Many Asian Americans see college education, particularly elite college education, as their main pathway to success. But is that true? Furthermore, does the process turn Asian American kids against each other to strive for inclusion in a selective white liberal milieu? Jess, Chris, and Oriana draw upon their experiences at these types of schools to talk about whether we should idealize these institutions at all.
The following are edited excerpts from “The Poison Ivy League?”, the 21st episode of Plan A’s podcast, Escape From Plan A.
Asian Americans are the only ones who read the signals [of college prestige] this carefully and intently. This is our religion. This is the tie that binds for Asian Americans, the pressure we feel. Even the ones who didn’t feel it know what it’s about and they define themselves as not having been a part of that.
I look at elite college admissions as probably the most stark microcosm of this white liberal system. You have these white-dominated institutions that rely heavily on Westernness for their prestige…. And you let them tell you that they only want a certain amount of you, so go fight for it. And you end up fighting your own group.
I was talking to somebody yesterday who talked about how when she was growing up, she didn’t receive that much pressure from her parents to get into a really top school. But she felt a lot of pressure from other parents and the Chinese community that she was a part of. And she thinks a lot of her drive to get into an Ivy had to do with feeling that if she didn’t get in, she’d be shaming her parents in front of the other parents.