Narratives of Asian/American Educators: A Case Study of Resistance and Rhetoric

Narratives of Asian/American Educators: A Case Study of Resistance and Rhetoric

Trish Morita-Mullaney (Purdue University, USA) and Michelle C. S. Greene (Indiana University, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 32
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7467-7.ch011
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Abstract

Asian/American educators are often reified as the model minority and are regarded as smart, quiet, and reserved, and willing to conform to the dominant discourse and culture (Fairclough, 2001; Ramanathan, 2006). When they do not mold to this ascribed role, they can be avoided, found peculiar, and isolated (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001). This chapter examines the narratives of three Asian/American teachers in the Midwestern United States. These narratives are instructive in individual and collective racial identity development, as well as the cultural formation of emerging definitions of what it means to be an Asian/American professional in U.S. public schools.
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Introduction

Palumbo-Liu (1999) explicitly inserts a backslash (“/”) in Asian/American in lieu of a hyphen to situate the dynamic and hybrid identities for those with an Asian heritage, including those who self-identify as Asian nationals, Asian Americans, or any variant mix of identity claims that can be made dependent upon factors such as, but not limited to, environmental context, psychological development, and socio-historical awareness. The term Asian/American more adequately captures the intersecting identities of the participant group in the study and does not reduce them to a finite description of ethnicity and national origin. Thus, this backslash “/” is used throughout this chapter to capture the varying nuances of the collective and divergent identities of Asian/Americans.

Asian/Americans represent only 1.4% of the United States’ public school teachers, with less representation in Midwestern/Southern states (Keigher & Cross, 2010; Ramanathan, 2006). A recent survey study of the demographic profile of teachers in the United States identified Asian/American teachers into a multiplicitous category of “other,” rendering little attention to this unique teaching demographic (Feistritzer, 2011). Relatively limited research exists to explain the lack of Asian/American teachers in U.S. schools (Bracey, 2001; Chinn, 1988; Chinn & Yeun-Wong, 1992; Goodwin, Genishi, Asher, & Woo, 1992; Gordon, 2000; Ramanathan, 2006; Su, 1996; G. M. Suzuki, 1998). In contrast, the 2010 U.S. Census shows that Asians within the study site (one Midwestern state) increased by 75%, yet there is not a representative growth observed within the teaching profession (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). Asian/Americans’ reasons for not entering the teaching field include parental pressure to have greater earning potential (Chinn, 1988; Chinn & Yeun-Wong, 1992), the unpredictable social challenges among students (Ramanathan, 2006) specifically in areas of racial difference, and the low regard of non-Asian students toward Asian teachers (Bracey, 2001; Chinn & Yeun-Wong, 1992; Gordon, 2000; G. M. Suzuki, 1998). In practice, Ramanathan (2006) found that teachers who self-identify as Asian largely align themselves with their non-Asian colleagues and are more apt to reproduce the curriculum rather than represent their racial experiences within it.

Asian/American educators are often reified as the model minority and are regarded as smart, quiet and reserved, and willing to conform to the dominant discourse and culture (Fairclough, 2001; Ramanathan, 2006). When they do not mold to this ascribed role, they can be avoided, found peculiar, and isolated (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001). Asian/American educators work in school settings where a Black/White binary defines students and families with little room for other racial identifications. Asian/American teachers find themselves in an ambiguous state of belonging as they are neither Black, nor White, nor Brown (Alcoff, 2003; Philip, 2007).

The main objective of this chapter is to examine the narratives of three Asian/American educators as instructive tools in developing the individual and collective racial identity of Asian/Americans, as well as the cultural formation of emerging definitions of what it means to be an Asian/American professional in U.S. public schools.

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