“Asian Indian Students: Moving Beyond Myths and Adopting Effective Practices,”by Sejal B. Parikh of the University of North Florida identifies the perpetuation of Asians as the model minority and attempts to dispel the myth that Asian Indian students in American schools require less support services or counseling. Parikh describes culturally responsive counseling practices to ensure that the best interest of the student is a priority. Furthermore, she provides several ideas for support from various angles.
Culturally responsive teaching and counseling acknowledges the values of the culture and works within them to produce the best possible outcomes. According to the article, research form a study in the 1960’s identify Asian Indian Americans as the “model minority.” Dr. Munsop Seoh of Wright State University traces the term to journalist William Peterson in an article he wrote in 1966 entitle “Success Story: Japanese American Style.” In the article this group is described as “better than any other group in our society… intelligent, law abiding citizens, strong sense of pride …and compelling sense of authority (Seoh 2002).” This concept was subsequently spread to encompass the work ethic of an entire continent. Parikh challenges this concept as it leads people to believe that, “Asians do not experience poverty, mental health issues, barriers related to education, are wealthy and are high achievers.”
While these attributes are admirable, they are not always true and can become inhibitors to students who need access to academic support and guidance. Parikh suggests that counselors avail themselves to students and make them aware of the services they provide along with the confidentiality that governs their line of work. Asian Indians do not generally discuss family or personal issues to outsiders according to studies by Das and Kemp (1997). However, students who are able to communicate stress and anxiety to counselors place themselves in a position to cope and manage the demands of their family. Stereotypes perpetuate the yearning for Asian Indians to become, “scientists, doctors and engineers, are high achievers, excel at math and science, are wealthy, and are free from discrimination and prejudice (Dean 2008).
Seoh presents support for the rearing practices of Asian Indian parents whereby parents teach their children to view adults as authority figures who ought to be respected and never challenged ( Joshi 2005). Teachers are to be honored and treated as having a higher value than their own parents (Seoh 2012). As such, Asian Indian students may feel shame in having to admit that they have personal issues (Seoh 2012). Effective practices to respectfully incorporate the needs of the student into the practices of school. Among the recommendations of Seoh ts when providing guidance for career choices that tha parents be included in the process. Asian Indians have been identified as a collectivist group, therefore, the family is reflected in a positive light if the student becomes a doctor (Joshi 2005) The reality however, is that according to the 2009 census, 59.9% of Asian Indians are in management, professional or related fields.
The goal of the culturally responsive educator is not to acclimate the student to an American way of life but to acknowledge the needs of the student and respect the values of the family while managing a medium between traditional and American standards.
“Lives in Transition: Stories of Three Foreign Elementary Students from India,” ethnography by Beloo Mehra, a students at Antioch University – McGregor, follows and examines the life of three students from India who transition into what is described as a multicultural school in the United States. The school is set in a University Town of Yellow Springs Ohio. The parents of the students have come to pursue degrees in graduate studies. Mehra observes and interviews the students in several settings including their school, the playground and at home. Her findings are free from bias and inconclusive she merely provides some perspective into the effects of the actions of others of identifying the needs and shaping the students.
Veena and her brother Rohit are eleven and nine respectively, their father, Ganesha is a Graduate student at the University. They reside in university housing along with their mother, Kamala and older sister Pallavi, all hailing from the town ofKarnatakainIndia. Ajay is a five year old in Kindergarten whose mother, Nisha is a Graduate student at the university and they reside with Ajay’s father and brother, Karan. In this instance the family dynamic has shifted as it was the husband who came to support the wife in her pursuit of higher education, This is one of the many challenges of the families acculturation processes in the United States.
The school, Jackson Elementary, a pseudonym, describes itself as a multicultural school, which caters to the needs of the international students of the university. Jackson Elementary provides an English as a Second Language program and attempts to be culturally responsive by providing culturally relevant material. Where the school falls short however, is in their ability to contextualize the stories they are about to read and to ensure that the characters portrayed do not impose a negative self image for the students. As Veena’s class explored a unit on fairytales, and Indian story was shared but was not one which represented well the richness of this country. Veena recalls,
Sometines I feel that if there is something bad, something that I think is bad aboutIndia, I wish this were not there in the book – oh why did she have to read this? I think that she should not have read the book. If there is a good thing in the book, then everyone says – wow, this country has really good stuff. So that is good.
Careful planning by the teacher allows the teacher to anticipate the needs of her students to be well represented or at the very least opens the door for students to converse to express discomfort in the choice of text.
In addition, their lunch and recess time, a primary source of socialization for children was a major source of contention for the students. Nearly 82 percent of Indians practice Hinduism, a religion where cows are revered and people generally do not consume meat. A balanced lunch is provided under the free and reduced price lunch program however, for students with dietary exceptionalities no other options were offered. As such students would carry their own lunch from home but find themselves placed in an awkward position as the teachers would provide commentary about their meals or other students would make fun of them. Veeena provides a recap of the conversation she overheard her teacher having about a friend
Veena: …but my Korean friend, she brings Korean food from home, and the teacher always looks at that. I don’t know why. Then she whispers to other teacher, look how she eats with chopsticks, and then she whispers about the food.
I told my friend why she always talk about your food…yeah, she would lean over and look at my food…and sometimes, they make fun of it.
Mahra’s article shed light on many aspects affecting the education of children of Asian Indian heritage. There are more than 25 different languages inIndia, providing a program that allowed for students to be spoken to in their native language is impractical for the school. While many University students have decided to remain in the United States, many have also decided not to emigrate. Retaining an Indian identity is a challenge for both parents and students. The Indian community is a collective one, where as theUnited Statesin more individualistic. While the school identifies itself as a multicultural school it is more like a multi -lingual school. Multicultural would insinuate that they acknowledge the cultural needs of the family including dietary restrictions.