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21st Century College English: Book 2. Unit 2 Part A. Why They Excel. Unit 2: Part A. Pre-reading Activities Intensive Study Exercises Assignment. Pre-reading Activities. Preview Pre-reading Listening. Pre-reading Activities: Preview. Preview.

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21st Century College English: Book 2

Unit 2 Part A

Why They Excel

Unit 2: Part A
  • Pre-reading Activities
  • Intensive Study
  • Exercises
  • Assignment
Pre-reading Activities
  • Preview
  • Pre-reading Listening
Pre-reading Activities: Preview


What is the aim of education? This question depends completely on culture. Every society has a set of deep cultural attitudes that are clear to the majority of its members – so clear, in fact, that they may seem like the only right way. And the deep cultural attitudes of any society are reflected in its system of education. The three texts in this unit explore some of the different ways culture affects education. Not only surface differences like the content of the lessons or whether the students stand up when the teacher enters the room, but also on deeper levels that are rarely discussed or even thought about — until two cultures meet in a classroom.

Pre-reading Activities: Listening

First Listening

Before listening to the tape, have a quick look at the following blanks to prepare yourself to listen for the figures.

Asian and Asian Americans make up only ________ of the US population, but they come up to ____________________ of the undergraduates at Harvard, _______ at MIT, _______ at Yale and _____________ at Berkley.


Pre-reading Activities: Listening

First Listening

Asian and Asian Americans make up only ________ of the US population, but they come up to ____________________ of the undergraduates at Harvard, _______ at MIT, _______ at Yale and _____________ at Berkley.


more than 17%



over 27%

Pre-reading Activities: Listening

Second Listening

Read the following words first to prepare yourself to answer the questions to the best of your ability.

talent effort money concentration ambition intelligence pressure sacrifice

tradition discrimination

Pre-reading Activities: Listening

Second Listening

— Why are these statistics “amazing”?

— What’s the explanation?


Pre-reading Activities: Listening

Radio Announcer: Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Just Statistics, our weekly collection of odd statistical facts. Did you know that Asians and Asian Americans make up only 2.4 percent of the US population? 2.4 percent, that’s right. And did you know that more than 17 percent of the undergraduates at Harvard are Asians and Asian Americans? Isn’t that amazing! But that’s not all: Asians and Asian Americans make up 18 percent of the student body at MIT, 16.5 percent at Yale and over 27 percent at Berkeley! Those are among our best schools, ladies and gentlemen — how do those Asian and Asian American students do it?

Intensive Study
  • Intensive Study
    • Difficult sentences
    • Key words, phrases & usages
    • Comprehension exercises
Intensive Study

Text A:

Why They Excel

by  Fox Butterfield

Intensive Study

Why They Excel

by Fox Butterfield

1 Kim-Chi Trinh was just nine when her father used his savings to buy a passage for her on a fishing boat that would carry her from Vietnam. It was a heartbreaking and costly sacrifice for the family, placing Kim-Chi on the small boat, among strangers, in hopes that she would eventually reach the United States, where she would get a good education and enjoy a better life.

Intensive Study

2It was a hard journey for the little girl, and full of risks. Long before the boat reached safety, the supplies of food and water ran out. When Kim-Chi finally made it to the US, she had to cope with a succession of three foster families. But when she graduated from San Diego’s Patrick Henry High School in 1988, she had straight A’s and scholarship offers from some of the most prestigious universities in the country.

3“I have to do well,” says the 19-year-old, now a second-year student at Cornell University. “I owe it to my parents in Vietnam.”

Intensive Study

4Kim-Chi is part of a wave of bright, highly-motivated Asian-Americans who are suddenly surging into our best colleges. Although Asian-Americans make up only 2.4 percent of the nation’ population, they constitute 17.1 percent of the undergraduates at Harvard, 18 percent at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and 27.3 percent at the University of California at Berkeley.

5Why are Asian-Americans doing so well? Are they grinds, as some stereotypes suggest? Do they have higher IQs? Or can we learn a lesson from them about values we have long treasured but may have misplaced – like hard work, the family and education?

Intensive Study

6Not all Asians are doing equally well; poorly-educated Cambodian refugee children, for instance, often need special help. And many Asian-Americans resent being labeled a “model minority,” feeling that this is reverse discrimination by white Americans – a contrast to the laws that excluded most Asian immigrants from the US until 1965, but prejudice nevertheless.

Intensive Study

7The young Asians’ achievements have led to a series of fascinating studies. Perhaps the most disturbing results come from the research carried out by a University of Michigan psychologist, Harold W. Stevenson, who has compared more than 7,000 students in kindergarten, first grade, third grade and fifth grade in Chicago and Minneapolis with counterparts in Beijing, Taipei and Sendai. On a battery of math tests, the Americans did worst at all grade levels.

