“Easterners” are not collectivist automatons who are poor at analytical reasoning.

german-vs-chinese-opinions
Figure 1. German (blue) versus Chinese (red) opinions, according to a German art exhibit. The piece was created by a German-educated Chinese woman named Yang Liu. Compare this symbolism with the term “Chinese fire drill”.

Excepted from East meets west: How the brain unites us all [HTML] [PDF] by Ed Yong (via MindHacks):

AS A SPECIES, we possess remarkably little genetic variation, yet we tend to overlook this homogeneity and focus instead on differences between groups and individuals. At its darkest, this tendency generates xenophobia and racism, but it also has a more benign manifestation – a fascination with the exotic.

Nowhere is our love affair with otherness more romanticised than in our attitudes towards the cultures of east and west. Artists and travellers have long marvelled that on opposite sides of the globe, the world’s most ancient civilisations have developed distinct forms of language, writing, art, literature, music, cuisine and fashion. As advances in communications, transport and the internet shrink the modern world, some of these distinctions are breaking down. But one difference is getting more attention than ever: the notion that easterners and westerners have distinct world views.

Psychologists have conducted a wealth of experiments that seem to support popular notions that easterners have a holistic world view, rooted in philosophical and religious traditions such as Taoism and Confucianism, while westerners tend to think more analytically, as befits their philosophical heritage of reductionism, utilitarianism and so on. However, the most recent research suggests that these popular stereotypes are far too simplistic. It is becoming apparent that we are all capable of thinking both holistically and analytically – and we are starting to understand what makes individuals flip between the two modes of thought.

One of the pioneers of this research is Richard Nisbett from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. […]

[…]

Time and again, studies like [those by Nisbett and others] seem to support the same basic, contrasting pattern of thought. Westerners appear to perceive the world in an analytic way, narrowing their focus onto prominent objects, lumping them into categories and examining them through logic. Easterners take a more holistic view: they are more likely to consider an object’s context and analyse it through its changing relationships with its environment.

Nisbett has suggested that historical cultural factors are the key to understanding these differences. The intensive, large-scale agriculture of ancient China involved complex cooperation among farmers and strict hierarchies from emperor down to peasant. “You had to pay attention to what other people were doing and you had to obey orders,” he explains. “These kinds of strong social constraints on behaviour have been characteristic of east Asian life ever since.” The situation in ancient Greece, often thought of as the fount of western culture, was very different: agriculture on such a scale was impossible and most occupations did not require interactions with large numbers of people. The Greeks led independent lives and valued individualism. That allowed them to focus better on objects and goals in isolation, without being overly constrained by the needs of others – traits that persist to this day in western culture. “If that story is all correct, it’s not east versus west, it’s interdependence versus independence,” says Nisbett.

False dichotomy?

Certainly it is appealing to think that a single dimension – individualism/collectivism – can account for much of the difference in people’s behaviour around the world. That might explain why many psychologists have been happy to go along with it. However, recently it has become apparent that the east-west dichotomy is not as clear-cut as this.

For a start, the simplistic notion of individualistic westerners and collectivist easterners is undermined by studies designed to assess how people see themselves, which suggest that there is a continuum of these traits across the globe. In terms of individualism, for example, western Europeans seem to lie about midway between people in the US and those in east Asia. So it’s not all that surprising, perhaps, that other studies find that local and current social factors rather than the broad sweeps of history or geography tend to shape the way a particular society thinks. For example, Nisbett’s group recently compared three communities living in Turkey’s Black Sea region who share the same language, ethnicity and geography but have different social lives: farmers and fishers live in fixed communities and their trades require extensive cooperation, while herders are more mobile and independent. He found that the farmers and fishers were more holistic in their psychology than herders, being more likely to group objects based on their relationships rather than their categories: they preferred to link gloves with hands rather than with scarves, for instance (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 105, p 8552). A similar mosaic pattern of thought can be found in the east. “Hokkaido is seen as the Wild West of Japan,” says Nisbett. “The citizens are regarded as cowboys – highly independent and individualistic – and sure enough, they’re more analytic in their cognitive style than mainland Japanese.”

Is it time we moved beyond simplistic notions of eastern and western psychology? Daphna Oyserman from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor certainly thinks so. She is not happy invoking history to explain modern human behaviour. “We can’t test if history mattered,” she says. “But we can test how contexts can evoke one or other mindset.”

