• Asian-Americans and the ‘model minority’ myth

    Source: The Korean Herald - http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20140126000336

    Previews of Amy Chua’s forthcoming book, “The Triple Package” (co-written with husband Jed Rubenfeld), detonated a social media uproar among Asian-Americans. Many were infuriated by the New York Post’s report that Chua, the self-styled Tiger Mom, was identifying eight superior “cultural” groups in the United States: Jewish, Indian, Chinese, Iranian, Lebanese, Nigerian, Cuban and Mormon. For Asian-Americans, the problem is about another Chua production that seems to perpetuate the “model minority” myth and, in particular, the notion that Asians are culturally ? even genetically ? endowed with the characteristics that enable them to succeed in American society.

    Before the mid-20th century, the Tiger Mom did not exist in the national imagination. Instead, Americans believed that Chinese culture was disgusting and vile, viewing U.S. Chinatowns as depraved colonies of prostitutes, gamblers and opium addicts bereft of decency. Lawmakers and citizens deployed these arguments to justify and maintain the segregation, marginalization and exclusion of Chinese from mainline society between the 1870s and World War II. Those efforts were more than effective: to have a “Chinaman’s chance” at that time meant that one had zero prospects.

    There is danger in offering culture as a formula for success, because our ideas of culture are hardly fixed. The history of Americans’ views about Chinese immigrant behaviors shows that “culture” often serves as a blank screen onto which individuals project various political agendas, depending on the exigencies of the moment.

    During World War II, white liberals agonized that racism was damaging the United States’ ability to fight a war for democracy against the Axis powers. Many felt that the Chinese exclusion laws, which had barred migrants from China from entering the country or becoming naturalized citizens since the 1870s, risked America’s trans-Pacific alliance with China against Japan. A coast-to-coast campaign emerged to overturn the laws. The Citizens Committee to Repeal Chinese Exclusion recognized that it would have to neutralize deep-seated fear of “yellow peril” coolie hordes. So it strategically recast Chinese in its promotional materials as “law-abiding, peace-loving, courteous people living quietly among us.” Congress repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943.

    In the 1950s, journalists, social scientists and policymakers recycled this fledgling idea, circulating it further and wider as they groped for a solution to what they perceived as a national juvenile delinquency crisis. The New York Times Magazine emphasized that Chinese youths displayed “unquestioned obedience” toward their elders, while Look magazine celebrated their “high moral sense.” U.S. Rep. Arthur Klein of New York praised his Manhattan Chinatown constituents for their “respect for parents and teachers,” “stable and loving home life” and thirst for education.

     

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  • Break Point: The Challenges of Teaching Multicultural Education Courses

    A great article to read on multicultural education courses.

    Break Point: The Challenges of Teaching
    Multicultural Education Courses
    Arlette Ingram Willis and Shuaib J. Meacham

    In work on multiculturalism and teacher education, much has been made of the
    ironic growth in the heterogeneity of America’s public school students and the
    homogeneity of America’s public school teachers (Fuller, 1 992). Educators have
    thus been alerted to the dire consequences to follow, should they continue to
    engage the complexity of culturally diverse student populations in their present
    state of “multicultural illiteracy” (Ladson-Billings, 1 991). Along with this alert,
    lip service seems to be paid to what preservice teachers don’t know, and what
    they should know and do in order to meet the educational needs of children of
    color and of linguistic difference (Gore, 1 993; hooks, 1 992). Like our colleagues,
    we believe that the most effective way to reform education begins in our colleges
    and universities in teacher education. A review of the related research suggests
    that many multicultural education courses are taught with the intent of changing
    the attitudes and beliefs of white pre service teachers. We suggest that all preservice
    teachers need to improve their understanding of the role of linguistic and cul­
    tural diversity in children’s lives, to improve their understanding of its history,
    and change their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors so that a more just multicultural
    school climate is realized. It is imperative therefore that teacher education courses
    not merely teach about multicultural education, but that they become multicultural
    environments. In this article we describe accounts of our experience as two
    African American instructors teaching multicultural education courses and the
    experiences of students who have taken them.
    Among a p lethora of publications on multicultural education, little has
    been written on the constraints facing teacher educators who attempt to convey
    attitudinal change. Consequently, there is a tacit, yet prevalent tension between
    ideas about the learning that must take place and the practical limitations under
    which many multicultural education courses are conducted (Gore, 1 993). In fact,
    theoretical admonitions tend to underestimate the subtle dynamics within the
    practical setting and altogether fail to account for the ways in which multi­
    cultural learning takes place. We believe it is important to articulate clearly and
    explicitly the emotional nature of these discussions. Students have expressed
    responses that range from self-pity to racial hatred. We’ ve i ncluded their
    words for, as Nieto ( 1 992) has pointed out, their voices must become part of our
    examination of the teaching process.

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