“The Fortune in the Book”

Fortune in the Book

from Pacific Legal Foundation on Vimeo.

by James A. Bacon

A new Pacific Legal Foundation video tells the story of parents who fought changes to the meritocratic admissions policy at Fairfax County’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, rated the best public high school in the country, in the name of “equity.”

Bacon’s Rebellion readers will find most of this tale familiar, for we have chronicled it on this blog. But the interviews of TJ parents yield new nuggets of insight. The video demolishes the canard that the high school’s rigorous entry exam privileged affluent Asian families that could afford tutors and other educational assistance unavailable to lower-income minority students.

The parents in the video don’t see themselves as privileged. Many, if not most, TJ parents are Asian immigrants, and the emphasis on education is part of their culture.

The Chinese have a saying “There is fortune in the book.” If you want a better life in the future, study, says Julia McCaskill, an Asian-American. “The importance of education … it’s built in our culture.”

“These are families that used their money to maybe go home to India or China, but rarely will take a cruise through the Bahamas,” elaborates Asra Nomani (whose columns we have republished on this blog). “These are families that have potluck dinners with their friends, not cocktail parties at the country club.”

McCaskill says she bought Singapore Math for her children. A Level 2 textbook and workbooks costs $65 on Amazon. “Khan’s Academy is the best,” she said. “It’s free. Just sign up an account for your kids, and you can learn.”

The whole family invests in education, says Yuan Zhou. “I think that’s produced the difference.”

Maybe that’s just self-serving rhetoric, you say. TJ’s Asian students come from affluent backgrounds, you say. Their superior academic performance reflects their economic privilege, you say.

I don’t buy it. There’s abundant evidence that culture makes a difference. A few days ago Fairfax County Public Schools published an evaluation of a $488,000 partnership with Tutor.com to provide free online tutoring to help students overcome “unfinished learning” resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 1.6% of Fairfax County students accessed the platform for learning support, the study found.

Here’s the kicker: “Asian students and AAP students were disproportionately overrepresented in participation data…. Students who were not identified as needing academic intervention accessed the resource to a greater extent than those who were identified.”

Any Fairfax student can access the Tutor.com program. Any Fairfax resident can enroll in the free Kahn Academy. Almost any parent can afford $65 for Singapore Math. The economic barriers are trivial. What is lacking is the desire  to take advantage of the abundant opportunities that American society offers.

Culture matters. Values matter. Priorities matter. Immigrant Asian families come to this country burning with a desire to succeed and a willingness to make personal sacrifices in order to achieve what they want. Less concerned than affluent Americans with their children’s current “happiness,” they understand that deferring gratification can yield rich future rewards. Ironically, judged by their lower rates of mental illness, the children of Asian immigrants are better adjusted — happier — than their peers of other races.

Comically, social-justice theorists label Asian cultural traits as “whiteness.” Such classical virtues might have been common among Whites at one time, but today they are more characteristic of Asians than anyone else.

I am thankful for the influx of (legal) Asian immigrants into Virginia. They reinvigorate our self-indulgent society with their quest for excellence. They believe in the American Dream more than most Americans do. They look to themselves, not to government, to make the American Dream come true. Those are my kind of people.

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27 responses to ““The Fortune in the Book””

  1. DJRippert Avatar

    Virginia Democrats refuse to accept that decades of big Gub’mint programs have failed. The so-called war on Poverty failed. The so-called War on Drugs failed. The so-called Great Society failed.

    In Virginia, efforts to provide quality education to most majority minority communities have failed.

    Yet, instead of admitting that the endless succession of big Gub’mint programs have failed the liberals in the state blame things like systemic racism. The absurdity that the elected school board in the City of Richmond is somehow systematically racist never enters the liberal mind.

    Instead of looking for answers to decades of government failure and trillions of wasted dollars, the liberals … blame the tests. The SATs are racist, the SOLs are racist, the entrance exam to TJ is racist. Eliminate all measure of educational success and, so the liberals say, everything will be fine. This is the equivalent of a child closing her eyes, sticking her fingers in her ears and screaming “la, la, la, la” to escape noticing what is happening around them.

