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January 10, 2008

Asian American Students and School Stereotypes

Jay Matthews:

The surge in the number of Asian Americans the past four decades has affected many sectors of society, particularly public schools. On the whole, Asian American students tend to perform well on standardized tests and have a high rate of acceptance into some of the most selective high schools and colleges. The energy and ambition shown by many of these students has both improved our schools and fueled stereotypes. For example: All those hard-working Asian kids, some people say, are raising the grading curve and putting too much pressure on the rest of us.

I have often wondered what Asian American students think about this. Fortunately, one of them has just completed a very small but intriguing study that shines a surprising light on this often overlooked issue.

The study, " 'Too Many Asians at this School': Racialized Perceptions and Identity Formation," was written by Jenny Tsai as her senior college thesis for the social studies department at Harvard last year. If you e-mail Tsai at, she will send you a copy. What she describes is not a cabal of brainiacs trying to steal all the academic glory from their non-Asian competitors, but a collection of industrious and ambitious American teenagers trying to emulate their equally achievement-oriented white classmates, while society and government shove them into an artificial group called "Asians and Pacific Islanders" on the census forms.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at January 10, 2008 12:00 AM
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