LitDaily

Daily Notes on Literature, Pop Culture & Media, and Academia

Macleans Lets “Too Asian” Stick, Refusing to Apologize

Posted by litdaily on December 27, 2010

Scholars shouldn’t have to look too far from their academic spaces in order to delineate the messy, complicated, and shifting boundaries and hierarchical power relations between “white” and “Asian”.  An article posted by Macleans in November about enrollment of Asian students and white students generated much controversy due to the offensive signifiers associated with the term, “Asian”…>> We can pretty much guess what these are —  over-achievers, studious, etc.

Although there has been controversy, the magazine refuses to apologize for its racial profiling of Asian American students that attend institutions such as University of Toronto, which is known for academic excellence.  One reporter believes that the controversy, which has elicited a heated response from municipal politics, is ridiculous, asserting that governmental politics needs to concern itself with issues such as “transportation” rather than “race”…more>>

Wow. Where to begin?  If politics doesn’t take up the issue of race within its educational institutions, what exactly is the political relevance of government and state?

My initial reading of this controversy involved some serious eye-rolling. After all, it seems like another lame attempt of the media to generate publicity by throwing in an offensive stereotype of “Asian,” the minority least likely to object. Besides, Asians could signify much worse things, such as laziness, filth, vagracy, criminality.  Oh yeah, they have been stereotyped as those things as well.

But upon some consideration, the issues it brings up are complicated. Should the government be involved in such debates (yes!).  Should the press apologize for its article or should it stick to its offensive categorizations of Asians as studious and Whites as fun-loving, frolicking students out to get alcohol instead of an education? What if these comparisons included Blacks and Whites instead of Asians and Whites? Would the uproar be worse and would Macleans take it back then?

Aside from the debate itself, none of the writers and articles consider how this affects the status and role of education.  It’s certainly problematic that “White” students are depicted as only wanting to socialize rather than gain an education.  Why has socializing become the key criteria in selecting educational facilities? Thinking about it as an Asian mother of a preschooler, socializing seems to be the most important factor in selecting schools.  While other children in countries like China and India are learning to read, add and subtract at the same age, the kids in the First World are still attempting to determine their options for friends.

Whether its early childhood education or higher education, the trend towards “learning through play” or “socializing” will cease to demarcate the educational space as one of privilege and merit.  So, this debate is more than just about race. It’s about the larger structures that govern our understanding of what education is and what it should be.

 

 

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