Asian American Perspectives on Education and Technology

Asian American Perspectives on Education and Technology

Deepak Prem Subramony (Grand Valley State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-782-9.ch026
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This chapter, based on fieldwork conducted in 2007 at a large public university in Hawaii, explores Asian American college students’ relationships with education and technology, and the role of educational and technological factors in their process of negotiating professional and cultural self-identities as contemporary Americans of Asian descent. The chapter elaborates upon the following key factors in this regard emerging from the study: (a) Education; (b) Access; (c) Prestige; (d) Survival; (e) Avoidance; and (f) Transnationalism. The chapter subsequently outlines a theoretical framework – based on Willis’ (1977) reformulation of the Marxian concept of “praxis” – characterizing the informants’ educational and technological endeavors as proactive attempts to create an empowered self-identity in response to their socio-cultural environment.
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A “Hyphenated” Condition

Citizens of Asian ancestry – constituting 4.3 per cent of the U.S. population in 2005 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007) – form an important part of the U.S. social fabric, and – from the perspective of scholars interested in exploring the complex intersection of education, technology, race, culture, and power – must clearly constitute one of the most remarkable groups of learners and technology users in the country, given how they occupy such a distinctive position within the U.S. socio-economic system, one that is “hyphenated” just like their label sometimes is.

On the one hand, commentators have frequently described Asian Americans as a “model minority,” given their impressive aggregate socio-economic, educational, and technological achievements in comparison to other racial groups (see Humes & McKinnon, 2000). Specifically education- and technology-related factors named in this regard include: (a) Asian Americans constitute the best-educated ethnic group in the nation (Humes & McKinnon, 2000); (b) Asian American students’ enjoy a disproportionately strong presence in elite educational institutions (Yin, 2001; Stafford, 2006); (c) Asian American students are overrepresented in the high-status STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields (Farrell, 2005; Schmidt, 2006); (d) Asian Americans display the highest levels of access to computers in the nation (Rohde & Shapiro, 2000; Cooper & Gallagher, 2004; Borja, 2005); (e) Asian Americans count among the heaviest Internet users in the nation (Spooner, Rainie, & Meredith, 2001); and (f) Asian Americans are over-represented in specialty professional and technical occupations (Humes & McKinnon, 2000; Ong, 2004).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Bamboo Ceiling: Refers to the forces that prevent qualified Asian Americans with all the right credentials from attaining leadership positions in corporations, institutions, and government.

Asian American: Label used by the U.S. Census Bureau to describe U.S. citizens having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian Subcontinent.

Invisibility: Refers to the virtual absence of Asian Americans from the U.S. political, cultural, social mainstream and from the U.S. media due to their “perpetual foreigner” status.

Praxis: As redefined by neo-Marxist ethnographer Paul Willis, praxis refers to the proactive construction of one’s cultural identity in response to one’s socioeconomic and cultural milieu.

Involuntary/Caste-Like Minority: Term used by cultural anthropologist John Ogbu to refer to peoples whose ancestors were forced into a given society via colonization, slavery, or conquest.

Voluntary/Immigrant Minority: Term used by cultural anthropologist John Ogbu to refer to peoples who chose to relocate to a particular society on their own volition.

Hawaii: The 50th state of the U.S.A., located on an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean southwest of the continental U.S., southeast of Japan, and northeast of Australia.

Model Minority: A stereotype of Asian Americans arising from their higher aggregate socio-economic, educational, and technological achievements compared to other U.S. racial groups.

Perpetual Foreigner Syndrome: A persistent view of Asian Americans as not quite “real” Americans; a view that provokes the common question: “Where are you originally from?”

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