[…]

Clearly, the dichotomy between holistic eastern and analytical western thinking is more blurred than the stereotypes suggest. If we all flip between different modes of thought depending on social context, says Oyserman, psychologists should be trying to find out which contexts provoke the holistic and which the analytical mindset, rather than perpetuating a false divide.

This approach is all the more important, she says, because the supposed dichotomy is based on limited evidence, with China and Japan representing the east in most studies and the US and Canada flying the flag for the west. In many regions, from southern Asia to Latin America, studies are extremely scarce, and even better-studied Europe is mostly embodied by the unrepresentative duo of Germany and the Netherlands. “The kind of things that cue analytic or holistic thought may be very different in these [neglected] societies,” Oyserman says. “Honour, for example, is a hugely important issue in areas that haven’t been studied very thoroughly, like the Middle East, Africa or Latin America.”

What is clear is that the minds of east Asians, Americans or any other group are not wired differently. We are all capable of both analytic and holistic thought. “Different societies make one option seem to make the most sense at any given moment,” says Oyserman. But instead of dividing the world along cultural lines, we might be better off recognising and cultivating our cognitive flexibility. “There are a lot of advantages to both holistic and analytic perception,” says Nisbett. In our multicultural world it would benefit us all if we could learn to adopt the most appropriate mode of thought for the situation in which we find ourselves.

(Note that the article’s author, Ed Yong, also wrote the excellent post Gender gap in maths driven by social factors, not biological differences at Not Exactly Rocket Science, which was also covered on this blog.)

german-vs-chinese-way-of-life
Figure 2. German (blue) versus Chinese (red) way of life, according to a German art exhibit. The piece was created by a German-educated Chinese woman named Yang Liu. Compare this concept with Undifferentiated Groups of Asians as Ad Props.

The psychology research on the supposed East-West dichotomy in thinking styles may be a subtle and contemporary manifestation of scientific racism. After all, the research project of finding differences between “the East” and “the West” is based on the Orientalist tradition of Western European colonial societies attempting to define their identities against the societies they were colonizing (which happened to be towards the east of where they were located). Moreover, the “scientific” conclusions about Westerners thinking analytically and being individualist, and Easterners thinking holistically and being collectivist, fit in too well with popular stereotypes (see Figure 1 and Figure 2).

Recall that in 2008, an employee at a university in Wales prevented a potential student from taking an accounting course because the course required “analytical skills” and he perceived the student as “Oriental”:

“The man said something like ‘I’m not saying you’re Chinese but people like you, Oriental people, tend to accept what is written in the books and what the lecturer says, whereas this kind of course is nothing like you have studied in the past, it requires more analytical skills, you will have to do more yourself.”

Not only is the research project of finding the essence of the “Eastern mind” versus the “Western mind” based on the Eurocentric East-versus-West social construct, and not only are the studies’ conclusions supported by popular stereotypes and clichés, but this same exact reasoning is used to rationalize racial discrimination in education against people perceived as East Asian.

It is difficult to conceive of this psychology research project as something other than an academic extension of cultural bias, and a product of its time.


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33 Responses to ““Easterners” are not collectivist automatons who are poor at analytical reasoning.”

  1. DaisyDeadhead Says:

    Fascinating! This part…

    For example, Nisbett’s group recently compared three communities living in Turkey’s Black Sea region who share the same language, ethnicity and geography but have different social lives: farmers and fishers live in fixed communities and their trades require extensive cooperation, while herders are more mobile and independent. He found that the farmers and fishers were more holistic in their psychology than herders, being more likely to group objects based on their relationships rather than their categories: they preferred to link gloves with hands rather than with scarves, for instance (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 105, p 8552).

    …suggests class and type of work are the things that ‘divide’ people’s perceptions, not race or ethnicity. But then, that’s MY bias at work!

    (Workers of the world unite!)

  2. Restructure! Says:

    Daisy,

    That part you quoted also reminds me of a historical (or at least to me) study about non-white intelligence:

    One indication that schools mold students […] comes from Joe Glick’s study of the Kpelle tribe (Cole, Gay, Glick & Sharp, 1971). Glick asked adult members of the tribe to sort terms into categories. For example, they might be asked to sort names of fruits (apple, orange, grapefruit) or names of vegetables (celery, lettuce, broccoli) or names of vehicles (bus, boat, car). Glick found that the Kpelle sorted functionally. For example, they would sort “apple” with “eat” and “car” with “gas” because people eat apples and cars use gas.

