Limits on Study of Asian Americans

August 27, 2020
 
 

To the Editor:

Scott Jaschik wrote a good summary of Ngugen H. et al paper published in Educational Researcher this month. I would like to draw attention to several important points regarding the original research that Mr. Jaschik failed to mention, yet are germane to this important and controversial topic. First, there is no mention of this study's limitations, most significant among which (in my opinion) is the sample of students surveyed. The University of California system is quite unique in its administration and also very insular. Given its exceptionally high Asian American student population, it is unlike most other colleges in the nation and to draw sweeping conclusions about Asian Americans (as opposed to Asian Californians) is sloppy. Additionally, there are between-group differences that were observed by the authors and Mr. Jaschik correctly points this out. However, without an understanding of what constitutes a meaningful difference for each element of the survey used, it is incorrect and lacking rigor to dismiss differences because they appear to be numerically small.

My final critique of this study relates to how the authors purport that it is justifiable to discriminate based on race as long as it does not cause "undue stress and harm" to the discriminated. Would this research not be more meaningful if those surveyed were interviewed in a standardized manner to assess the students' perceptions of how college's admission decisions have affected them? Subject reported data are becoming more important in other fields of research (e.g. patient reported outcomes in phase 3 clinical trials for medications) and it is my belief that educational research would benefit from this type of data.

Best regards,
Eric Shen
 

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