The day began with Brendan and Kate meeting at the school where we rented our camcorder and Brendan printed out the photos we had gathered to use as conversation starters, while Kate printed directions and maps. Alicia picked us up here and we headed to the ferry planning to meet Suki in Vancouver. On the ferry we did some planning for our progress report and the questions we were planning to ask. We considered interviewing people on the ferry, but decided it was best to get the whole group together before we did.
On our bus ride into Vancouver we had an interesting conversation with a nurse, Lee Hindrichs RN, who used to work in Vancouver hospital. When we mentioned what our course was about she shared the story of her recollection of working in the 90’s and having young Asian women coming in after having “fairly pathetic” suicide attempts because their white boyfriend(s) had taken them home, introduced them to their parents, and not proposed marriage. Apparently this was not an uncommon occurrence, and she said it happened every few weeks. She also noted many Chinese Canadian grandmothers still had bound feet.
This discussion was really interesting because it was a window into what a white BC resident thought of when mentioning NAAF. She also brought up the the movie “Double Happiness” which had introduced her to the difficulties of NA born Chinese children who had traditional parents, and how hard balancing expectations and cultures were. Lastly she was talking about the book Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell and his theories about how the mathematical systems used in rice paddies made “Chinese better at math.” The book was about what makes people successful, and how culture and upbringing play a part. I (Alicia) was definitely surprised at how her perspective was being presented as thoughtful and “culturally aware.” but in fact was very much reinforcing the stereotypes of the “model minority” and that Asians are somehow biologically or culturally better at math, etc. Than I researched a bit about what she was talking about. The one thing I really saw was missing was any sort of intersectional analyses to this book, and there didn’t seem to be much focus other factors of “success,” such as on gender, class, etc. While I haven’t read the whole book the conversation on the bus did make me think about many things that I hadn’t thought about and I found myself able to critically analyze the movie synopsis and book with a better framework of understanding.
Alicia-Because I have a difficulty with math and numbers, due to a processing memory issue..I was interested in the idea of how math could be taught differently. While this didn’t seem particularly related to NAAF I did follow the tangent. I decided to do a little reading and to figure out if what Leigh was talking about with Rice Paddies making Asians better at math was just a racist stereotype, or if it had merit, of any kind. I found this excerpt: http://gladwell.com/outliers/rice-paddies-and-math-tests/
“ Rice Paddies and Math Tests. An excerpt from Chapter Eight. Take a look at the following list of numbers: 4,8,5,3,9,7,6. Read them out loud to yourself. Now look away, and spend twenty seconds memorizing that sequence before saying them out loud again. If you speak English, you have about a 50 percent chance of remembering that sequence perfectly If you’re Chinese, though, you’re almost certain to get it right every time. Why is that? Because as human beings we store digits in a memory loop that runs for about two seconds. We most easily memorize whatever we can say or read within that two second span. And Chinese speakers get that list of numbers—4,8,5,3,9,7,6—right every time because—unlike English speakers—their language allows them to fit all those seven numbers into two seconds.” Also I started looking at Chinese math videos on youtube.
The best overall analysis of this book I found was on the blog You Offend Me You Offend My Family. Here the author raised points we had talked about in class, such as is a “positive” stereotype (such as that as a model minority) still just as detrimental as a negative one because it can serve to minimize or erase discrimination, racism, and oppression? The problematic narratives we discussed in class, such as that of the race to the bottom and the binary of black vs white racism does clearly work to focus discussions about Asians and racism within NA on stereotypes such as the model minority, or the race to the bottom discourses such as talked about in Elaine Kim’s (1998), article, and Cui & Kelly (2013) “Too Asian” which discusses more Asian people succeeding academically and white jealousy about it.
This made me think about Gary Okihiro’s articles about how Asians were left out of “mainstream” Ethnocentric history books and curriculum, except for a few stuck in time stereotypes—building the railroad, merchants, etc. (and how Asian women who were completely erased). I I began to realize that if Asian knowledge (such as different counting systems) were available they were also largely overlooked, just as Traditional Indigenous Knowledge is absent from Science curriculum. While I’m not a science or math major, the lack of representation of various forms of knowledge in Ethnocentric dis bring up the question of how this invisibility of TEK or Chinese Numeracy strategies in the west does contribute to a control over knowledge that is rooted in Ethnocentrism and racism. If there is a better strategy for dealing with environmental issues, or math, but the roots are from different (non-white) origins why should it matter? Just as we discussed how representations in movies of Asians presented a challenge of perverse pleasure in Shimizu’s article—even if they were stereotyped roles, at least they were representations that gave a sense of identity to Asian viewers. In the same vein I thought about how seeing other forms of knowledge (be it math or science) would have the same effect, or sense of pleasure from the viewer. This got me looking into TEK and some other related articles. Such as: Indigenous knowledge and science revisited, 2007, by Glen S. Aikenhead and Masakata Ogawa, which talked about different cultural ways of understanding nature (Indigenous/Asian/Euro-American), and mentioned the use of postcolonial or anti-hegemonic discourse within science education, which I found really interesting. It had never occurred to me that science and math has discourses of decolonization or understanding of value in relation to various systems of knowing.