    In our culture, only children sort functionally. The Kpelle’s functional kind of sorting behavior is considered stupid when done by an adult. Older children and adults are expected to sort taxonomically (putting fruits together) or hierarchically (putting the word “fruit” over the names of different fruits and then perhaps putting the word “food” over the whole lot).

    Glick tried, without initial success, to get the Kpelle to sort in other ways. When he was about to conclude that they simply didn’t have the mental ability to do things any differently, he decided as a last resort to ask them how a stupid person would do the task. At this point, they sorted taxonomically, and with no trouble at all. Why would the Kpelle consider taxonomic sorting stupid? The answer is that the Kpelle did not grow up in our educational system and–even more important–do not take our tests. In everyday life, we tend to think functionally. We think of eating apples or using gas in cars. We learn to think taxonomically in school, but for the most part this kind of thinking remains limited to artificial settings. A problem arises, therefore, when advanced students or career aspirants have to start thinking in ways that they have not been conditioned in school to think, that is, when they need to start turning out their own ideas rather than reciting back or analyzing ideas that other people have had.

    This Kpelle story is usually found in psychology textbooks about cultural bias, but Nisbett et al. (2008) appear to be making the same mistake as Glick et al. (1971). Nisbett et al. assume that grouping gloves with hands is not thinking “categorically”, as if taxonomic categories are the real categories, and functional categorization is not really categorization. However, instead of seeing it as a taxonomic category versus functional category distinction, they see it as a categorical versus “relational” distinction.

    Of course, terms like “relationship” and “holistic” are ill-defined terms that really mean methods of categorization and abstraction that are different from Nisbett et al’s assumptions of what is relevant. Both taxonomic categorization and functional categorization are forms of abstraction and analysis, yet they believe that only the type of categorization that you learn in school is analytical in nature.

    Functional categorization has nothing to do with “holistic” thinking, so-called “collectivism”, global processing, “right-brain” thinking, or anything like that. It’s still a form of abstraction, as the taxonomic and other properties are being ignored, while function is being foregrounded and made relevant.

    Yet I must emphasize again that functional categorization isn’t some kind of non-Western categorization.

  3. links for 2009-09-18 « The Mustard Seed Says:

    […] “Easterners” are not collectivist automatons who are poor at analytical reasoning. « Restructur… "The psychology research on the supposed East-West dichotomy in thinking styles may be a subtle and contemporary manifestation of scientific racism. After all, the research project of finding differences between “the East” and “the West” is based on the Orientalist tradition of Western European colonial societies attempting to define their identities against the societies they were colonizing (which happened to be towards the east of where they were located). Moreover, the “scientific” conclusions about Westerners thinking analytically and being individualist, and Easterners thinking holistically and being collectivist, fit in too well with popular stereotypes…" (tags: blog northamerica race) […]

  4. patrick Says:

    This arguments about some culture being superior is foolish and should have no place in the 21st century.
    These people need basic athropological lessons before they embarrass themselves.
    The proponents of these argument do not seem to have come across simple facts ,even limiting theories such as cultural relativism and cultural particularism.

    If you pull a Chines toddler from the village in China and throw him among the rich kids in New York, he will acquire the same perceptions of things and the kids in NewYork. He is not going to think and reason like his mother back in China-acculturation is the answer.

  5. fred Says:

    Genes are linked to mood and collectivist attitudes.

    http://www.physorg.com/news175955032.html

  6. Anonymous Says:

    certain races are superior at certain things!
    you can not deny!

  7. Restructure! Says:

    fred,

    Your article shows a correlation between short 5-HTTLPR alleles and East Asian nations, and suggests that the short allele causes collectivism. However, since the premise of East Asian collectivism is shown to be false in the “social sciences” (see this post) that is supposed to dovetail with “natural sciences” in this new hypothesis, then the short alleles are not a predictor of collectivism.

  8. fred Says:

    restructure writes, However, since the premise of East Asian collectivism is shown to be false in the “social sciences” (see this post)

    I read your post. And, quite frankly, you have a tendency to latch on to anything that suits your prejudices and discard anything which doesn’t. Not only do you link to “bad” science but when you do link a worthy article you twist it beyond all recognition. The parts of your post that weren’t crap don’t contradict the article I linked. They support it.

  9. Restructure! Says:

    fred,

    Frankly, you do not have a good track record of properly reading posts that contradict the stereotypes you hold of people, and you tend to see what you want to see to confirm your beliefs.

  10. fred Says:

    restructure-

    All you did is repackage my criticism of you. By the way, I absolutely LOVE the example you linked in your last comment. Because I hit the nail squarely on the head. And with your own words no less.

