Asians on board

Some local parents have been watching the process to appoint a new member to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education and hoping for someone who would represent the growing Asian population in our schools.

Roughly one in eight Chapel Hill-Carrboro students is Asian.

Among school board members, it's more like none in seven.

A group of Chinese parents hope to change that by presenting an Asian candidate to fill departing member Ed Sechrest's seat.

"It's a different culture with different thinking," said Yu Lou, member of the Chinese School at Chapel Hill's board of directors. "If the school board could have at least one Chinese representative, it will bring a lot of benefits."
- | Asians want board seat, 5/19/06

Hmm, "Asian" or "Chinese?" Anyway, while it may sound like tokenism, this could also be seen as a form of electoral affirmative action. Maybe there is some local Asian leadership that has not been recognized by the community and just needs a little boost. It's not as strong an argument as it would be if Asians were more socially or economically disadvantaged, but still... racism is alive and well and we can never stop fighting it.

Oh, and for all of you Annexation Conspiracy Theorists, the school board is using the standard local process for filling a vacancy on an elected board.

The last time a member left the school board was two years ago, when Valerie Foushee won a seat on the County Commission. Like this time, the board solicited applications for the job, garnering 10 candidates. After a three-hour group interview, the board chose Pam Hemminger, a longtime school volunteer and one-time County Commissioners candidate.
- City schools move to fill board opening, 5/18/06


I hope Jeff Danner puts his name in the hat. I supported him in his campaign and thought he ran a good campaign that wasn't overly ideaological. I think what I would term his evidence-based approach would be helpful to the board in finding logical solutions to some really tough problems.

Jeff Danner did the heavy lifting by running a campaign last fall so he certainly deserves consideration. I also think it would be great if the two Asian-American women who applied for the open seat a couple of years ago signed up again. And, anyone else who is interested.

Aside from that, I hope the six board members making the decision reject the argument that we need to fill some particular demographic box(es). As far as I know, the school board has no Republicans, GBLTs, or Latinos either. The list of "unrepresented" groups is probably quite long.

I wanted to comment on the contribution to the lack of Chinese particpation in the community from cultural differences between America and China. But I keep returning to conversations about African-American participation and institutional racism. Is the this another version of institutional racism or are there other contributing factors?

To address Ruby's third point, it's unfortunate a valid concern about participation in the community is muddied with name calling. I don't see the value in labeling STP readers as "Annexation Conspiracy Theorists".

I don't understand what Marc means by "the lack of Chinese participation in the community." Marc, could you elaborate?

I hadn't bothered to follow Ruby's link--I assumed it went to a discussion on Carrboro's timing of the annexation. After Marc's comment--I went and checked.

It's simply a quick link to the STP subject page.

Nicely trolled, Ms. Sinreich. Nicely trolled.

I agree with Frank that we have to be careful when we start assuming that only amember of a demographic group is qualified to understand and represent the members of that demographic group.

However, I would be interested in seeing an Asian representative be seriously considered. I don't unfairly want to stereotype Asian families, but it does appear that, as a group, their children outperform other demographic groups in our schools. ( I realize there is a wide variation in this group, as in many other groups--I am just looking at the aggregate).

Perhaps there is some wisdom that an Asian representative could bring about how to help ALL our kids do better in school. Education is impacted by more than just what goes on in the classroom, and perhaps there are ways in which some Asian families organize their time or pool their resources, or do whatever it is that helps their children achieve, that the rest of us could learn from and benefit or that could possibly be captured and incorporated into our school curriculum, our support services, or our overall cultural thinking.

I think we need to slow down a bit here.

I'm guessing that many of us don't really have much of an idea what sorts of issues concern Asian or South Asian families in this school district. Or what their lives are really like, or what their incomes are, or just about anything else.

Before setting them up in the old "model minority" trap, and thrust them into the position of educating the rest of us about how and why they're doing so well, I think it wiser to try to listen to them about how they feel they are actually doing and how they feel the district is actually handling whatever issues they may have.

From my own work with the Japanese American community on the West Coast and my contacts with Asian American professors, I know that Asians are quickly stereotyped in all sorts of ways, and assumed to be uniform in their issues and concerns, and are often expected not to be bothered by it because, after all, our stereotypes are (or at least we imagine they are) sort of "flattering."

Very timely article in today's N&O

Some snips:

Self-discipline and a strong work ethic will put almost any teenager on the honor roll. But those virtues, in many Asian-American families, are nourished by an Eastern emphasis on parental obedience and immigrants' drive to succeed in their new country.


"What Asians do well," she said, "is prioritize education."


Asian-Americans have scored higher on the SAT than any other group. Last year, Asian-American students' average score was 1,091 -- 63 points better than the overall average.

In the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system, where roughly one in eight students is Asian-American, their performance is literally off the charts. The system's exact percentages of Asian-American students who passed end-of-grade tests in elementary and middle school and end-of-course exams in high school aren't public because they are too high. Federal privacy laws prevent schools from disclosing a racial group's exact score if it is more than 95 percent.

Thanks for catching that- what I meant was the lack of Chinese-Americans serving on governing boards like the BOE, BOA and CH council. I did not mean to imply that there is no participation in the community. There definitely is.

I read recently somewhere that the "Asian" education success may date back to the teachings of Confusius, who put great emphasis and priority on education. This article (NY Times?) also noted a distintion in performace b/w confusian based Asian cultures (China? Japan?) and non-confusian based Asian cultures (Korea?). Confusius sez: read more books... :)

Eric, I agree and was trying not to do that. Point well taken.

The Group Interview for the seven people who have expressed interest in the BOE seat will be at Lincoln Center tomorrow (Wednesday, June 7) at 5 PM.


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