8 Stevenson found no differences in IQ. But if the differences in performance are showing up in kindergarten, it suggests something is happening in the family, even before the children get to school.

Intensive Study

9 It is here that various researchers’ different studies converge: Asian parents are motivating their children better. “The bottom line is, Asian kids work hard,” Stevenson says.

10 The real question, then, is how Asian parents imbue their offspring with this kind of motivation. Stevenson’s study suggests a critical answer. When asked why they think their children do well, most Asian parents said “hard work.” By contrast, American parents said “talent.”

Intensive Study

11 “From what I can see,” criticizes Stevenson, “we’ve lost our faith in the idea that we can all get ahead in life through hard work. Instead, Americans now believe that some kids have what it takes and some don’t. So we start dividing up classes into ‘fast learners’ and ‘slow learners’, whereas the Chinese and Japanese feel all children can succeed in the same curriculum.”

Intensive Study

12This belief in hard work is the first of three main factors contributing to Asian students’ outstanding performance. It springs from Asians’ common heritage of Confucianism, the philosophy of the 5th-century-BC Chinese sage whose teachings have had a profound influence on Chinese society. One of Confucius’s primary teachings is that through effort, people can perfect themselves.

Intensive Study

13Confucianism provides another important ingredient in the Asians’ success as well. In Confucian philosophy, the family plays a central role — an orientation that leads people to work for the honor of the family, not just for themselves. One can never repay one’s parents, and there’s a sense of obligation or even guilt that is as strong a force among Asians as Protestant philosophy is in the West.

Intensive Study

14There’s yet another major factor in this bond between Asian parents and their children. During the 15 years I lived in China, Japan, and Vietnam, I noticed that Asian parents establish a closer physical tie to their infants than most parents in the United States. When I let my baby daughter crawl on the floor, for example, my Chinese friends were horrified and rushed to pick her up. We think this constant attention is old-fashioned or even unhealthy, but for Asians, it’s highly effective.

15Can we learn anything from the Asians? “I’m not naive enough to think everything in Asia can be transplanted,” says Stevenson. But he offered three recommendations.

Intensive Study

16 “To start with,” he says, “we need to set higher standards for our kids. We wouldn’t expect them to become professional athletes without practicing hard.”

17 Second, American parents need to become more committed to their children’s education, he declares. “Being understanding when a child doesn’t do well isn’t enough.” Stevenson found that Asian parents spend more time helping their children with homework or writing to their teachers than American parents do.

Intensive Study

18 And, third, our schools could be reorganized in simple but effective ways, says Stevenson. Nearly 90 percent of Chinese youngsters say they actually enjoy school, and 60 percent can’t wait for school vacations to end. This is a vastly more positive attitude than youngsters in the US express. One reason may be that students in China and Japan typically have a break after each class, helping them to relax and to increase their attention spans.

Intensive Study

19“I don’t think Asians are any smarter,” says Don Lee, an Asian-American student at Berkeley. “There are brilliant Americans in my chemistry class. But the Asian students work harder. I see a lot of wasted potential among the Americans.”

(975 Words)


— (cost of a ticket for) a journey by ship or plane from one place to another

  • e.g.
  • He is too poor to afford a passage home.
  • Oliver has booked a passage to New York.

—a place where one is safe from a particular danger

  • e.g.
  • The firefighters were busy helping survivors to safety.
  • They ran to safety, away from the fire.
make it (to somewhere)

—succeed in getting somewhere usu. in time to do sth., or in doing sth.,or getting sth. wanted

  • e.g.
  • Despite the heavy rain, she made itto the airport just in time to catch her plane.
  • After failing three times in the exams, Jack feels he will never make it in computer.




Will you be able to make it to the meeting on time?

cope with

—manage successfully; be able to deal with (sth. difficult, unpleasant, etc.)

  • e.g.
  • Poor families have to cope with a lot of problems.
  • cope with the water shortage/ his rival / the budget deficit

a. giving or receiving parental care although not related legally or by blood

v. to bring up

  • e.g.
  • With a home full of foster children she was always busy.
  • She decided to foster the abandoned child despite her difficulties in her life.
  • Cf.
  • adopt
  • —take a child of other parents, as approved by law, and bring up as one’s own child
  • e.g.
  • Many childless couples adopt homeless orphans.
owe … to

— have (sth. good) because of (sth./sb.)

  • e.g.
  • I owe my knowledge of music to my mother.
  • I owe it to my friends that I have been able to finish this work.
a wave of

— an unusually large number of

  • e.g.
  • a wave of new comers
  • a wave of buying
  • a wave of terrorism




More to learn

Kim-Chi is part of a wave of bright, highly-motivated Asian-Americans who are suddenly surging into our best colleges.



Kim-Chi is part of a wave of brilliant, ambitious Asian immigrants who are rushing into our best colleges.

stereotype n.