    Take a look at the handful of nitwits who read your blog and agree with you. There isn’t a normal one in the bunch. That should tell you something. They’re all a bunch of fringe loonies. You’ve got militant feminists, whacky homos / trannies and one girl who brags that she’s been labeled a “pathological liar” by professional psychiatrists because she “outsmarted” them. There’s a reason you don’t have a normal readership. Its because crazy likes crazy and thinks it’s normal.

  11. Restructure! Says:

    fred,

    This is not a “repackaging”. The fact that you are describing yourself in your criticism of me is ironic and pathetic.

    You are a bigot and you believe that people who are in the minority are “not normal”, whereas normal to you is an upper-class, able-bodied, hetereosexual white cis man. You also believe that associating with upper-class, able-bodied, hetereosexual white cis men and accepting the majority opinion and status quo is *not* a form of groupthink and affinity-seeking.

    Also, new words are now added to the list of banned words, you bigot.

  12. fred Says:

    restructure-

    I see you are a graduate of the Paul Reubens’ school of forensics. And that’s fine. I think you’re a bigot as well. You’re on the constant look out for any odd and obscure issue which you can twist to smear anyone who is either white or male. I can only imagine what would have brought you to such a sorry state. Fortunately, you’ve collected a motley crew of bitter misfits who are anything but normal to agitate and racebait. And I can certainly see how people who are obviously isolated due to their weirdness would be eager to lap it up like a dog laps up vomit. Still, it is sad. Feel free to add “bitch” to the list of banned words.

  13. fred Says:

    I almost forgot the stuff about normal to you is an upper-class, able-bodied, hetereosexual white cis man.

    The “able bodied, heterosexual man” part is correct. But the “white” part is iffy. My appearance is more ambiguous than you might think. And what is “normal” to me is a majority black environment with one of the world’s highest murder rates.

    And the “upper class” tag is just plain nuts. Yeah, I have a lot of money now. But I didn’t grow up with money and don’t particularly care for those who did. Half the people I grew up with are either in prison or dead. That’s what’s “normal” to me. So stick your bigoted little stereotypes where the sun don’t shine.

  14. Restructure! Says:

    I think you’re a bigot as well. You’re on the constant look out for any odd and obscure issue which you can twist to smear anyone who is either white or male.

    My blog is about white privilege and male privilege, not “smearing” anyone who is white or male. White privilege and male privilege is everywhere, not something that people have to look for under rocks.

    And I can certainly see how people who are obviously isolated due to their weirdness would be eager to lap it up like a dog laps up vomit.

    Idiot, upper/middle-class, able-bodied, heterosexual white cis men are the most isolated, due to the fact that their image is represented everywhere as what “normal” is, and they don’t have to be aware of people who do not fit this mold. People in the margins live in the same world that revolves around upper/middle-class, able-bodied, heterosexual white cis men, and we have to be aware of them because of their cultural centrality.

  15. fred Says:

    restructure writes, My blog is about white privilege and male privilege, not “smearing” anyone who is white or male.

    Sure it is. Your smears are an attempt to justify your own prejudices and extort privileges for yourself. It’s not noble. It’s petty and self serving. But if you don’t like living in a majority white country then blame your parents. Because it was majority white when they came. No one asked them there and no one is asking you to stay. And no one is under any obligation to pander to a spoiled brat who thinks the world should revolve around her. You’re a big girl and you can leave anytime you want. I hear there’s plenty of han privilege in china. And I’m sure they’d just love to have another code monkey.

  16. Restructure! Says:

    Sure it is. Your smears are an attempt to justify your own prejudices and extort privileges for yourself. It’s not noble. It’s petty and self serving.

    You are using the word “privilege” wrong. If I and other marginalized people had the same privileges, it would be called “equality”. The fact that you cling to keep your white privilege and male privilege is self-serving, but you are so invested your privileges that you see people who want some equality as selfish.

    But if you don’t like living in a majority white country then blame your parents. Because it was majority white when they came. No one asked them there and no one is asking you to stay. And no one is under any obligation to pander to a spoiled brat who thinks the world should revolve around her. You’re a big girl and you can leave anytime you want. I hear there’s plenty of han privilege in china. And I’m sure they’d just love to have another code monkey.

    Idiot, although Han Chinese discriminate against ethnic minorities, white people still have white privilege in China over Han Chinese.

  17. fred Says:

    restructure writes, “You are using the word “privilege” wrong.

