by Akemi Tamanaha, Associate Editor
A new survey from the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) highlights the Asian voices in New York City who support school integration.
In recent months, Asian American parents have spoken out against high school admissions policies they feel discriminate against their children. For example, a group of Asian parents filed a lawsuit claiming policies designed to increase the number of low-income students at selective NYC high schools discriminate against Asian Americans. The Supreme Court is also reviewing affirmative action because of a Supreme Court case that claims Harvard and the University of North Carolina discriminate against Asian Americans.
These high-profile cases have created the perception that many Asian Americans do not support policies that create diverse public schools. CACF’s new survey found that AAPI students and parents believe racial diversity in school is an important part of a child’s education.
The survey was conducted in February 2022 and included responses from 78 AAPI New Yorkers. It does not provide any statistical conclusions regarding support for school integration but does include quotes from the respondents.
“I think an admissions system that prioritized racial diversity would have improved my school experience— providing more perspectives, ideas, and backgrounds is always helpful and enriches class discussions, the social environment, and the overall experience,” one student said in the survey.
Respondents also expressed disappointment that conversations about admissions policies and integration focused on schools that had Gifted & Talent programs. Those respondents believed the goal should be to improve access to quality education for everyone.
“I wish people would stop making such a fuss about Gifted and Talented (G&T) and focus on making the system better. G&T is a band-aid and benefits those who already have resources, of whom are mostly white and Asian, disproportionately compared to Black and Hispanic students. As an Asian American mother who has high aspirations for my children, I find it disturbing to see so much energy and effort to have a G&T program. Every child, every neighborhood, and every family, regardless of socioeconomic, educational, ethnic, religious, linguistic, or racial background has the right to a G&T-level education with all the bells and whistles,” one parent said.
CACF believes the model minority myth, is a driving force in debates surrounding school integration. Continuing to parrot talking points based on the model minority myth could hurt AAPI students in the long run.
“The model minority myth stereotypes Asians as naturally good students who don’t need help, totally glossing over systemic inequities and institutional bias. As we heard from respondents, these assumptions put unfair expectations on AAPI students and make it even harder for those with learning disabilities to get diagnoses and support,” Naomi Chou, CACF’s Education and Outreach Coordinator said in an emailed response to AsAmNews.
“The model minority myth also positions Asians as having opposing education interests from other groups of color, which hinders allyship and collective advocacy,” she added.
Parents may be opposed to school integration because they’re confused about the concept.
“Some opposition to school integration also comes from a misunderstanding of what integration is. Integration complements rather than competing with education quality, and the benefits of integration are valuable in an increasingly interconnected and globalized society — especially in a city as diverse as New York,” she said in an email to AsAmNews.
CACF recommended that school districts improve their AAPI outreach and address institutional and interpersonal biases against AAPIs.
“Parents with limited English must feel at home at school events. Translate messages into the Asian languages spoken in your district and supply interpretation at live events. Reach out through channels commonly used among AAPIs such as language-specific TV channels, newspapers/newsletters, and social media platforms,” Chou said.
Chou added that school boards should consider the feedback parents have already given them.
“For example, parents and students in our survey expressed that they wanted to see more diversity in school faculty and in the content being taught. Paying attention to the specific ways that families want schools to be improved shows that the school board/district is willing to engage in dialogue and is listening,” she said.
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