    And when Asians defy the “people of color can’t win” hallucination from the left, well … the left claims that the Asians just buy their way to success.

    “Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.” Ronald Reagan.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      We’re back to all or nothing propositions as if the educational levels of black folks are no different than they were during Jim Crow , you know the “plantation elite” DJ also speaks of.

      Here’s the truth:


    2. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      Along with Bagman Agnew’s “nattering nabobs of negativity.” If you are opposed to mandatory public education, what is your solution?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Oh, he wants taxpayer-funded vouchers for private school…

        the guy (DJ) used to be somewhat of a moderate but he’s gone full Trump of late…

  2. Ronnie Chappell Avatar
    Ronnie Chappell

    Unlike a food stamp, housing voucher, covid vaccination, Medicaid card, subsidized high speed internet connection, etc…. an education is the one public good you can’t give someone. No matter how many schools you build, how much you pay teachers, how low the teacher / pupil ratio….. an education must be earned.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      so paid tutors won’t help?

      1. Ronnie Chappell Avatar
        Ronnie Chappell

        You disagree? Have you developed a method for giving absent, unwilling and uninterested students the ability to read or do math at grade level?

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          tutors can’t do that?

          Good teachers can’t do that?

          Do you think a child does not want to learn EVER and so we give up… no chance of getting them to learn at all?

          Have you every known a kid to change his/her mind about something they did not want to do?

          1. Ronnie Chappell Avatar
            Ronnie Chappell

            Do you disagree with the assertion that an education has to be earned… that kids have to show up and make an effort? Two things should happen in every classroom — teaching and learning. One is dependent on the teacher. The other the student. I suspect that’s the reason most teachers oppose pay plans based on student progress. Deep down they know that they control the inputs and not the outcomes.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            You’re talking about very young kids in the early grades. Most of them have to be motivated by a teacher who does have that skill.

            Have you heard of learning disabilities or remedial help for kids that don’t get it as fast as others?

            Do you think a 10 yr old “deep down” knows the things you say?

            Were you never a kid ? You’ve obviously not been a teacher.

          3. Ronnie Chappell Avatar
            Ronnie Chappell

            I don’t understand your adamant refusal to acknowledge that in the end, students -whether motivated by exceptional teachers, or not – determine what they learn and how well they learn it. Not one student can acquire an education without effort. You can provide an opportunity. But you can’t make them take advantage of it. That’s why an education is different from a food stamp. You actually have to earn it. Unlike the dipolomas we hand out by the thousands every spring to kids who can’t read at grade level.

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            because it’s simply not true and it really shows that you don’t understand yourself.

            The “effort” comes from being motivated by a skilled teacher.

            Kids do not come out of the box motivated to learn.

            In k-3, kids don’t even know that they’re learning. Classroom exercises for learning are often disguised as “fun” things to do!

            Later on, once they have gotten their foundations , they then start to realize they have to apply themselves and achieve.

            Some kids don’t get there until later grades… especially the kids whose parents are themselves poorly educated and not economically secure.

            You blame the kid if his/her home situation is chaotic and counter to what is needed to be motivated?

            You’re spending way too much time watching FOX and reading right-wing propaganda…IMO.

          5. Ronnie Chappell Avatar
            Ronnie Chappell

            It’s a sure sign that someone is losing the debate when 1) he reverts to personal insults and 2) refuses to acknowledge what everyone knows is true in every field of endeavor. People who show up, focus on the task at hand and work hard attain mastery in the workplace, on the athletic field and in the classroom. Those who don’t get a participation trophy or a meaningless diploma. Do you really believe that students play no role in their own educations? And do you really believe you can persuade the rest of us to believe it?

          6. LarrytheG Avatar

            Randy – you’re confusing other things with what public (and private) education is and is not.

            Young kids do not know or understand the concepts you attribute to them,

            The fact that you do not recognize this is not a “debate”.

            What exactly do you think a k-3 teachers role is in a class of 15-20 kids? Just lecture and let the kids “earn” it?