    So now you’re going to dictate the proper use of the word “privilege”? Gimme a break. How about some actual evidence. Because I’ve read your crap for a month and your evidence sucks.

    The fact that you cling to keep your white privilege and male privilege is self-serving, but you are so invested your privileges that you see people who want some equality as selfish.

    So you sling shit at others and when they object to being smeared you call it “clinging”. Well, that’s your fantasy so I guess you can just make it up any way you like.

    Idiot, although Han Chinese discriminate against ethnic minorities, white people still have white privilege in China over Han Chinese.

    CHINESE businesses are using whites to bamboozle other people. That’s not privilege. That’s deception. And watch who you’re calling an “idiot”, idiot.

  18. Restructure! Says:

    fred,

    So now you’re going to dictate the proper use of the word “privilege”? Gimme a break. How about some actual evidence.

    No, I’m using it correctly.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_privilege

    Because I’ve read your crap for a month and your evidence sucks.

    You don’t even read properly. You just read collections of words without reading the sentences, and interpret them to confirm your pre-existing beliefs.

    So you sling shit at others and when they object to being smeared you call it “clinging”. Well, that’s your fantasy so I guess you can just make it up any way you like.

    Read the white privilege link. Maybe then you’ll have an inkling of what all these posts are about.

    CHINESE businesses are using whites to bamboozle other people. That’s not privilege. That’s deception.

    It’s deception, but only white people benefit from it, again. There are also programs that let Westerners teach English in China, but they choose white people (preferably blond) over East Asians, so that it is not unusual for a less qualified white person to be chosen over a more qualified East Asian, just because he is white. That’s white privilege, again.

  19. fred Says:

    restructure writes, No, I’m using it correctly.

    I know exactly how you’re using it- as a racist smear. The same way someone else might say “shiftless n*” or “greedy jew”. It’s just those who use the term “white privilege” prefer to put a more high brow spin to their bigotry.

    You don’t even read properly. You just read collections…

    That’s your opinion. And your opinion is wrong because you have poor analytical reasoning.

    Read the white privilege link. Maybe then you’ll have an inkling of what all these posts are about.

    I read your link. It boils down to painting a thin coat of academic respectability on scapegoating others for one’s own shortcomings. A thousand years ago someone would have blamed their poor situation on “bad luck” or the “evil eye”. Today you want to blame it on “white privilege”. But most problems result from one’s own poor choices and have nothing to do with anyone else. And the fact that you have to dream up silly examples only shows how weak your argument is.

    It’s deception, but only white people benefit from it, again.

    So Chinese companies are hiring white “actors” to deceive people and you think it’s the whites who are benefitting? Yeah. Obviously, whites are getting paid to participate and I think that’s despicable. But don’t kid yourself as to who’s idea those scams are. It’s Chinese businesses doing that. And they’re benefitting a lot more than those actors or they wouldn’t be doing it. See, your inability to understand this is just another example of your 1) poor analytical skills and 2) bigotry.

    There are also programs that let Westerners teach English in China, but they choose white people (preferably blond) over East Asians,

    I don’t doubt that at all. If I were going to a french cooking school I’d expect to be taught by a french instructor. Or if I were studying jujitsu I’d probably have a preference for a japanese intructor. Or at least an instructor who had been trained in Japan. They might not be the best instructor. But there is no way for a beginner to know that. So I’d have to make the choice based on limited information. Also, there is a certain prestige for Chinese schools to say their english instructors are actually english or american.

    So that’s your argument for “white privilege” in China? That schools prefer to hire white americans to teach their english classes? Do you have any idea how foolish that sounds?

  20. Jayn Says:

    So, it doesn’t bother you when qualified people are passed up for jobs for reasons totally unrelated to their ability to perform the job? At all? And you don’t see the irony of saying this right after saying that people need to take more responsibility for their own lives?

  21. fred Says:

    Jayn writes, So, it doesn’t bother you when qualified people are passed up for jobs for reasons totally unrelated to their ability to perform the job?

    Actually, that’s called affirmative action. And it would be hypocritical for one who supports affirmative action to make the argument you just did. But I don’t support affirmative action. And I do support hiring the most qualified person for the job. If the job is electrician, carpenter or programmer then I see no reason for race to be a factor. But if the job has an ethnic dimension then authenticity and ethnicity become a legitimate factor. If I want to learn authentic french, mexican or thai cooking then I’m going to prefer to be taught by an authentic french, mexican or thai person.

