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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Report slams ‘model minority’ myth

    For years, a stereotype concerning the supposed academic dominance of Asian Americans has crept its way into American culture. However, a recent report by a national commission now challenges the “”model minority”” myth.

    The report takes aim at the notion that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the “”model minority”” in America, a group of students with unvaried socioeconomic backgrounds who are naturally inclined to do well in school, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

    Done by the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE) through a collaboration of the College Board and New York University, and based on data from the Department of Education, the American Council on Education, the census bureau and other sources, the report, Facts, not Fiction: Setting the Record Straight, seeks to disprove the misconceptions in order to begin more realistic educational practices.

    One misconception is that Asian American and Pacific Islanders are more likely to study the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. The report found that while many do study these fields, there are also a number who are likely to study social sciences and humanities.

    The reports adds that international students attending college in the U.S. to pursue specialized training in science, technology, engineering and math are “”a convoluting factor”” in the perception of Asian American and Pacific Islanders taking over these fields.

    Only 6.2 percent of the bachelor’s degrees obtained by Asian American and Pacific Islander in 2003 were in biological or life sciences, the most recent statistics available. Meanwhile 26.1 percent of degrees were in social sciences and humanities.

    At the UA, however, where Asian Americans are the second largest minority on campus, next to Hispanics, the statistics seem to agree with the stereotypes as far as areas of interest.

    In the fall 2007 semester, most Asian American freshmen at the UA with a declared major were enrolled in the colleges of Science and Agriculture and Life Sciences than any other colleges, with a 19.7 percent combined enrollment, according to the UA Office of Institutional Research and Planning Support (OIRPS).

    The smallest numbers for Asian American enrollment at the UA were in the colleges of Education, Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences, with a combined enrollment of 8.8 percent for the three colleges, according to OIRPS.

    At the UA, the term “”Asian American”” is used for admissions, not “”Asian American and Pacific Islander,”” although it does not specify which countries of origin are included in the term. It is optional for students to decide if they wish to be considered under this term, said Aeyn Edwards, senior program coordinator for OIRPS.

    The category of “”Asian American and Pacific Islander”” used by the U.S. Census Bureau includes 48 different ethnicities, speaking over a dozen different languages and really have more differences than similarities. It is important for educators and policymakers to recognize that those who make up this “”group occupy positions along the full range of the socioeconomic spectrum, from the poor and underprivileged to the affluent and highly skilled,”” the report said.

    According to the report, this image of a “”model minority”” even causes teachers, counselors, and administrators from kindergarten to higher education, to believe that Asian American students will excel on their own, a dangerous assumption that can often leave Asian Americans behind academically.

    The result is that Asian Americans are seen as the solution minority, as opposed to the problem minority, and are widely lumped together with Pacific Islanders, ignoring the differences in backgrounds and underscoring the fact that these populations face the same challenges as other communities.

    In fact, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are just as likely as all other Americans, if not more likely, to have only obtained an education level below high school and to be below poverty, the report found.

    The U.S. average in 2000 for educational attainment below high school was 19.6 percent, while the Asian American average was also 19.6 percent and the Pacific Islander average was 21.7 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

    In 1999 the U.S. average for population below poverty was 12.4 percent, while the Asian American average was 12.6 percent and the Pacific Islander average was 17.7 percent.

    Rejecting the fictional beliefs surrounding Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is the first step to developing realistic and equitable educational practices, the report said.

    At the UA this summer, programs are in place for high school students to ensure that all underrepresented groups have access to higher education.

    The Office of Early Academic Outreach is administering several summer programs through its project, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or the Tucson GEAR UP project.

    The Tucson GEAR UP project works with the high school graduating class of 2012, following the class as they move from middle school through high school to ensure that the students are prepared to enter college upon graduation.

    Of the current crop of GEAR UP students, 81 percent are Latino.

    The program began three years ago when the students were in the seventh grade. The students are now entering their freshmen year at Cholla, Desert View, Pueblo, Sunnyside or Tucson High School, where the entire freshman class is part of the GEAR UP project at each school.

    The Freshmen Year Experience was a chance for GEAR UP students to get early exposure to the high school they will be entering this fall, as well as earn one half of a high school elective credit over the summer. The students took English, math and a study skills course at their high school to get ready for their upcoming freshman year.

    The UA Algebra Academy recently brought 200 GEAR UP students to the UA in the culmination of a four-week program aimed at impacting student success in algebra, which is a key indicator of future college enrollment. The students earned one high school elective credit over the four weeks.

    The students spent three weeks at their high schools and came to the UA for the final week to put into action what they had learned in the form of water bottle rocket design, testing and launching.

    “”The purpose was to provide students an opportunity to participate in hands-on activities and projects that expose the students to algebra concepts in hopes that it will help them as they move into algebra at the freshman level in high school,”” said Rudy McCormick III, associate director for Early Academic Outreach at the UA.

    Another program offered to GEAR UP students this summer was the Math Through Mariachi Program, in which about 100 students learned algebra concepts and related them to music. The students were on campus for three weeks taking math, music and study skills lessons from student instructors from the UA and Pima Community College.

    The students put on two concerts at Crowder Hall, although for some, this summer was the first time they played an instrument. At the Third Annual GEAR UP Math Through Mariachi Showcase, the students performed for a crowd of about 400 people.

    The GEAR UP project also offered a Young Author’s Camp on campus for those students more interested in becoming better writers.

    “”It makes a difference to get them engaged in something over the summer,”” said Elizabeth Arnot-Hopffer, associate director of the Tucson GEAR UP project. “”And it’s also nice for the program to be on their high school campus so they get a little more comfortable with where things are before they start ninth grade.””

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