher

    Ryan, I agree that there are intelligent people in every race. I think it comes down to determination and motivation.

    You are right some of the dumbest people can have some of the smartest ideas. However, some just acts dumb or put on a facade to fool people because they don’t want to be bothered. I know some of my students act dumb so I will not pick on them to answer in class, but I see through them and do it anyway.

  14. Jeremy

    Wow. I really feel bad for your non-Asian students. I can’t believe you are pushing your obvious pro-Asian bias so transparently on here. You are not researching this topic from an objective point of view. I can see right through your racist agenda, and I hope you can see (though I doubt it) that you are seeking to confirm your myopic stereotype, rather than to question the stereotype itself.

    There is no empirical evidence for any one “race” having superior intelligence, whatever that means.

  15. Laotian Teacher

    Thank you for your comment. I know there is no emperical evidence for any “one” race having superior intelligence. I did not say that Asians where the smartest. What I said was that they score well on standardized test and do well in school because they study, not because they are smarter. It’s the amount of effort they put into anything that they do and this goes with any race. I have seen intelligent kids in every race.

    Not all Asians do well in school and I have written about that as well. For example, southeast Asians are among one of the lowest group to receive a college degree.

  16. Scott

    Although you may not intentionally trying to be racist, per se, I tend to agree with Jeremy in that the very nature of this thread, and its title “Are Asian-American Students Smarter?”, seems to serve the preconceived notion that Asians are, according to some, smarter than students of other races.

    To help you see it from this perspective, let’s now call the title of this thread “Are Caucasian Students Smarter?”. In addition to this, I will proceed to argue this statement as if there is some form of evidence for it, just as you have done with your [at times] bias for Asian students.

    I can perhaps offer a different perspective than others because I live in a North American metropolis where Asians border on 50% of the population. It is generally accepted that Asians are good at studying. But that is where their academic talents end, generally speaking. In fact, this is a well-established stereotype. It could be argued that a disproportionate amount of ingenuity and creativity has in fact originated from Caucasians. Asians, on the other hand, are great at copying and studying, but really can’t think for themselves from an inventive angle. They can do well on a test, but ask them for an original thought and they don’t know where to begin. The original work on harnessing electricity, particle physics, chemistry, classical music and literature, for example, is rooted in European intellect. The internet that we are currently using to debate this topic was invented by some white guys. Why is this? Does the Caucasian family unit support originality and individuality more so than the typical Asian set up, where discipline and rigid study/copy habits are firmly stressed?

    Who knows, but clearly you need to define what “smarter” means, and think a little more about how you say it, if you don’t want equally “racist” replies, like this one, in your blog.

  17. Laotian Teacher

    Thank you Scott. You did a wonderful job expressing your arguments. Points well made because you give examples to back it up. However, I have to disagree with you on how some Asians do not think have an original thought and they don’t know where to begin. Look at Confucius, Siddhartha Guatama, the Dali Lama and I can go on and on. I think with every race, there are great thinkers, inventors, and innovators if we keep looking. On the other hand, I also have admirations for great European thinkers like Socrates, Plato, and Virgil.

    Since you said that Asians are not very inventive or creative look at some of the inventions by Asians. Please go to: http://asianhistory.about.com/od/asianinventions/tp/50-Amazing-Asian-Inventions.htm

    I like your last questions: Does the Caucasian family unit support originality and individuality more so than the typical Asian set up, where discipline and rigid study/copy habits are firmly stressed? To a certain extent I agree that in a Caucasian family, some parents encourage their kids to be independent free thinkers while some Asian parents encourage their kids to follow and listen to their elders. However, The second part of I do not agree when you say that Asians are taught to copy habits. True in some Asian household, parents encourage their kids to copy good “habits” but they are not taught to steal other people’s ideas (copying habits you are speaking about).

    When I asked, “Are Asians smarter” I did not have any racist thoughts on my mind. I was just curious about the stereotypes. Once again thank you for expressing your point of view. It helps balance things out. Please feel free to come again.:)

  18. scott

    Hi, thank you.

    After re-reading my post, I must admit I was clearly wrong in including “literature” as one of the achievements of Europeans. At the time I was thinking about some of the classic writers originating from Europe, such as Shakespeare or Cervantes, etc….but really this holds no weight since literature existed before European civilization did. My other points, however, still stand.

    Yes, older civilizations developed the number system(s), probably independently co-created in East Asia or South-East Asia, and the Middle East. You could argue the number systems were inevitable – a product of human tinkering that lasted millenia. Yet historically, it took only a blink for Europeans to contribute some of the most profound discoveries in the natural sciences, as well as produce some of the most celebrated works of art. Not that it matters who did what, we all stem from the same population if you look far back enough. However, what we do now, as members of our respective cultures, relates to more recent histories lived apart from one another.

    The Asian culture relies heavily on taking a concept (usually developed in the west), and running with it – sometimes improving it, and selling it back to the west in a convenient, and practical device. Take photography, circuits, automobiles, etc. These inventions are 100% western. Asian economies rely on developing these technologies because many Asian countries have no significant natural resources to export. It’s not that they are genetically gifted at technology. It’s based solely out of necessity, and it’s precisely this necessity that drives the Asian work ethic. Their whole livelihood depends on harnessing western ingenuity and selling it back to us (hence the study skills).

    When I hear things like “Asians are so smart”, I cringe because I can see right through the factors that lead to this stereotype.

    Are Asian Students Smarter? Hell no.

  19. Laotian Teacher

    Scott, thank you for an invigorating discussion. I love it when people actually think about what they want to say. Are you in politics? We do a great deal of debate in my AP United States History class and you would fit right in because you always back up your point with examples.

    When you said Asians a great copiers ( they would take an idea and rework, redesign and sell it back to the West), you are right to a certain extent. See, Asians are smart, sometimes they wait for others to do the hard work and hammer out the kinks then they make the necessary improvements!:)

  20. Son

    The only way to ever prove if Asians are actually on the smarter variation of the Homo sapiens as of whole is to control all outside variables from the beginning of birth. Just because “A” correlates with “B” does not specifically mean that “A” causes “B” For example, the warm weather in California is affecting the ice cream consumption at New York. Although what I stated may seem trivial at first, but it puts out the point that there could be other unidentified variables like “C”, “D”, etc. that could have also correlate with B or maybe even be the cause of it. Of course it would be against ethnic morals ever conduct an experiment that controls the variables of human lives, so the only way to ever really solve this dispute would be to study the genetic variance and its effect between different races.

  21. rsc

    I beleive there are people who are smart and dumb. I know some people who studies hard but they still get low grades and people who study hard and gets high grade. I would know that fact because when i sent to school i encountered these types of people.

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