There was once a time when people rejoiced in the success and good fortune of others. Those days have disappeared. Admiration and respect have given way to jealousy and spite.
Success through effort has been an American value since the founding of our nation. Hard work, perseverance and sacrifice were the ingredients in the recipe for success. While other countries may have class based societies designed to keep the lower classes down and the upper classes in power, the United States has been a place where there is no limit to what a poor person can achieve, regardless of their background.
Success stories like that of T.S. are the embodiment of the old American dream. He spoke almost no English when he arrived in New York City at the age of 7. His mother did not speak English at all. He lived in a crowded apartment with his parents, grandparents and a cousin. His was not a privileged childhood, he did not see his parents as much as better off children saw theirs. His parents both worked 12 hour days in a laundromat to make ends meet.
Although neither of T’s parents had attended college they understood the value of an education. They were aware that in New York City excellent students, regardless of income or social background, could all apply for admission to one of the city’s elite high schools. Academic standards were stringent and the admission test was incredibly difficult but students who attended one of the eight elite schools were often able to gain admittance to one of the nation’s top universities. The prestigious city high schools are so elite that their alumni include more Nobel laureates than many foreign nations do.
With the support of his parents T began preparing for the elite high school entrance exam when he entered the 6th grade. The test is administered to students entering 8th grade so T spent two years attending tutoring sessions and working through study guides, all in addition to his normal school work. It paid off. T earned admission to the top high school in New York. He has since graduated and is a student at NYU.
There was a time when stories such as T’s would be celebrated, but those days seem to have passed in New York. It is not celebrated because T has the wrong name and his skin is the wrong color. T.S. are the initials of Ting Shi, an immigrant from China. Because he is Asian and because students of Asian descent make up over 60% of enrollment at New York’s elite high schools, he represents a problem to be solved instead of an example to be followed. There are too many students like Ting. There is a movement in New York to change the school admission standards to make it more difficult for Asian students to gain entrance, all in the name of diversity.
Instead of being treated as just another Asian academic success tale Ting’s story should motivate other poor families in New York. His success should encourage other families to sacrifice for their children in the way his parents did for him. Ting demonstrated that hard work, perseverance and sacrifice do lead to success, even for those who are less fortunate or financially disadvantaged. Unfortunately for the families of New York hard work , perseverance and sacrifice do not appear to be values shared any longer by the society into which his parents immigrated 12 years ago. Elected officials in New York are trying to find a way to allow students to gain admission without similar effort. This is apparently the new definition of fairness.
It sounds more like racism and jealousy to me.
Ting’s story was brought to light by Dennis Saffran in his article, “The Plot Against Merit”. I encourage you to read it all.