Are high achievers born or made?

Lee referred to a recent WSJ (Wall Street Journal) article, The New White Flight (cf. Thomas Sowell’s commentary about it at and the Asian Week editorial about it, Diversity is NOT Black and White. [ht: Musings of an Urban Christian] For those of you who are skimmers and scanners, here’s the quick read summary: In Cupertino, California, a growing Asian American student population is causing rising academic standards — and causing many white parents to withdraw their children from the school and some to move out of the community.

Compare and contrast with this excerpt from this GMA (Good Morning America on ABC) piece [ht: Peter Ong] : Are Asian Children Smarter? Authors Explain How Their Parents Motivated Them to Learn

Asian-Americans comprise only 4 percent of the United States’ population, yet they make up 20 percent of the Ivy League. The daughters of Korean immigrants and authors of “Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers ? and How You Can Too“, Dr. Soo Kim Abboud and Jane Kim, say their parents raised them to be successful. Abboud is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jane Kim is a lawyer who specializes in immigration issues.

  • You are your child’s best role model, so be enthusiastic toward learning and education.
  • Always create ways to actively include learning in your profession. This will dramatically increase your career advancement opportunities and add to your sense of professional fulfillment in a way that will benefit both you and your child.
  • Surround your children with people who love learning and are in diverse fields. This will allow your children to develop a healthy respect for learning while also giving them information to pursue various career paths.
  • A love of learning is imperative to success in any field and should be promoted with enthusiasm despite any objections you might have toward the professions your child wishes to pursue.
  • In order to instill a love for learning and education in your children, you must 1) exhibit this love yourselves or expose your children to people who do portray this love, and 2) joyfully invest the time to teach this love to your children.
  • Incorporate learning and education into all your children’s activities so that they don’t associate learning primarily with school or homework.
  • Don’t just tell your kids how important their education is to you — make the sacrifices in your lives that will convince them.

There you go, some secrets to raising a high achiever, if one can be supposedly raised. I am not a high achiever, I don’t think of myself as one anyways. I’m not a goal setter, not into finishing tasks, not a planner, don’t like school, not interested in the rigors of academia. I do like gathering information, if that counts as learning, I like learning. I like relationships and making new friends, having lots of conversations.

Yet, looking at these above secrets, and reviewing my observations and experience about Asian culture, I don’t find these tips to be particularly demonstrated by the typical Asian parents, except for the last tip about sacrificing. I don’t get a strong sense that there is an Asian value for learning supported by enthusiasm, incorporating learning into activities, exposure to diverse career fields. What I have heard and seen is a strict value for a few esteemed careers like doctors, lawyers, and engineers.

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