— a fixed general image, characteristic, etc. that is believed to represent a particular type of person or thing

  • e.g.
  • Young and modern, she does not fit the stereotype of a woman who spends all her time doing housework.
  • What’s the stereotype of a grind?

More to learn

… as some stereotypes suggest?



like the general impression created by some typical Asian Americans


— put into a particular kind or class; describe as

  • e.g.
  • His neighbors labeled him a thief.
  • He waslabeled a snob.




His rival labeled him a cream puff.

Text-related information

U.S. immigration laws against Asians

Asians’ overseas migration has been limited by both natural and artificial factors. The Chinese, earliest to arrive, and the Japanese were long victims of racial discrimination. They suffered from the discriminatory laws that limited and excluded the Asian immigrants from the United States. The Chinese Exclusive Act in 1882 suspended Chinese immigration for 10 years. In 1965, a law was passed to allow immigrants from Asia to the United States.

counterpart n.

— a person or thing that has a similar function or position in another place or organization

  • e.g.
  • the Foreign Minister and hisFrenchcounterpart
  • the Prime Minister and his European counterparts
  • the English Merchant Bank and its American counterpart, the Wall Street Investment Bank
converge vi.

— (tend to) become similar or identical

  • e.g.
  • Our previously opposed views are beginning to converge.
  • Their ideas seem to be converging.

More to learn

It is here that various researchers’ different studies converge…

The structure it is/was … that/who … can be used to emphasize the main point of a sentence.

  • e.g.
  • The various studies converge here.
  • → It is here that the various studies converge.
  • We made all these sacrifices for you.
  • → It was for you that we made all these sacrifices.

More to do

It is here that various researchers’ different studies converge…
  • Drills
  • Rewrite the sentences below as it is/was … that/who … sentences. The idea to be emphasized in each one appears in colored letters.
  • We organized this volunteer group for the benefit of the old people in the neighborhood.
  • We realize how far we have come only when we look back.
  • 3. His secretary does all the work.

It was for the benefit of the old people in the neighborhood that we organized this volunteer group.

It is only when we look back that we realized how far we have come.

It is his secretary who does all the work.

More to learn

It is here that various researchers’ different studies converge…



It is on this point that various researchers’ different studies become identical.

bottom line

— the deciding or crucial factor; the essential point

  • e.g.
  • The bottom line is that we need another ten thousand dollars to complete the project.
imbue with

— fill … with …(a kind of idea, feeling, etc.)

  • e.g.
  • She tries toimbue her husband with a sense of responsibility.
  • She tries to imbue her children with sympathy.


Churchill tried hard to imbue Englishmen with patriotism.



have what it takes

—have the right qualities or skills required for success

  • e.g.
  • I don’t think Rebecca has what it takes to be a ballet dancer.
  • Do you have what it takes to become a general manager?

More to learn

…, Americans now believe that some kids have what it takes and some don’t.



Americans now think that some kids have the right qualities required for success and some don’t.

whereas conj.

—while at the same time; while on the contrary

  • e.g.
  • The elephant weighs about 3,600 kg.
  • The blue whale weighs up to 130,000 kg.

Whereas the elephant weighs about 3,600 kg, the blue whale weighs up to 130,000 kg.

More to do

whereas conj.

—while at the same time; while on the contrary

  • Drills
  • Combine the following sentences using the conjunction whereas.
  • The word “youngster” has a cheerful connotation.
  • “Offspring” sounds rather clinical.
  • Confucianism emphasizes family ties.
  • Protestantism teaches individual responsibility.

Whereas the word “youngster” has a cheerful connotation, “offspring” sounds rather clinical.

Whereas Confucianism emphasizes family ties, Protestantism teaches individual responsibility.

spring from

— result from; have one’s origin in

  • e.g.
  • Her doubts spring from too much experience of failure.
  • Her unhappiness springs from her pursuit of fame and wealth.
tie n.

—a connection, relationship, or feeling that links a person with another person, a place, etc.

  • e.g.
  • The tie between mother and child
  • I no longer feel any ties with my hometown.

More to learn

… Asian parents establish a closer physical tie to their infants than most parents in the United States.



Asian parents take more bodily care of their infants than most parents in the U.S. do.

American parents need to become more committed to their children’s education.



American parents should take on more responsibilities for their children’s education.

can’t wait for sth./ to do sth.

— be very excited about sth. and eager for sth./ to do sth.

  • e.g.
  • He couldn’t wait to tell the good news to his parents.
  • All kids couldn’t wait for the Spring Festival to come.
span n.

— the length of time between two dates or events or during which sth. exists or functions

  • e.g.
  • life span
  • memory span
  • span of knowledge




potentiala. & n.

—the inherent ability or capacity for growth, development, or coming into being

  • e.g.
  • industrial potential
  • acting potential
  • potential customer
  • potential resources