A question of values, not race

The now infamous Maclean’s “Too Asian?” article makes broad generalizations, but we must examine the “Asian values”

Yan Yu, ArtSci ’11
Yan Yu, ArtSci ’11

Yan Yu, ArtSci ’11

The Maclean’s Nov. 10 article about Canadian universities becoming “too Asian”, was certainly quite the controversy. It was so controversial that its title has been changed to “The Enrollment Controversy” from “Too Asian” and an apologetic follow-up article has now been published.

I won’t focus on the article’s gross generalizations, cliché stereotypes and hidden motives. They’ve been covered extensively elsewhere.

What I will focus on is Maclean’s’ implication that the values upheld by students (the so-called “Asian students”) who put academics ahead of social interaction or alcohol are somehow bad for Canadian universities. Just look at the article’s original title: “Too Asian?” What’s next? “Too horrific?” “Too frightening?” Having lived half of my life immersed in Chinese culture and the other half in a Western one, I can credibly comment about this rather divisive article from both cultures’ points of view.

True, in western societies like Canada, there does exist a culture gap between traditional Asian cultures and the 21st-century western culture.

But just because we sometimes don’t understand why members of other cultures do what they do, doesn’t mean we should be afraid, or even concerned. Just because your friend chooses to study rather than party doesn’t mean they’re any less your friend.

The “Asian students” that Maclean’s refers to—the ones spending much of their time studying—are simply adhering more strongly to certain values that other students also possess.

These values include self-discipline, hard work, sacrifice and delayed gratification.

If you’ll notice, the values themselves are fairly general. There is nothing racial, nothing cultural and certainly nothing “Asian” about any of them. Heck, some of my Caucasian friends uphold more of these values than I do! Essentially, these values are not just values that “Asian students” possess. They’re values that all students, from all cultures, share in common.

So, having clarified the reason why some students choose to study harder than others, and having eliminated the race issue from the equation, it becomes obvious that there’s nothing to fear from an increasing prevalence of these more hard-working, more self-disciplined students in Canadian universities.

Having more of these positive values on campus is no cause for concern, and certainly not a reason for radically changing university admissions policies.

In fact, I would argue that this trend is not only innocuous; it’s actually beneficial for universities like Queen’s.

Just think what would happen for Queen’s, as a whole, if more students adopted these values to a fuller extent in our lives.

There would be greater overall academic success, since more students will actually be working hard.

There would be less complaining and greater student satisfaction because more students would be willing to make sacrifices and prioritize.

Delayed gratification means the crowds on Aberdeen won’t be as large in future Fauxcomings, expediting the restoration of our long-lost Homecoming tradition. And finally, more self-discipline means that Vic Hall could have zero–count ‘em, zero–malicious fire alarm pulls during the school-year!

I’m not calling for the end of alcohol-infused parties here. We all have different ways of relaxing, and that’s cool.

I’m simply laughing at Maclean’s for suggesting that values such as self-discipline and hard work can ever be seen as frightening or undesirable, especially in places like Universities.

We, students of Queen’s University, and Canadian university students in general, are very lucky people indeed. We live in one of the wealthiest places on Earth.

We’re well-fed, well-clothed and well-drank (sometimes too much so).

We have tremendous resources at our disposal, and boundless opportunities to pursue.

What excuses do we have for being lazy, for not working hard, for not making our sacrifices to do the best we can in university?

We’re often called the “future leaders” of society, and for a very good reason: we are.

We are future teachers, doctors, writers, lawyers, artists, politicians, engineers, businesspeople, nurses, diplomats, professors, etc. In short, we are society’s future innovators, entrepreneurs, and caregivers.

But imagine an innovator without the ability to work hard. Imagine an entrepreneur with no sense of delayed gratification. And imagine a caregiver with no sense of sacrifice, self-discipline or hard work.

So, Maclean’s, instead of spreading fear over the rise in beneficial values on campus, celebrate it. Trumpet the helpful impacts of these values for Canadian universities, and garbage the rest.

And to my fellow students, know that values such as hard work, delayed gratification, and self-discipline are our values.

They’re values we all share, regardless of race or background.

And if we embrace them and apply them more fully in our lives, it’s not only us who will benefit. Our university will, too.

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