            This is basically why many Conservatives should not be involved in education to start with. They simply are removed from the realities even the ones that got a public education themselves!

            Sorry guy, you’re out in LA LA Land on this.

            It’s in OUR best interest to educate as many as we can to grow up and be able to support themselves and their families and pay taxes.

            What do you think the PURPOSE of Public Education is in the first place?

            Would you just go to a private system and only parents and kids that “earn” it do it?

          7. Ronnie Chappell Avatar
            Ronnie Chappell

            Still more personal attacks. I’ve not mentioned private schools at all. Or advocated on their behalf. Or compared them to public schools. Or faulted public school teachers for their failure to motivate, over the course of their k-12 years, each and every student. All I’ve done is underscore the importance of student interest, participation and effort in the process of earning an education. It’s not that complicated. Oh, and you got my name wrong in the last post.

          8. LarrytheG Avatar

            what personal attack?

            do you not think the teacher plays a role in learning?

            I got your name wrong and you dinging me for that?

            geeze guy…

          9. “I don’t understand your adamant refusal to acknowledge that in the end, students -whether motivated by exceptional teachers, or not – determine what they learn and how well they learn it.”

            Larry refuses to acknowledge that because if he does, his entire worldview collapses.

          10. LarrytheG Avatar

            such BS coming from the BS in Chief!

            My world says that good teachers make the difference for a lot of kids.

            You guys world is that public school teachers don’t really count except for “blame” but private school teachers can “fix” it.

            Your “worldview” is to bleat out “woke” every other sentence and accus teachers of “grooming” and “crt” and other lies and disinformation.

          11. LarrytheG Avatar

            You’re talking about very young kids in the early grades. Most of them have to be motivated by a teacher who does have that skill.

            Have you heard of learning disabilities or remedial help for kids that don’t get it as fast as others?

            Do you think a 10 yr old “deep down” knows the things you say?

            Were you never a kid ? You’ve obviously not been a teacher.

          12. Merchantseamen Avatar

            Not in this world they get their junk chopped off because gubermint tells them to.

    2. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      First of all, education, including mandatory public education, is not a “good” but a public policy of society. Learning is a process not a delivered service. One does not “earn” an education but benefits to whatever extent of their personal capabilities and the process cultivates. The outcome (education???) is relative to the process and the individuals.

      1. Ronnie Chappell Avatar
        Ronnie Chappell

        I disagree. The outcome of the process (the ability to read and do math at grade level) is a public good in which the public invests over the k-12 years more than $100,000 per student in most jurisdictions. Despite that expenditure, we can’t give students the ability to read or do math. They actually have to value those skills and work to achieve them. If their effort didn’t matter, every 18-year-old in the country could read at grade level, and sadly, a huge percentage of them can’t.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Randy, you talk like all kids are generic widgets that you “apply” education to and the ones that don’t earn it are defective.

          1. Ronnie Chappell Avatar
            Ronnie Chappell

            My name isn’t Randy. I’ve not said all kids are widgets. Some are tall, some short, some gifted, some not. Some have supportive parents, some not. Some behave in the classroom. Some are disruptive. Some are hungry to learn. Others can’t be bothered. Some see educational achievement as the key to a better future. Others can’t set and attain long term goals.
            All I’ve done is underscore the important role students play in whether they can or will ever be able to read and do math at grade level. Kids with the same teachers have different outcomes. Logic tells me, something other than the teachers is impacting achievement.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            Sorry about the name Ronnie… my bad.

            You’re treating ALL teachers like they are ALL the SAME so you can then use “logic” to decide that “teachers” can’t force kids to “earn” it.

            Such simple-minded stuff!

            Have you ever heard of PALS?

            If not, go google it and come back and let’s talk about kids that have different deficits that has nothing to do with their “earning” or not and everything to do with the skill and experience of the teacher to be able to help them with their deficits.

    3. Merchantseamen Avatar

      Can’t give if they will not take it in earnest. Remember most parents stoned, drunk and stupid. Jumping from bed to bed trying to get laid. No time for parenting only being a “friend”.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    How many of the Asians in TJ are low income? What percentage?

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