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New Jersey public school racially split over academic pressure
In a school where perfect SAT scores and MIT admissions are the norm, Asian-Americans push for higher standards while white parents push for balance. - photo by Eric Schulzke
A New Jersey suburb of Princeton University, which churns out high achieving high school graduates, is riven with conflict, the New York Times reports, because many Caucasian parents want the academic pressures relaxed, while many Asian-American parents fear that high expectations will be drawn down and a record of excellence eroded.

"On one side," the New York Times reports, "are white parents like Catherine Foley, a former president of the Parent Teacher Student Association at her daughters middle school, who has come to see the districts increasingly pressured atmosphere as antithetical to learning."

My son was in fourth grade and told me, Im not going to amount to anything because I have nothing to put on my rsum, Foley told the Times.

On the other had, there is Mike Jia, "one of the thousands of Asian-American professionals who have moved to the district in the past decade," who tells the Times that he fears a dumbing down of his local schools.

What is happening here reflects a national anti-intellectual trend that will not prepare our children for the future, Mr. Jia said.

At the New York Post, Betsy McCaughey calls this a "the war on Asian success," calling out the local school superintendent, David Aderhold, who this fall apologized for helping to create a perpetual achievement machine.

"Aderhold canceled accelerated and enriched math courses for fourth and fifth grades, which were 90 percent Asian, and eliminated midterms and finals in high school," McCaughey writes.

"Using a word that already strikes terror in the hearts of Asian parents," she writes, Aderhold vowed to "take a 'holistic' approach. Thats the same euphemism Harvard uses to limit the number of Asians accepted and favor non-Asians."

"Aderhold even lowered standards for playing in school music programs," she adds. "Students have a 'right to squeak,' he insisted. Never mind whether they practice." And, she notes, there appears to be no corresponding call for the football team to embrace a "right to fumble."

The battle over academic pressure in New Jersey does not occur in a vacuum, of course. Earlier this fall, a rash of student suicides in a high performing Palo Alto, California, high school drew national attention.

The Atlantic took a hard look at this suicide rash, speaking to Suniya Luthar, a psychiatry professor at Yale.

"One of the two major causes of distress, Luthar found," according to the Atlantic report, "was the 'pressure to excel at multiple academic and extracurricular pursuits.' In one study, for example, kids were asked to choose and rank their parents top five values, from a list of 10. Half of the values were related to achievement ('attend a good college,' 'make a lot of money,' 'excel academically'), and the other half to well-being and personal character ('are honest,' 'are kind to others,' 'are generally happy with yourself and your life'). When the kids chose a greater number of achievement-related goals, that usually correlated with personal troubles, Luthar said."
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