Perpetuating the Model Minority Myth

By Jonathan Adams Jul 08, 2008

The Washington Post reports that the number of Asian students in D.C.’s most prestigious public magnet school has for the first time topped that of white students.

At Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in the Alexandria area this year, more than 2,500 applicants vied for 485 seats. Asian American students got 219, or 45 percent of the total, while white students got 205, or 42 percent. About 38 percent of the school’s students were Asian American in the past school year.

The story portrays an inaccurate picture of Asians as model minority.

The success of Asian American students reflects the educational commitment found in many immigrant communities, particularly for second-generation students fluent in English and encouraged by upwardly mobile parents who came to the United States for higher education or professional positions. The demographic imbalance in top public magnet schools has become a sensitive issue, however. Black and Hispanic students often are vastly under-represented. Many of the schools struggle to reflect the diversity of the wider population while maintaining a transparent admissions process with uniformly high standards.

Our reporter seems to miss the opportunity to connect Black and Latino immigrants to that same work ethic that guarantees success for Asians, but he does find time to make the Asian students a problem for themselves. Now, because of the number of Asian students, the magnet schools are moving away from using race as a factor in an admissions process. As the writer attempts to separate Asians from other people of color, we should refer back to a report by the College Board and NYU that shows not all Asians are equally as successful.

The report said the model-minority perception pitted Asian-Americans against African-Americans. With the drop in black and Latino enrollment at selective public universities that are not allowed to consider race in admissions, Asian-Americans have been turned into buffers, the report said, “middlemen in the cost-benefit analysis of wins and losses.”

h/t the color lline A new book entitled The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism written by Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin takes a closer look at diverse experiences of Asians in education among other things.