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更新时间:2015-12-29 9:18:19 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

New Jersey School District Eases Pressure on Students, Baring an Ethnic Divide

This fall, David Aderhold, the superintendent of a high-achieving school district near Princeton, New Jersey, sent parents an alarming 16-page letter.

今年秋天,在新泽西州普林斯顿附近一个成绩优异的学区,负责人戴维·阿德霍尔德(David Aderhold)给家长写了一封令人担忧的信,长达16页。

The school district, he said, was facing a crisis. Its students were overburdened and stressed out, juggling too much work and too many demands. In the previous school year, 120 middle and high school students were recommended for mental health assessments; 40 were hospitalized. And on a survey administered by the district, students wrote things like, “I hate going to school,” and “Coming out of 12 years in this district, I have learned one thing: that a grade, a percentage or even a point is to be valued over anything else.”

他说,该学区正面临着的一场危机。学生负担过重,焦虑不安,要同时应付太多的学业和要求。前一学年,120名初中和高中生被建议接受心理健康评估,40名学生入院接受治疗。在该学区授权的一次调查中,学生写下了诸如“我讨厌上学”和“在这个学区上了12年学后, 我学到的一点是:一个评分、一个百分比乃至一个点的价值高过一切”这样的内容。

With his letter, Aderhold inserted West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District into a national discussion about the intense focus on achievement at elite schools, and whether it has gone too far. At follow-up meetings, he urged parents to join him in advocating a holistic, “whole child” approach to schooling that respects “social-emotional development” and “deep and meaningful learning” over academics alone. The alternative, he suggested, was to face the prospect of becoming another Palo Alto, California, where outsize stress on teenage students is believed to have contributed to two clusters of suicides in the last six years.

通过这封信,阿德霍尔德让西温莎-普兰斯堡学区(West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District)陷入了一场全国性的大讨论中,主题是精英学校对成绩的密切关注,以及这种关注是否太过了。在后来的会议上,他力劝家长和他一起,支持一种培养“完整孩子”的学校教育,尊重“社会-情感发育”和“有意义的深度学习”,而非只重视学业表现。否则,他说这里可能会变成另一个帕洛阿尔托,这个加州城市过去六年里两度出现连续性的自杀事件,青少年学生压力过大据信是原因之一。

But instead of bringing families together, Aderhold's letter revealed a fissure in the district, which has 9,700 students, and one that broke down roughly along racial lines. On one side are white parents like Catherine Foley, a former president of the Parent Teacher Student Association at her daughter's middle school, who has come to see the district's increasingly pressured atmosphere as antithetical to learning. “My son was in fourth grade and told me, `I'm not going to amount to anything because I have nothing to put on my résumé,”' she said.

但阿德霍尔德的信并没有让学生家庭团结到一起,反倒曝露出这个有9700名学生的学区存在的裂痕——一道大致沿着种族界限的裂痕。一边是像凯瑟琳·弗利(Catherine Foley)这样的白人家长。曾在女儿就读的中学担任家长老师学生协会(Parent Teacher Student Association)主席的她认为,该学区让人觉得越来越有压力的氛围不利于学习。“我儿子上四年级。他和我说,‘我不会有出息的,因为我没有什么东西能放到简历上,’”她说。

On the other side are parents like Mike Jia, one of the thousands of Asian-American professionals who have moved to the district in the past decade, who said Aderhold's reforms would amount to a “dumbing down” of his children's education.

另一边是像迈克·贾(Mike Jia)这样的家长。过去10年,数以千计的亚裔美国上班族搬到了该学区。迈克便是其中之一。他表示,阿德霍尔德的改革相当于让他孩子的教育“标准降低”。

”What is happening here reflects a national anti-intellectual trend that will not prepare our children for the future,” Jia said.