    Similarly, I studied Spanish in high school. One course was taught by an American and the other was taught by an Argentinian. I didn’t really see much difference in the quality of the instruction per se. But the Argentinian was able to bring a lot more to the table regarding history, culture, etc. Based on that I would probably have a preference for ethnic arts, language culture being taught by someone of that ethnicity. And I think that’s a legitimate point.

    But there’s also a case of customer preference. And businesses responding to customer preferences. How would you like it if you were told you had no choice in the race or gender of your doctor? Now, I personally have a doctor of another race that I’m very happy with. But I don’t have to stick my feet in stirrups. What if you were called a “racist” or “sexist” because you preferred your gynecologist be of your own gender or background? Some women might not care. But I think a woman has a right to a preference for who looks between her legs irrespective of who the better doctor is.

    ==================
    On the other hand, can you think of any non racial reason for this person to be denied an opportunity to apply for this job? And to think, this happened in restructure’s own hometown. I wonder why she wasn’t able to mention it on her blog?

    Woman denied government job because of race

    http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2010/07/20/14772661.html

  22. fred Says:

    Correction: The newspaper article was in the Toronto Sun but the incident took place in Ottawa.

  23. Restructure! Says:

    Similarly, I studied Spanish in high school. One course was taught by an American and the other was taught by an Argentinian. I didn’t really see much difference in the quality of the instruction per se. But the Argentinian was able to bring a lot more to the table regarding history, culture, etc. Based on that I would probably have a preference for ethnic arts, language culture being taught by someone of that ethnicity. And I think that’s a legitimate point.

    You don’t get it. I’m Canadian. I am of Canadian nationality. Yet the fact that a white guy with only a high school education would be chosen to teach English over me (I have taken a humanities courses extensively during my undergrad, including university-level English literature courses; I’m not just a “code monkey”) because he is white is nothing but racism. Even white guys who speak English as a second language and arrived in an English-speaking later in life would be chosen over an Asian Canadian born and raised in Canada with a degree in English from an English-speaking university. Don’t you think that the Asian Canadian would be more qualified, or does your brain still reject the notion because she isn’t white? Does the notion that an Asian could have a more culturally authentic knowledge of English than a white person explode your brain?

  24. Restructure! Says:

    On the other hand, can you think of any non racial reason for this person to be denied an opportunity to apply for this job? And to think, this happened in restructure’s own hometown. I wonder why she wasn’t able to mention it on her blog?

    Woman denied government job because of race

    http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2010/07/20/14772661.html

    If that actually happened, then I agree with her.

  25. fred Says:

    You don’t get it. I’m Canadian. I am of Canadian nationality.

    No. You’re chinese with a canadian passport. It generally takes at least a couple of generations to become assimilated into any culture. My wife’s family are immigrants and all her relatives born here think they’re assimilated, too. But they’re not. They’re only partially assimilated and it’s pretty obvious to everyone but themselves.

    Yet the fact that a white guy with only a high school education would be chosen to teach English over me… is nothing but racism.

    Did you even apply for one of those teaching positions? I doubt it.

    Listen, they’re hiring those teachers for a reason. They’re hiring them for “face” and prestige. They want to have the bragging rights for saying their english classes are taught by “authentic English speakers”. Chinese students expect to see a white face teaching them English. And having a white english teacher is a walking talking advertisement that the school is successful enough to afford a “real” english teacher irrespective of qualifications. That’s no different than a cooking school hiring french instructors or a martial arts school hiring asian instructors. Whether those doing the hiring are racist or not has nothing to do with it. It’s a matter of image, not racism.

    Though I’m a little surprised any school would hire a high school graduate when there are so many English majors who would be willing to do it for a year or two just for the “adventure”. I could see hiring a mediocre teacher for face value. But if a school hires an unqualified teacher just because they’re white then they’re probably a shoddy, fly by night operation trying to buy credibility. And I don’t agree with that.

    ==================

    If that actually happened, then I agree with her.

    What do you mean “If”??? What did you think affirmative action was?

  26. Restructure! Says:

    fred,

    No. You’re chinese with a canadian passport. It generally takes at least a couple of generations to become assimilated into any culture. My wife’s family are immigrants and all her relatives born here think they’re assimilated, too. But they’re not. They’re only partially assimilated and it’s pretty obvious to everyone but themselves.

    First of all, I don’t agree with the ‘assimilation’ model. The goal is integration, not making everybody the same.

    Secondly, what ethnicity is your wife, and was she born in your country?

    Thirdly, do you consider African Americans to be ‘assimilated’?

