Parent Pressure for Perfection

During the annual State of the Union Address by President Barack Obama on January 28th, he mentioned that in order to improve education here in the United States, the effort requires, among other things, more demanding parents.

As college students, our relationship with our parents alters once we’ve left the house, and the degree to which they remain involved in our lives varies with each student. Parents may remain very involved with the progression of our higher academic pursuits, be it simply in terms of funding it or with frequent concern regarding the paths we may be choosing. Some may not be a part of our college education at all due to a lack of knowledge of how the system works.

As a child of immigrant parents, like many students here on campus, I think it’s safe to say that parents already have demanding expectations of us. Good grades and being able to hold a job after the end of these four years is something that mine expect me to have. That, coupled with the skepticism most parents have with students that pursue a field in the liberal arts and humanities, makes reasoning with parents that it’s worth getting a degree in something outside of sciences and business difficult. The ideas of what composes a “respectable and successful” career choice often differs with whether or not our parents were brought up in this country or left the countries they did in order for their children to have better opportunities than themselves. So then the question is raised as to whether self-esteem or excellence is more important.

Despite all psychological arguments about whether or not the importance of self-esteem is exaggerated, parents have always influenced the ways in which we view our outlook and ourselves; the standards to which they expect us to perform at academically and in what subjects, helps shape what we pursue. But these high standards of what is considered to be excellence should be held no matter what we choose to pursue, not just what our parents would like to. The way I’ve heard it phrased is: “Fine, go be a writer, but you better be the best damn one out there.” Excellence should be strived for, and with it, self-esteem will eventually be achieved.

The Asian-parenting stereotype that is attributed to the ways that students of Asian descent were brought up is related to this struggle. Pop culture and other media sources like to exaggerate the parenting styles associated with immigrant parents from Asia and surrounding countries by replacing concern for their futures with irrationality.  “Only A? Why not A+? How are you going to become a doctor with grades like that?” There’s a gif set that’s circulated quite a lot on the Internet from an episode of “Family Guy” where a father is telling his son to “talk to me when you a doctor.” The perpetuation of this stereotype is inaccurate in its excessiveness, as well as its sole attribution to just Asian families; inherently other racial backgrounds are thereby seen to be apathetic in regards to the academic pursuits of their children.

Parents are demanding, but more so is the education system. Financially, mentally and emotionally, the system of higher education in the United States has these consequences. We need to sit back and think about what we’re paying for to be at a university. We’re told that we are given the privilege to be taught under researchers and the opportunities to excel outside of the realms of campus. We’re told that we’re here to learn and grow and succeed.

But are we? Look at how the first two years of our education here is set up. It’s a known fact that most of the students coming into UCI are biology or other science majors, but they aren’t all leaving with a degree in those majors, let alone a degree at all for some. Some won’t last past their first year or even their first quarter because they don’t meet the required criteria to stay on track in the lower division classes. These classes aren’t designed for students to gain the most out of the fundamentals; they’re designed to filter out as many students as possible. To keep up with the demands of this system, students are further inclined to abuse substances that end up being harmful. Universities like Cornell have barriers on bridges installed to prevent further suicides.

The system has been in need of readjustment for sometime. In order to achieve the success for each student that President Obama talked about in his State of the Union, the system needs to meet them halfway. It’s not enough to just get students into college to succeed; it’s keeping them in.

 

Nashra Anwer is a second year literary journalism major and can be reached at nanwer@uci.edu.