Dear HS2 Family,
I have great news if you haven’t heard already! HS2 Academy has received national and worldwide media exposure in the L.A. Times news article: http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-adv-asian-race-tutoring-20150222-story.html#page=1. Please take a look!
However, I am disappointed with the overall message. I do not think it accurately reflects what we actually do at HS2, nor the community we serve. Although the author, Frank Shyong, is Chinese-American and we spoke extensively in person about HS2’s students and services, I felt he did HS2 and the surrounding communities (all of San Gabriel Valley!) a disservice by casting everyone in a somewhat negative light. It seemed he already had preconceived notions about after-school and college prep programs like ours, and didn’t really bother to get to really know HS2 and how special we are, how set apart we are from other academies. (Patrick had the perfect phrase for it — “lazy journalism”).
I know we all poke fun at the Asian community we serve together behind closed doors because we do know some students who seem to really fit the Asian stereotype. And yes, we may have a couple windowless classrooms. But we also know first-hand that every student we have is an individual and comes with a story… we have students who play piano, chess, soccer, golf, win debate competitions, win poetry contests, get published, do amazing scientific research, get incredible internships, have top leadership positions, and travel around the world each summer. We have lazy students and over-achieving students; we have crazy, stressed out parents as well as laid-back, supportive parents. We have students who just stepped off an airplane, whose parents have no clue what an SAT II subject test is and other students whose parents memorize the U.S. News rankings each year. To publish articles like these takes away our students’ individualism and invites others to judge our students unfairly.
Here is a letter I wrote to the L.A. Times author in response to the article:
I just read the article this weekend. While I am flattered by the media exposure and enjoyed working with you, I must say I’m a little disappointed with the article. The main message seems to perpetuate the Tiger Mom/Asian nerd image, although I strongly believe that many of our Asian students are well-rounded and self-driven. They really just need an “edge” to help them stand out from their friends who look similar on paper. Moreover, I talk a lot about how it is difficult for Asians to get into top colleges at my seminars because my target audience is largely students and parents living in very heavily concentrated Asian communities. But I say, as I always do in every one of my seminars, that admissions is harder not only because they are Asian but also because they attend competitive high schools and live in a competitive state. (I always joke that I’ll move to Alabama one day to increase my kids’ chances of admissions.) There are many factors that play a part in college admissions, not only race, and I want to be clear about that because I don’t want to receive hate mail from those who think I’m propagating racist notions. I have many friends of all races and backgrounds in education and playing the race card requires very clear and sensitive communication, not generalizations.
I really wanted to show you that HS2 was not a typical “cram school” but rather, a place that approached college prep more holistically and tried to provide role models to students because we’ve “been there, done that.” We certainly never want to support the idea that our Asian students “study until they can’t remember how to have fun and stuff their schedules with extracurriculars.” Those are more like Asians in Asia, not Asians in the U.S.! There are many types of Asian parents and students, and reinforcing stereotypes can be a disservice to the Asian community. In reality, Tiger Moms are dying off and being replaced by Americanized Asians like us who are approaching parenting much more consciously, adopting from both Asian and American traditions. I had a ton of fun myself when I was in high school and I believe that my entire staff is dedicated to making sure our Asian students don’t forget to have fun in their youth by emphasizing work-life balance and the importance of happiness as an ultimate goal.
HS2 has come to provide a central service to the Asian community and I feel it is our duty to not only help students and educate parents, but also to protect their honor and respect their decisions. I hope you understand why I am sending you this email. I just want Asians to have media exposure that accurately portrays their motives and desires. After all, these are people’s dreams and lives, not to be boxed into a stereotype, but to be graciously deconstructed to be better understood by our society.
Thank you for listening.