    Listen, they’re hiring those teachers for a reason. They’re hiring them for “face” and prestige. They want to have the bragging rights for saying their english classes are taught by “authentic English speakers”. Chinese students expect to see a white face teaching them English. And having a white english teacher is a walking talking advertisement that the school is successful enough to afford a “real” english teacher irrespective of qualifications. That’s no different than a cooking school hiring french instructors or a martial arts school hiring asian instructors. Whether those doing the hiring are racist or not has nothing to do with it. It’s a matter of image, not racism.

    Yet if they are doing that, then they would have lower quality instructors compared to if they hired based on qualifications.

    What do you mean “If”??? What did you think affirmative action was?

    The idea behind AA is to counter systemic biases against disadvantaged groups. One method of race-based AA is that if you are deciding between a white person and a non-white person who are equally qualified, choose the non-white person.

  27. fred Says:

    First of all, I don’t agree with the ‘assimilation’ model. The goal is integration, not making everybody the same.

    Pardon me, but that sounds like splitting hairs w/r/t terminology. I’m neither in favor of integration nor of making everyone the “same”. But there is such a thing as a “Canadian” irrespective of similarity. It’s a gray area but one isn’t a Canadian simply because they have a passport. As an analogy, one doesn’t just change social classes simply because they won the lottery. A prole is still a prole. It takes a generation or two for that to work itself out. Or do you suppose a prole becomes a blue blood just because they got a check from Ed McMahon?

    Secondly, what ethnicity is your wife, and was she born in your country?

    I’m not inclined to disclose my wife’s details but yes.

    Thirdly, do you consider African Americans to be ‘assimilated’?

    Assimilated into what? I consider blacks a legitimate part of America. On the other hand, I wouldn’t consider an African immigrant to be a legitimate American just because they held a passport. I’d consider them an African with a passport. As I said earlier, it takes time to become a part of something. Often several generations.

    Yet if they are doing that, then they would have lower quality instructors compared to if they hired based on qualifications.

    That may well be true. Let’s suppose it is. How would you propose “correcting” that? Would you set up a committee that reviewed all the new instructors and told the schools whom they could and couldn’t hire? That sort of bureaucratic tyranny reminds me that the original topic of this thread regarded “collectivist automatons”. My approach would be to let the market decide. Why not just let people make their own decisions? If they make poor decisions then it’s on them. That’s freedom of choice.

    The idea behind AA is to counter systemic biases against disadvantaged groups. One method of race-based AA is that if you are deciding between a white person and a non-white person who are equally qualified, choose the non-white person.

    Systemic biases against disadvantaged groups? The only systemic bias I saw was against that white woman. Personally, I’m not thrilled about automatically choosing one race over another even if they are equally qualified. If the candidates are equally qualified then why automatically choose one over the other? How is that not racial discrimination?

    But I think those leftist humanities professors fed you a line of baloney. That may be what they say AA is about. But that’s not how it works. In reality, what happens is that whites and asians are denied admission to make room for less qualified applicants from “disadvantaged groups”. But Ted Kennedy’s kids still go to Harvard.

    And that’s not just tongue in cheek. A new study by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and his colleague Alexandria Radford studied the admissions from the top 50 US universities and found that:

    “To have the same chances of gaining admission as a black student with an SAT score of 1100, an Hispanic student otherwise equally matched in background characteristics would have to have a 1230, a white student a 1410, and an Asian student a 1550.”

    So do you still think affirmative action is a great idea? But, wait, it gets even better. Not that this part particularly affects you but even though whites as a whole pay an AA price, upper class whites DON’T. As it turns out the admissions transfer the AA burden to middle and lower income whites. So an upper income white applicant is THREE times as likely to be admitted as a similarly qualified low income white applicant.

    According to the study:

    “When lower-class whites are matched with lower-class blacks and other non-whites the degree of the non-white advantage becomes astronomical: lower-class Asian applicants are seven times as likely to be accepted to the competitive private institutions as similarly qualified whites, lower-class Hispanic applicants eight times as likely, and lower-class blacks ten times as likely. These are enormous differences and reflect the fact that lower-class whites were rarely accepted to the private institutions Espenshade and Radford surveyed. Their diversity-enhancement value was obviously rated very low.”

    So if you’re going to talk about “white privilege” then you need to make damn sure which whites you’re talking about. And you need to acknowledge that middle and lower class whites are getting screwed. Case in point, my grades, test scores AND IQ are higher than the average engineering student at MIT and I still got rejected. Now, don’t get me wrong. I ain’t crying over it. Fuck them. And the horse they rode in on. I just don’t like people lying on me and saying it was handed to me because of “white privilege” when I earned my shit.

