Unraveling the Model Minority Myth of Asian American Students
There is a popular image of Asian American students as the "model minority." The stereotype suggests that Asian Americans are more academically, economically, and socially successful than any other racial minority groups. Most people believe that Asian American students are more successful than other racial minority students because of their supposedly unique Asian cultural values that emphasize hard work, strong family values, and/or stronger belief in the American meritocracy (Wu, 2002). Contrary to these popular beliefs, the overly positive caricature of Asian Americans as the model minority is false. Further, this inaccurate and distorted comparison leads to adverse effects in the lives of Asian American students (Chun, 1995; Wong & Halgin, 2006).
Why Are Asian Americans The Model Minority?
During the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960s, Asian Americans were first characterized as the model minority. In reaction to efforts in removing institutional, legal, and social disparities between majority and minority groups, political conservatives pointed to Asian Americans as an exemplar and testimony that the American dream was colorblind. The message was loud and clear: "If Asian Americans can succeed in America, why not Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans?" In 1966, William Petersen solidified this ideology by coining Japanese Americans the "model minority" (Petersen, 1966). The success of Japanese Americans quickly generalized across all Asian ethnic groups, regardless of their diversity in culture, education, and class.
Is The Model Minority Label True?
There is a germ of truth to the comparative success of Asian Americans. When examining aggregated mean group differences, Asian American students generally fare better than other racial minority groups in respect to grade point averages, standardized test scores, or even numbers of high school, bachelor, and advanced degrees obtained compared to other racial minorities (NationalCenter for Education Statistics, 2003; U.S. Census Bureau, 2003).
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