Sunday, July 27, 2008

Smart Or Not

Apropos of something (I forget exactly what) J recently said to me "Indian kids are smarter". I was completely taken aback by that statement coming from her. She has a few desi friends from her Hindustani music class and a couple in the neighborhood. Every once in a while, we run into some friends I have. In all, its not a whole lot of desi interaction so I was not sure where exactly she had picked up that idea.

At any rate, I made haste to disabuse her of her notion that desis are inherently smarter than everyone else, offering plenty of evidence to the contrary to prove my point. I explained to her how race, culture and color of skin have nothing to do with intelligence and she would turn out to be a particularly retarded person if she held such beliefs. By now, J was close to tears. She had no idea one innocuous line from her would stir up such a huge hornet's nest.

We have reviewed the facts a few times since then just to make sure J really understands that mental ability has a lot to nurture; cultures that value academic accomplishment highly, push their children in that direction much harder than the rest. So while it appears that desi (and Asian) kids are "smarter", in truth non-Asians could be just as smart but don't get pushed nearly as hard by their families and as a result don't succeed as much.

LA Times story on the achievement gap between Asian and Latino students from similar socio-economic backgrounds is a candid discussion on racial stereotyping and how it hurts those who are viewed less favorably through its lens while pressuring the others to conform to the "favorable" image of them as group even if it does not define them individually.

1 comment:

ggop said...

Thanks for this link HC. Sweeping generalizations are often made by Indian parents in No Cal too because public schools with good API scores tend to have mostly Asian kids (Indians included)

We cannot ignore this fact but at least someone has bothered to study this.