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Copyright (c) 2007 Regents of the University of California
Asian American Law Journal

ARTICLE: Asian Americans and Affirmative Action: From Yellow Peril to Model Minority and Back Again

May, 2007

14 Asian Am. L.J. 57


Nancy Chung Allred +


In a fog-smothered corner of San Francisco sits an aged building known as Lowell High School. It appears to be a typical high school filled with rowdy teenagers; however, to thousands of immigrant families, this building represents a ticket to an elite university and the fast lane to the American dream. Lowell, the oldest public high school west of the Mississippi, is a top feeder school to prestigious universities, ranks fourth in the country in the number of Advanced Placement exams administered, and claims three Nobel Laureates, a California governor, and state and U.S. Supreme Court justices among its distinguished alumni. 1 Attending Lowell allows thousands of students in San Francisco to receive superb high school education at an elite college preparatory school without the burdens of expensive private school tuition. 2 All throughout my youth in the troubled San Francisco Unified School District, my parents and teachers lauded the school as the best, if not the only, way for future success.

I applied to Lowell in 1995, a time when the school was embroiled in the midst of a major controversy. Due to a decade-old consent decree, the highly selective college preparatory school could enroll no more than forty percent of one racial or ethnic category. 3 Because of San Francisco's racial makeup, this meant that children of Chinese descent, like me, needed to produce a higher composite score from exams and grades in order to be accepted. It seemed patently unfair that my ...
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