Most of us who’ve gone to college know one or another Tiffany Uy type. They get stratospheric grades in every exam and top the bar or board exams when they graduate. For most of the time they spend finishing their chosen course, they hang out with their like-minded ilk — exchanging intel on sources of the juiciest sample exams and go all abuzz photocopying them for one another. They routinely burn the midnight oil in study groups made up of members of their cliques, rote-drilling themselves on these sample exams and exchanging exam-acing tips. Then after finishing the exams, while the rest of us go off to party or watch a movie, they re-convene to do intensive post-exam evaluations, which involves mainly exchanging the answers they put in and assuring one another they did well.
Are they mostly of Chinese-descent? On the basis of my personal observation, yes. We called them the Chinese Mafia. They are driven to succeed, and they measure success with very specific quantifiable performance measures — grades. I’m not saying only Chinese people are like that. I’m saying that when you describe such a character profile, it is more likely for a Chinese person to fit the bill. Just facts and statistics — like the numbers these people live by, right? Tiffany Uy is that case in point. She’s Chinese, and a grades ace. No surprises there, really.
So we’ve established that the average sample exam muncher and grades ace is Chinese and that there’s nothing personal or “racist” in stating those facts. That’s just the way things are. The question then is, why is Tiffany Uy who made history getting a near-perfect 1.004 general weighted average graduating BS Biology in UP so controversial?
Well, just finishing that course in the University of the Philippines, alone, is no easy feat. It is one of the most difficult and competitive subjects one could subject one’s self to in the State University. Furthermore, there is no point in taking that course unless you ace it. Why? Because most students use it as a “pre-med” course — a stepping stone towards a slot in the prestigious UP College of Medicine in Manila. To a UP BS Biology student, there are only two schools of medicine in the Philippines — UP Med and all the rest. UP students do not want to study medicine in the latter.
And so that is why it’s uno or bust when it comes to graduating with a bachelor of science degree in Biology in UP. Any lower than a 1.10 average and your chances of getting into UP Med drops to below 10 percent (and that’s for the lucky batches). When you’re competing with a hundred odd other Chinese students with rockets up their asses for a handful of UP Med slots, you’d stick a Saturn V booster up yours. By all accounts, Tiffany stuck two of those moonshot engines up hers — which is why she’s soaring over the moon today.
And that’s a good thing. Work hard, win hard. When you are a winner, you can then go on to credibly talk about putting in “a life of service” — like Bill Gates did after he spent his younger years raking in his billions and demolishing the competition.
It’s simple, really.
Perhaps those who deride Uy’s achievement by framing it narrowly have a point. A number — such as, say, a grade — by no means singularly defines intelligence, much more a person’s overall value to society. But you need to start somewhere. The health of a fetus while it is in its mother’s womb can only be judged using a handful of parameters — heartbeat, number of limbs, size, etc. Then, as a baby, it will be judged on the basis of how soon she learns how to walk and talk. As humans mature, the number of variables that describe them increase exponentially.
Similarly, people will be judged on the basis of their grades while they are in school. When they come out of school and face the “real world”, they will be judged based on other attributes. As they mature as professionals, more variables will be added to describe their characters. Bill Gates was once known only as the Microsoft founder and the world’s richest man. Today he is also known for his achievements in other fields of endeavour, like philanthropy.
So let’s give Tiffany Grace Uy a break. She made headline news because of her 1.004 general weighted average. It was on the back of that achievement that people started noticing other things about her — her “flawless skin” and “normal” lovelife, for example. People seemed to latch on to those latter aspects about Uy to assure themselves that she is human like the rest of us and not a member of an advanced party sent by an extraterrestrial invading force. What she does after this milestone is hers to explore and, perhaps, for us to continue to observe if she continues to hold our attention going forward.
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