Are Humanities and Social Sciences Bad for Asians too?

If you’ve been reading the news these days, you’ve probably come across one, or more, or many articles and op-eds telling people about how terrible it is for students to be going into the humanities or social sciences.

How will you find a job with that Studio Art degree? Will that Philosophy PhD satisfy your hunger? That B.A. in Anthropology will just land you a job flipping burgers at McDonalds!

That looks delicious, except for the fact that I’m vegetarian.

Actually, they are right. Slightly. Humanities, arts, social sciences, and so on: unfortunately, these majors tend to make less money than their science and mathy counterparts, and they also tend to have higher unemployment, even though, from what I’ve looked up, they still make more money and have better employment prospects than people without college degrees. So perhaps, as some of these articles and op-eds suggest, there are too many people going into the Humanities and Social Sciences. Fine. Makes enough sense. Society needs people going into all sorts of subjects, not just politics and literature. But see, for me, there’s a wee bit of a problem.

 

 

I’m Asian.

Asians, see, don’t tend to go into Humanities and the Social Sciences. Lots of Asians go into science, or engineering, or tech, or medicine, or something along those lines. I notice, for instance, a shift from “lots of Asians” to “not a lot of Asians” when I go from, say, my science/tech classes to my humanities/social science classes.

That’s fine, really. I don’t have a problem with that. Actually, never mind, I do. Asians, along with other immigrant groups, tend to emphasize getting degrees in “useful” subjects much more than other non-immigrant groups. That’s perfectly justifiable, except so many Asians go into these “practical” fields that it’s become a problem of imbalance: some within the Asian and immigrant communities are starting to advocate for parents and other Asians to encourage their kids to go into fields other than the stereotypical doctor/engineer lineup.

Stop the madness.

What does this have to do with Humanities and Social Sciences enrollment in general?

It means that when I see the people saying that less and less people should be going into humanities and social sciences, I feel a bit conflicted. See, that might be true to some degree, but I’m also Asian. And as for us Asians, I believe the opposite should be happening – that more and more Asians should be going into the humanities and social sciences.

Frankly, I don’t enjoy hearing an older Asian man or woman saying that I should just become a doctor, and I don’t want to hear another of that from somewhere else. I’ve heard it enough times, and I can just tell when they are about to say it.  I don’t want to be another Asian doctor or engineer. I don’t need to. Some Asians are fine with those fields, and I respect that, but that is not for me.

It’s an odd conflict. In general, there are more people in the humanities and social sciences than there should be; yet within the Asian (and immigrant) communities, it’s the opposite, in my opinion.

KONG FU ZU SAYS

Confucius, an Asian philosopher. I heard he was totally into the Humanities or something.

How to find the balance?

I don’t know.

But I do know it’s a good idea to not do something if you’re that ambivalent towards it. On the other hand, I also know it’s a good idea to plan ahead. There’s nothing wrong being an Art/Philosophy/whatever major, so long as you know the risks and consequences, and plan accordingly.

I think that’s what we should be telling stupid kids like me, instead of “Take this major,” or “Don’t go into that subject.” I should be telling myself “Think about why you want to do this, the pros and cons, and how you are going to manage yourself with these tools.” After all, majors are nothing but tools. College degrees are nothing but tools. Some tools are better than others, certainly, but all tools are useful somehow. You just have to familiarize yourself with the tool, its purpose, its limits and its potential.

That said, being a doctor ain’t fun. I’ve heard (though I cannot verify) that the debt from medical school makes other college debts look like a joke.

92% of statistics are made up!

Though I guess you can be a surgeon and get good pay to pay off your debts. Then again, it’s pretty stressful being one, I’ve heard.

(Note: I use “Asian” in this article, but in reality I could substitute Asian with most other immigrant groups. See here for more.)

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Asians are Stupid Like Everyone Else

Nooders

On the other hand, the guy who invented instant noodles is a genius.

Maybe we’re just better at hiding it.

Asians are stupid, too. In fact, I would love for people to think Asians are stupid. That way, people will underestimate us instead of overestimate us, so they won’t be so surprised at our success. I mean, come on, the only minority in America that’s actually really smart are Jews, right?

Racisism aside, the model minority myth is unfortunately very popular among the masses. It is also, just as unfortunately, very popular among the Asian masses, which makes things worse. Sure, we have the glorious Confucius, odd family customs and rituals that incite higher suicide rates among students in East Asia, kung fu skills, and eyes that need eyeglasses – an important indicator of intelligence, I am told – but sometimes I’ve wonder if people haven’t seen a dumb Asian. I have. Or at least I’ve seen Asians that aren’t smart. Fine, “not smart” and “dumb” are not the same things.

Nevertheless, I have an unscientific, untested theory as to why there seem to be so many smart Asians – merely a matter of statistics, I believe.

Basically, the whole model minority myth is the result of circumstantial racial categories. In America, there are officially four major racial categories: white, black, Hispanic, and Asian. Now, well-educated immigrants, that is, immigrants who have high levels of education come from all over the world. We have, for instance, Iranians, many of whom fled from the current regime following the Revolution; we also have Africans (from Africa), who prefer to lend their talents away from their unstable homelands; we also have well-educated Europeans from Europe, well-educated people from Latin America and the Carribean, and so on. However, out of all these groups, only Asians constitute a separate racial category. Iranians and other Middle Easterners are often classified as white; Africans from Africa as black; and so on. So in the non-Asian categories, the well-educated immigrants are lumped together with other folks (some well-educated, some not-so-well-educated) already living in America, while in the Asian category, since there weren’t that many Asians to begin with, well-educated immigrants are overrepresented.

In short, my theory is that Asians only seem smarter because well-educated folks are overrepresented in the Asian category even though well-educated immigrants come from all over the world. Of course there are other reasons and issues too (such as the decent performances of Asians school in Asia), but I’ll just pretend they don’t exist for argument’s sake – I just want to point out one factor here.

Maybe all this makes no sense at all. If you are really skeptical, and wish to see a real example of a stupid Asian, look no further: he’s right here. I got barely passable grades in Calculus and Physics, and it’s a family thing too; probably explains why my parents weren’t so angry at me, since they figured they didn’t want me saying something like “Well, at least I passed Physics unlike you.” That’s a stupid Asian for you.

Look, I want Asians to be treated like stupid, normal people. That way, colleges won’t overestimate us and not want to take too many of us in, and we’ll be able to get into the best correges unrike those sirry American kids!

Asians are funny on my money.

Pic slighly unrelated.

(Ah, it feels good writing up something after a long absence. I am also a very lazy, unmotivated Asian.)