    Anyway, the study talks about how and why it actually happens. I doubt you care but here’s the link.

    http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2010/07/how_diversity_punishes_asians.html

  28. Restructure! Says:

    Assimilated into what? I consider blacks a legitimate part of America. On the other hand, I wouldn’t consider an African immigrant to be a legitimate American just because they held a passport. I’d consider them an African with a passport. As I said earlier, it takes time to become a part of something. Often several generations.

    Fine. There are multi-generational Asian Canadians and Asian Americans. If programs to teach English in China choose white people over Asians, then in some cases, it would mean a white immigrant (of a non-English-speaking country) is chosen over a multi-generational Asian. Would you not agree that the Asian is the culturally authentic English speaker and more qualified?

  29. fred Says:

    restructure writes, “If programs to teach English in China…

    I don’t know if it means that at all. Are you aware of any multi generational asians with English degrees who were rejected in favor of recent white immigrants who only had a high school diploma? I don’t mind discussing hypotheticals but there is a limit to how obscure of an exception one can reasonably use as an example.

    I did however notice that you ignored most of my last comment. Maybe if you keep ignoring it then it will go away?

  30. Restructure! Says:

    I don’t know if it means that at all. Are you aware of any multi generational asians with English degrees who were rejected in favor of recent white immigrants who only had a high school diploma? I don’t mind discussing hypotheticals but there is a limit to how obscure of an exception one can reasonably use as an example.

    There are many multi-generational East Asians on the west coast of Canada and the U.S., whose Chinese ancestors built the Canadian Pacific Railway or Transcontinental Railroad, or whose Japanese grandparents were sent to internment camps during WWII, and whose ancestral history in North America extends beyond that. Of course they speak English, and many would have English degrees.

    I know a multi-generational white person who had only a high school diploma and some college (no degree) who was accepted to teach English in China. Do you agree then that this white person is less qualified than a multi-generational Asian person with a degree, and that the white guy who gets the job does so because of white privilege, even though he is less qualified?

    I did however notice that you ignored most of my last comment. Maybe if you keep ignoring it then it will go away?

    Because it’s boring. That issue has already been discussed in the anti-racist POC blogosphere by people who understand racial issues more than you.

  31. fred Says:

    Do you agree then that this white person is less qualified than a multi-generational Asian person with a degree, and that the white guy who gets the job does so because of white privilege, even though he is less qualified?

    What I think is that any quality institution is going to hire the best person for the job. And that if a quality institution starts hiring unqualified instructors that it will ruine its reputation. On the other hand, a shoddy, fly-by-night operation has no reputation and thus no qualms about hiring an unqualified instructor in an attempt to buy some quick credibility. I think it’s despicable but I don’t think it’s “white privilege” because hiring unqualified instructors will similarly lead to white instructors acquiring a poor reputation, as well. The same way that AA has led to AA students and employees acquiring a poor reputation. I had black teachers who were educated prior to AA. Some of them were even teaching during segregation and they were awesome. Seriously. They were the cream of the crop. But what affirmative action did was scrape the sludge off the bottom and call it the cream. And now AA beneficiaries have a poor reputation. So whether you want to call your example “privilege” or not I think it will be bad for the schools who do it and it will ultimately be bad for whites who apply for those jobs in the future. Eventually, it will work itself out. I would point out, however, that this opinion is theoretical because I don’t have any experience with whom Chinese schools are hiring to teach their English classes.

    Because it’s boring. That issue has already been discussed in the anti-racist POC blogosphere by people who understand racial issues more than you.

    It’s odd you find that discussion boring. Because it’s directly related to what you claim your blog is about ie “white privilege”. You just don’t want to discuss it because it doesn’t support your opinions. I think your criteria for “people who understand racial issues more than [me]” is someone who agrees with you.

  32. Restructure! Says:

    I think about race a lot more than the average white person, and read anti-racist blogs more than the average white person, and one of the things I’m interested in is racial issues pertinent to Asians, so yes, some topics would be boring if rehashed in a superficial way by a racist white person who acts like a stereotypical racist white person.

  33. fred Says:

    restructure-

    The hypocrisy of you calling others “racist” aside, when you answer reasonable discussion with avoidance and namecalling it doesn’t do a whole lot for your credibility. If the points I raised have no merit then you shouldn’t have any problem addressing them. So let’s hear it.


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