Harvard Educational Review
  1. Asian American Education—Identities, Racial Issues, and Languages

    Edited by Xue Lan Rong and Russell Endo

    Charlotte, SC: Information Age Publishing, 2011. 225 pp. $45.99.

    The common narrative of national studies on Asian Americans often centers on the economic and educational success of the population, and in doing so these studies inevitably reinforce the model minority stereotype. Some studies, like the recent Pew Research Center’s 2012 Asian American Survey, The Rise of Asian Americans, probe deeper and provide a more nuanced portrait, one that also acknowledges differences among Asian American subgroups, particularly the disparities in income and educational attainment. Yet, for the fastest-growing and now the largest group of new immigrants in the United States, the Asian American narrative can appear simplistic, oscillating somewhere between model minority for many subgroups and cautionary tale for others. In Asian American Education—Identities, Racial Issues, and Languages, editors Xue Lan Rong and Russell Endo present a collection of empirical research on the educational experiences of Asian Americans that paints a richer and more complex story and challenges common perceptions. The book is the sixth volume in a series on the education of Asian Americans that continues to deconstruct the model minority stereotype and illuminate the group’s diverse experiences.

    Asian American Education
    begins with a critique of Asian American achievement, starting with Claudia Galindo and Suet-ling Pong’s study of Asian and White math scores using national data on two cohorts of tenth graders in 1990 and 2002. The rigorous study finds that although Asian American students perform better than White students in the earlier period, the gap has closed more than a decade later, challenging the perception of educational advantage for Asian American students. Liv Davila also examines academic achievement, but from a local context, in her study of ethnic minorities from Vietnam at an urban high school. Using interviews and field notes, Davila highlights academic identities that are shaped by experiences as an ethnic minority group in Vietnam, as linguistic minorities in the United States, and as students doubting their own intellectual abilities. Yang Xiong and Min Zhou attempt to further complicate the perception of Asian American achievement with a study on state policies that segregate and trap linguistic minorities like Hmong students. Unfortunately, the study’s use of state-level data precludes the ability to evaluate such policies, and, surprisingly, actual data on Hmong students and how the policies affect their academic outcomes and school experiences are thin.

    In presenting a more complex narrative of Asian Americans, the book moves beyond academic achievement to examine racial experiences and identities. Michelle Samura focuses on how Asian American college students come to understand what it means to be Asian, American, and Asian American. Samura describes a “transitional identity” in college, a space for new choices and possibilities where Asian American students constantly remake themselves, and what race means to them. In contrast to the perception of college as a space for personal exploration, Oiyan Poon argues that for many Asian American students, a common experience on campus is racial marginalization. Poon’s qualitative study shows that having a “critical mass” of Asian American students at a school like UCLA does little to mitigate experiences of exclusion, second-class citizenship, racial invisibility, and microaggressions.

    The book’s next two chapters further examine the experiences of Asian Americans in higher education, but from the unique and rare perspective of faculty members. Keonghee Han, an Asian professor at a rural, predominantly White university, recounts her own experience with racism and unmet cultural expectations in an autoethnographic study. Using written evaluations from students and administrators, Han is honest in reflecting on her own faults and miscommunications with students, though at times the reader may find it difficult to disentangle Han’s mistakes as an instructor from institutional racism. Evidence of racism is more robust in Wenfan Yan and Qiuyun Lin’s national study of racial disparities in tenure status. The authors find that although Asian American faculty members tend to have higher levels of human capital, research productivity, and other advantages, they are less likely than White faculty to hold tenured positions.

    The last chapters switch abruptly to the teaching of the Chinese language. Although they touch briefly on issues of immigration and identity, the studies can seem somewhat disconnected from earlier themes in the book. Yanan Fan conducts a case study of a new Chinese language teacher from China as she enters preservice classroom training and negotiates language practices and interactions with students. The impetus behind the study was to better understand Chinese as a global language and the experiences of a new wave of language teachers. The case study, however, misses an opportunity to highlight how the findings are unique to Chinese language teaching and the experiences of a Chinese language teacher, as opposed to language teaching in general and other language teachers. In the final chapter, Maria Torres-Guzman, Christy Lao, and Yi Han describe the “Hidden Jewels” of Chinese immersion programs in San Francisco. Whereas most research focuses on Spanish language programs, the authors point out the rich history of local Chinese programs and analyze factors that contribute to their success. The chapter is of interest to parents, educators, and local school districts grappling with how to best address the language needs of a community.

    Not only does Asian American Education succeed in presenting different perspectives on Asian Americans and challenging the model minority image, but, as the authors show, each perspective is also nuanced, encompassing a range of experiences. Whether looking at educational achievement, racial identities, racism, or language use, the book directly confronts stereotypes of Asian Americans in education and society merely by moving beyond discourses of success. Describing the experiences of a diverse population is no easy task, and, despite their limitations, census reports and demographic studies of Asian Americans serve important roles. But this collection of articles, and similar ones in the field, complements the familiar narratives with more complexity and ultimately creates a richer and more accurate portrait of the race-related struggles that Asian Americans experience today.
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    Abstracts

    Rules of the Culture and Personal Needs
    Witnesses’ Decision-Making Processes to Deal with Situations of Bullying in Middle School
    Silvia Diazgranados Ferráns, Robert L. Selman, and Luba Falk Feigenberg
    Transforming Teaching and Learning Through Social Movement in Mexican Public Middle Schools
    Santiago Rincón-Gallardo and Richard F. Elmore
    “Coming into Presence” as Mentally Ill in Academia
    A New Logic of Emancipation
    Rochelle Skogen

    Book Notes

    Postsecondary Education for American Indian and Alaska Natives
    Edited by Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, Amy J. Fann, Angelina E. Castagno, and Jessica A. Solyom

    Asian American Education—Identities, Racial Issues, and Languages
    Edited by Xue Lan Rong and Russell Endo