Often, in novels and movies, we see stories of young protagonists raised to be elites and rulers from a young age. They undergo training, and so we are told tales of boys becoming noble knights, and girls becoming charming princesses. Obviously, the world of kings and queens is not the world that most of us live in today, but the concept of raising children to be elite has not faded. One community this is particularly noticeable in is the Asian community.
I, myself, am a Chinese girl, and throughout my childhood, I have attended plenty of classes outside of school to learn all things people see typical of Chinese people: piano, martial arts, and so on. And as I have grown, my friends, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, have attended language school, violin classes, debate clubs, amd piano competitions. And of course, all of us strive to, under the encouragement of our parents, be in more advanced classes in school, join prestigious organizations, and participate in extracurricular activities to enhance our learning.
And all of this is just in America. It is much more intense in China. Students are drilled with math problems and useless facts from an extremely young age and spend the better part of their early years studying, and doing everything their parents tell them to so that they might go to a good school. And herein the goal in all of the efforts of Asian parents: to send their kids to an Ivy League school and ensure that they become successful as a doctor, lawyer, or scientist. And so, this is the path that most all well-off Asian kids take: to work hard to ensure a good future as an elite member of society, to live as the best of the best.
In theory, all of this sounds fine. Aren't the parents just trying to provide for their children's future? But it's a bit more complicated than that. Children don't need to and shouldn't dedicate their childhood years to just memorizing textbooks. And school isn't only for learning facts. Young children are still developing their brains, and it is a time to learn social skills just as much as math problems. They spend time studying material that only matters in school rather than making memories and undergoing unique learning experiences that will last a lifetime. And that's not it. The environment created for these young students is intense and competitive, and they are led by their parents and teachers and tutors, usually unable to decide for themselves. This is a perfect formula for a good student, but they will easily be lost in life later on.
Just like the young knights and princesses of the time of nobility, Asian students undergo challenging childhoods, and they are shaped by their parents to be elites, much like a king and queen would shape their heir to be a ruler. Along the way, however, these young elites are denied personal choices, and their doors of potential may be locked forever by demanding parents. They are not given the opportunity to live their own lives, and no matter how successful they may be in their parents' plans, there is no way of knowing if they have wasted a life of potential.
Raising elite children is one of the more toxic parts of Asian culture today, and this idea of helping young students only achieves the opposite, extinguishing their uniqueness and freedom of choice.
Melodie Lin is Chinese. She spends most of her time drawing (@little.bastard.artist), reading, and writing rants.