Dear Ms. Alpert,

This stuff is not at all new, and in fact there is a lot of material about Asian stereotypes that can be found in journals (at $37.00 a reprint). So, I just sent this one link that I found immediately. If you look for material from the Midwest — say Hmong students — you will find a surplus of lit on the various problems. I am pleased you have mentioned the report — it was known in SDUSD years ago (I think around ’95 I saw numbers for the first time) that a sub-section of the Asian student cohort performed extremely poorly and what was to be done. Well, as usual, here we are, a K-12 generation later with a report! The point is, they always “deep-six” these numbers and “carry on regardless,” to play on the old awful English films.

If you disaggregate the data (SDUSD has it ALL — if they want to give it to you — IF!) and then read the anthropology research, you’ll find several quite valid reasons why there are all the differences, and it is not going to be an easy task to solve them due to the nature of culture.

And … let’s not forget that many of the Cambodians and Hmong students are from the poorest families, therefore clustered in worse schools. (Yes, I taught in SDUSD and there are “worse” schools.) What needs to be done? Students who have been successful should be identified and asked candidly what led to their success, and the system should build upon that firsthand knowledge.

Anyway, thanks for highlighting this now entrenched problem. But with budget cuts, etc., and the “one size fits all” model of teaching in general, I don’t see much creative happening for these students.

I once used a short story written by a Hmong writer in Minnesota in a tenth grade class (I co-wrote a curriculum called “Outsiders’ Voices”) and my Hmong student was overwhelmed that her culture had been the focus of a class. In her entire life in San Diego she had never had a single teacher acknowledge her country and culture existed in a positive fashion. Needless to say, that student suddenly improved in my class and honestly felt that she existed.

I know — a long winded email — but this stuff really matters to children — that is what schooling is about. As adults we are already “done” in a sense and can forge our own educational futures, but children are powerless. They have to sit there and endure the system even if it is completely against their interests to so do.


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