Model Minority Myth
Written by Andrea Sison and Toni Arellano
It is a popular belief that Asians are known for being the smartest in the school with amazing work ethics and strong drive for success. One of the leading contributions of the asian stereotype regarding academic excellence is the Model Minority Myth, which states that the minority is perceived to be better than the population average, a basis for outgroups. This common misconception built under high standards and comparison puts Asian American students in a characterized, racial system that society expects them to maintain.
The model minority myth came into light when Chinese immigrants were praised for their work efforts under American labor back in the nineteenth century. Following generations felt the pressure to uphold the positive image to erase the racist and inferior mindset many Americans had towards asian communities. Families were forced to learn and conform into a seemingly perfect example of a proper citizen in order to fit in and be accepted into society; attend school, get good grades, learn english, etc. Eventually becoming an ongoing cycle, Asian Americans continue to make sacrifices in order to satisfy the majority’s expectations.
Generally, society applies the minority myth to all Asians. A social study at Berkeley High School unpacks this myth by taking varying factors into consideration. Using 6 random carefully selected Asians students of mixed heritage, cultural backgrounds and origin, they could interview and gather statistical data to see how their individual experiences affect their performance in school.
Many students believe that Asian kids will have a higher GPA, and looking at a general scale, it does appear that their GPAs are relatively high (the mean ranging in the 3.0s within all grade levels). However, it doesn’t mean that all of them get good grades. Looking at individual students, it’s actually quite common to see them struggling in their classes. Even so, some students will be taking more difficult courses which are harder to achieve a higher grade in, but it’s not something that people think over. Good grades isn’t something that comes easy to Asian American students.Just because they’re Asian, doesn’t mean they’re the smartest who will have an easier time getting into college. In fact, statistics show that they trail behind white male and female students had a higher acceptance rate of getting into University, proving that not all Asians outperform other students of different races. Just like any other kid in school, they have personal problems as well. Many deal with cultural, financial, personal problems that they have to balance along with school, which often can affect their work performance.
The minority myth’s problematic nature puts struggling students in a helpless position, especially other students of color. The myth often being used to discredit racial and social struggles, saying that they already benefit enough. Others won’t show much appreciation towards those who put in a lot of work to achieve their success, passing it off as something that should happen anyways. Those who need more academic guidance won’t get the support they need because it’s out of the norm.
College Acceptance Rate
College most Asian parents’ dream for their child. It is also a goal that most Asian kids have. Since more and more people are having access to better learning conditions and opportunities, the challenge to get into college is getting harder. Pressure on both parents and students are also going up. Students are always working hard in order to create a resumé that they think is worthy of recognition. They also plan on which school they want to go to, their dream college or goal college, and which school could be their safety school.
One of the controversial topics about college admissions is that race could play a part in a student’s chance of getting in. For example in public institutions, if an Asian has an ACT score of 35 would have the same chances of admission as a white student with the score of 31.6. In a similar fashion, in a private institution, an Asian student with a SAT score of 1550 would have the same chances of admission as a white student that scores a 1410. Asians have the lowest “advantage” having a -3.4 for ACT scores and -140 for SAT scores.
Another pressure is to be a “standout”. In 2015 most UC schools saw a big population of Asian Freshmen. Since schools strive to create a diverse and more equal campus admissions may overlook those that are in the majority of the student population. Asian freshmen in UC schools average to be 44.17%. This makes it harder for Asian students to be accepted since schools have these “unspoken” quotas for students in terms of race. Underrepresented races would have a higher chance of being accepted solely because of the unbalance of demographics of the school. Some students now resort to catering themselves to seem “less Asian” and some universities are being careful in order to not be identified as an “Asian school”.
A term that is coined into these situations is the “Asian Penalty” which is the concept where Asian students need to appear “less Asian” in order to get higher chances of being accepted.
While there is no accepted evidence that Asians are discriminated against it is still apparent that it could be harder to get accepted, but now this goes for everyone. The growing Asian population in the US and the population that gets access to better education plays a role in the stressful and competitive nature of college admission. Having almost no public access to admission data makes it hard for us to truly prove this claim or be able to be disproven.
From personal experiences, Asian students tend to be pressured to fit into a certain stereotype. Teachers expect them to do well, peers turn to them for help expecting them to understand and be able to help, and parents hold certain standards. Most of the time these are what shapes an Asian kid’s mind too. They push themselves to be good in Math. They pursue STEM related courses. They think that their only choices are going into Law, Medicine, or Accounting.
These stereotypes that branch off from the model minority myth can be a destructive myth. Having these pressures and standards can be too much and not meeting these can be a pivotal thing for an Asian student. This could hinder a student to pursue what they really want as it could be seen as a failure. Expectations placed on Asian students can be both good and bad. It could be good because it can be a motivation for some but it could be bad because it could be an obstacle that one cannot overcome no matter how hard they try.
Having these standards and expectations can also take away learning. Since Asian students are expected to be quick and learn everything and understand, they may be overlooked. Asian students that are struggling may not ask for help as they think they need to withhold a certain stereotype. Some may be overlooked simply because the teachers think they should be bright and would not need help.
Overall, the model minority myth is supposed to be a positive attribute but instead have negative effects on the Asian community. It promotes generalization, discrimination, and distress to Asians of all ages and status. It can also be a disadvantage in some cases. Because Asian are perceived as being at an advantage, they are put into a disadvantage. They need to have higher scores in tests, they are expected to do better with less instruction, and are just perceived with certain traits without actually getting to know them. Grouping a race that is diverse and using stereotypes as a basis of their identity is something that society must learn to not do. What others see as an advantage can actually be a disadvantage to someone.
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For the 2020-21 season, REACH will be releasing a new blog post written by our officers during the first and third Wednesdays of each month about different aspects of Asian culture, such as pop culture, conflicts faced, representation in media, history, celebration and holidays, and stereotypes. We hope you enjoy reading them!