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Free for a limited time You're Asian, How Could Fail Math?

By Wayne Au and Benji Chang

On the most basic level, the Myth of the Model Minority masks the diversity that exists within the Asian-American community. The racial category of "Asian" is itself emblematic of the problem. Asia contains nearly four billion people and over 50 countries, including those as diverse as Turkey, Japan, India, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

The racial category of "Asian" is also historically problematic. Similar to those categories used to name peoples from Africa and the Americas, the definition of Asia as a continent (and race) and division of Asians into various nations was developed to serve the needs of European and U.S. colonialism and imperialism.

The category of Asian gets even fuzzier in the context of the United States, since there are over 50 ways to officially qualify as an Asian American according to government standards. Pacific Islanders and "mixed race" Asians are also regularly squished together under the banner of Asian or Asian Pacific Islander (which, out of respect for the sovereignty of Pacific peoples, we refuse to do here).

Masking the Class Divide

The Myth of the Model Minority, however, masks another form of diversity-that of economic class division. As Jamie Lew explains in her 2007 book, Asian Americans in Class, there are increasing numbers of working-class Korean-American students in New York City performing more poorly in schools than their middle-class counterparts.

Similarly, Vivian Louie found class-based differences in her study of Chinese-American students. Her research indicated that middle-class Chinese-American mothers tended to have more time, resources, and educational experience to help their children through school and into college than mothers from working-class Chinese-American families, who had longer work hours, lower-paying jobs, and lower levels of education.

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