Asian youths cope with studies, and a model minority myth

Lane laneonline at
Fri Mar 24 19:03:13 UTC 2006

Last fall my colleague and I published a paper on a
rather more extreme, though not uncommon case of young
Asian Americans grappling with group identity issues.
The study focused on three first-generation teenage
girls who used features of AAVE (African American
Vernacular English) in their everyday speech. Their
academic performances ran the gamut from an
overachieving class president to a failing student. I
also presented this study at AERA 2005 in Montreal. 

I'll be happy to send this article from The Journal of
Interdisciplinary Studies published at Cal Poly Pomona
to anyone interested.

Lane Igoudin, Ph.D.
ESL/Business English 
Cypress College & Cal Poly Pomona

--- "Harold F. Schiffman"
<haroldfs at> wrote:

> Asian youths cope with studies, and a model minority
> myth
> March 16, 2006, 10:49 AM EST
> At 17, Heayeon Lee's thoughts often wander to her
> impending high school
> graduation, trendy fashions and the latest object of
> her affection. Lee
> also worries about her grades. The Rincon High
> School senior is barely
> passing her government class; she would rather
> splash paint on canvas than
> try to decipher U.S. foreign policy. The teen
> shatters the stereotype that
> all Asian-American students belong to a problem-free
> population of high
> achievers. That myth has been tossed at Lee before.
> "You're Asian, how
> could you not know that?" Lee said a teacher once
> blurted out when she
> admitted not knowing the answer to a math problem. 
> Lee, who also uses
> Michelle as her first name, said she is more fond of
> art than of numbers.
> She wants to be an art teacher someday.
> Members of Tucson's Asian community know that the
> "model minority" label
> doesn't apply to everyone in their diverse
> population, and they work to
> dispel misconceptions through programs aimed at
> young people such as Lee.
> In the Tucson Unified School District, which enrolls
> most of the city's
> schoolchildren, 1,600 Asian-American students,
> combined, speak more than
> 20 languages. Among those languages are Chinese,
> Vietnamese, Korean and
> Filipino. Although Asian-Americans make up just 2.7
> percent of Tucson
> Unified School District's more than 60,000 students,
> their needs are no
> less serious, said Maria Hooker, director of the Pan
> Asian Studies
> Department. "There are a lot of students who
> succeed, but there are a lot
> of students who have trouble making it."
> Hooker's department acts as an advocate for students
> and works with
> community groups to tackle some of the obstacles
> that keep the youngsters
> from thriving. Most of the hurdles are related to
> family language and
> culture, Hooker noted. Some Asian-American children,
> including some who
> were born and raised here, have a difficult time in
> school because they
> speak an Asian language at home and their English
> vocabulary is limited,
> she said. And students who struggle academically
> can't count on parental
> help with homework and other school-related matters,
> because the school
> system is foreign to the adults.
> Many Asian immigrants stay away from schools because
> they see their
> involvement as interfering with teachers, said
> Hooker, who is
> Korean-American. Hooker often explains to parents
> that here they are
> expected to get involved in their children's
> education. But not all can,
> she said, particularly recent immigrants who must
> hold two jobs to
> survive. As Hooker and others work to change
> cultural perceptions,
> Asian-American youths who need a little extra help
> get it from the Pan
> Asian Community Alliance of Tucson. The group
> operates a center where
> students of all ages get homework help after school.
> Lee, who moved from South Korea to this country
> seven years ago, is among
> the students who stop in frequently. The teen said
> she tries not to be
> bothered by the misperceptions that many have of her
> community. "I just
> laugh it off," she said. The oldest of three
> children, Lee faces all the
> youthful angst of most people her age. And being an
> immigrant child who
> learned English as a second language has posed other
> challenges as well.
> Dorothy Lew, the alliance's executive director, said
> that as the
> American-born child of Chinese immigrants, she can
> identify with the
> struggles of Lee and the other youths she has met
> over the years.
> Lew recalled that as a young student, like many of
> the Asian youths who
> visit the center, she lacked a rich English
> vocabulary because she always
> spoke Chinese with her parents and grandparents. And
> she still remembers
> the parental pressure that pushed her to work hard
> in school. "My family
> used to say, 'If you fail, you will embarrass
> yourself and you will
> embarrass your family," Lew said. Brian Chen, 15,
> has lived in this
> country for just five months. He visits the Pan
> Asian center almost daily
> to get some help with language, reading and math.
> "My mom always tells me to pay attention and study
> hard," said Chen, who
> is from China and a freshman at Sahuaro. "For me,
> it's hard, but for other
> Asians, study is very easy."

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