Some problems they've got out there in California. According to a recent report in this paper by Jay Mathews, the elite university at Berkeley has been trying to cope with an extraordinary influx of brilliant Asian students and is worrying about how to handle ethnic quotas, the resentment of English language instructors and the feelings of ordinary students who don't want serious students to ask them to turn down their stereos. These sound like the difficulties of a lottery winner who has the burden of deciding how to spend his fortune or the heiress who must choose between wearing the diamonds or the emeralds. We should all have Berkeley's problems.
The figures are really impressive. This great university, which has a highly selective admissions process, now has a freshman class that is 27 percent Asian in a state where this ethnic group is only 5.3 percent of the population. A large number of these students are foreign-born, recent immigrants from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam. They are achieving out of all proportion to their presence in the population and have been particularly successful in science, math, business and education. The same trends are apparent on the East Coast, where students of Asian background are now present in large numbers at the most prestigious private universities. Secondary-school records indicate that this will not be a passing phenomenon.
True, college students, faculty and administrators may have to make some adjustments to accommodate these high achievers. But they present an opportunity in addition to a challenge. Shouldn't we all be asking what we can learn from a group that values education so highly and succeeds so well?