What's wrong with a 92?

This story is completely true; only the names have been changed to…, etc., etc.

So I’m handing back a test this morning, using my new system where the grade is written on the bottom of the last page rather than the top of the first page. Ebenezer gets a 68. Sanjay, sitting next to, him turns his test over and exclaims, “Only a 92??? That’s horrible; my mom’s gonna ground me for a month!”

I observe that there’s nothing wrong with a 92. (Meanwhile, Ebenezer is understandably unsympathetic.)

“You don’t understand,” replies Sanjay. “She’ll say that I’ve disgraced the entire nation of India!”

After class, we continue the conversation in private. Sanjay says that he has to get an A, not an A&ndash. “This is what people from India are like,” he explains.

“I don’t think Rajiv is like that,” I say.

“Oh yes he is,” claims Sanjay. “He’s probably like that inside. He just doesn’t show it.”

Combine Weston pressure with Asian values, and I guess this is what you get. No wonder the Massachusetts Math League meets are dominated largely by Asian students these days. I tell my students to avoid such stereotypes, and that the top scorers are not all Asian. While that’s certainly true, it’s striking that the top 34 scorers on the October 28 contest include the names He, Lian, Chu, Shen, Ro, Kim, Li, Liu, Zhou, Wang, Chiao, Ahn, Yang, Ju, Lee, Liu, Xi, Wang, Wang, Zhang, Ji, and Park. (These names have not been changed.) You can’t always go by surnames, of course, but it sure seems that 22 of the top 34 are Asian. Maybe that’s why their parents won’t accept a 92.

Categories: Teaching & Learning, Weston