Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Model Minority

Asian American blogging week continues. I feel very weird even saying that, although I have in the past blogged about Asian American issues, mainly because I am still figuring out how that aspect of my identity fits into my overall identity. The Democratic primaries highlighted the apparent divisibility of race and gender issues, as if one had to choose between one or the other. And according to the ever controversial Linda Hirschman, intersectionality is tantamount to a lack of focus in feminism. Yes, even though she bats for our team, we may vehemently disagree with her now and assail her white privilege. Feminist Philosophers has a good roundup of links.

Anyway, onto today's news, which has important implications for affirmative action/diversity initiatives, understanding the diversity in opportunity/outcome among an ethnic group, attacking the idea of a monolithic Asian America, etc. etc.:

Report Takes Aim at "Model Minority" Stereotype

The image of Asian-Americans as a homogeneous group of high achievers taking over the campuses of the nation’s most selective colleges came under assault in a report issued Monday.

it pokes holes in stereotypes about Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, including the perception that they cluster in science, technology, engineering and math. And it points out that the term “Asian-American” is extraordinarily broad, embracing members of many ethnic groups.

“Certainly there’s a lot of Asians doing well, at the top of the curve, and that’s a point of pride, but there are just as many struggling at the bottom of the curve, and we wanted to draw attention to that,” said Robert T. Teranishi, the N.Y.U. education professor who wrote the report, “Facts, Not Fiction: Setting the Record Straight.”

“Our goal,” Professor Teranishi added, “is to have people understand that the population is very diverse.”

The SAT scores of Asian-Americans, it said, like those of other Americans, tend to correlate with the income and educational level of their parents.

“The notion of lumping all people into a single category and assuming they have no needs is wrong,” said Alma R. Clayton-Pederson, vice president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, who was a member of the commission the College Board financed to produce the report.

“Our backgrounds are very different,” added Dr. Clayton-Pederson, who is black, “but it’s almost like the reverse of what happened to African-Americans.”

Asian-Americans make up about 5 percent of the nation’s population but 10 percent or more — considerably more in California — of the undergraduates at many of the most selective colleges, according to data reported by colleges. But the new report suggested that some such statistics combined campus populations of Asian-Americans with those of international students from Asian countries.

The report quotes the opening to W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1903 classic “The Souls of Black Folk” — “How does it feel to be a problem?” — and says that for Asian-Americans, seen as the “good minority that seeks advancement through quiet diligence in study and work and by not making waves,” the question is, “How does it feel to be a solution?”

That question, too, is problematic, the report said, because it diverts attention from systemic failings of K-to-12 schools, shifting responsibility for educational success to individual students. In addition, it said, lumping together all Asian groups masks the poverty and academic difficulties of some subgroups.

The report said the model-minority perception pitted Asian-Americans against African-Americans. With the drop in black and Latino enrollment at selective public universities that are not allowed to consider race in admissions, Asian-Americans have been turned into buffers, the report said, “middlemen in the cost-benefit analysis of wins and losses.”


Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home