About 10 minutes from Princeton and an hour and a half from New York City, West Windsor and Plainsboro have become popular bedroom communities for technology entrepreneurs, pharmaceutical researchers and engineers, drawn in large part by the public schools. From the last three graduating classes, 16 seniors were admitted to MIT. It churns out Science Olympiad winners, classically trained musicians and students with perfect SAT scores.


The district has become increasingly popular with immigrant families from China, India and Korea. This year, 65 percent of its students are Asian-American, compared with 44 percent in 2007. Many of them are the first in their families born in the United States.


They have had a growing influence on the district. Asian-American parents are enthusiastic supporters of the competitive instrumental music program. They have been huge supporters of the district's advanced mathematics program, which once began in the fourth grade but will now start in the sixth. The change to the program, in which 90 percent of the participating students are Asian-American, is one of Aderhold's reforms.


Asian-American students have been avid participants in a state program that permits them to take summer classes off campus for high school credit, allowing them to maximize the number of honors and Advanced Placement classes they can take, another practice that Aderhold is limiting this school year.


With many Asian-American children attending supplemental instructional programs, there is a perception among some white families that the elementary school curriculum is being sped up to accommodate them.


Both Asian-American and white families say the tension between the two groups has grown steadily over the past few years, as the number of Asian families has risen. But the division has become more obvious in recent months as Aderhold has made changes, including no-homework nights, an end to high school midterms and finals, and a “right to squeak” initiative that made it easier to participate in the music program.


Jennifer Lee, professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine, and an author of “The Asian American Achievement Paradox,” says misunderstandings between first-generation Asian-American parents and those who have been in this country longer are common. What white middle-class parents do not always understand, she said, is how much pressure recent immigrants feel to boost their children into the middle class.

加州大学欧文分校(University of California, Irvine)社会学教授、《亚裔美国人成就的悖论》(The Asian American Achievement Paradox)的作者珍妮弗·李(Jennifer Lee)表示,第一代亚裔美国家长和那些在这个国家生活了较长时间的人之间经常存在误解。她说,白人中产阶级家长往往不理解,新移民觉得推动孩子跻身中产阶级的压力有多大。

“They don't have the same chances to get their children internships or jobs at law firms,” Lee said. “So what they believe is that their children must excel beyond their white peers in academic settings so they have the same chances to excel later.”


The issue of the stresses felt by students in elite school districts has gained attention in recent years as schools in places like Newton, Massachusetts, and Palo Alto have reported clusters of suicides. West Windsor-Plainsboro has not had a teenage suicide in recent years, but Aderhold, who has worked in the district for seven years and been superintendent for the last 2 1/2, said he had seen troubling signs.


In a recent art assignment, a middle school student depicted an overburdened child who was being berated for earning an A, rather than an A+, on a calculus exam. In the image, the mother scolds the student with the words, “Shame on you!”


Further, he said, the New Jersey Education Department has flagged at least two pieces of writing on state English language assessments in which students expressed suicidal thoughts.

而且他说,新泽西州教育部(New Jersey Education Department)标出了至少两篇有关州英语语言评估的作文。学生在文章中表现出了自杀的想法。

The survey commissioned by the district found that 68 percent of high school honor and Advanced Placement students reported feeling stressed about school “always or most of the time.”


“We need to bring back some balance,” Aderhold said. “You don't want to wait until it's too late to do something.”


Not all public opinion has fallen along racial lines.


Karen Sue, the Chinese-American mother of a fifth-grader and an eighth-grader, believes the competition within the district has gotten out of control. Sue, who was born in the United States to immigrant parents, wants her peers to dial it back. “It's become an arms race, an educational arms race,” she said. “We all want our kids to achieve and be successful. The question is, at what cost?”

卡伦·苏(Karen Sue)是一名华裔美国母亲,孩子一个上五年级,一个上八年级。她认为,学区内的竞争已经失控了。父母是移民,自己在美国出生的她希望其他家长能够回到以前。“已经成了军备竞赛,教育上的军备竞赛,”她说。“我们都想让自己的孩子有所成就,取得成功。问题是,代价是什么?”