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Curriculum as Colonizer: (Asian) American Education in the Current U.S. Context

by A. Lin Goodwin - 2010

Background/Context: The United States is currently undergoing a period of unprecedented immigration, with the majority of new arrivals coming from Asia and Latin America, not Europe. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (APIs) represent the fastest growing racial group in the United States, and schools are again being asked to socialize newcomer students, many of whom are APIs. Yet, even as the United States becomes more racially diverse, the national mindset regarding immigrants and immigration ranges from ambivalent to increasingly (and currently) hostile, and is often contradictory. “American” typically is imagined as “White,” and perceptions of APIs and people of color as “other” remain cemented in our collective psyche. It is this sociohistorical-political context that frames the education and socialization of Asian American citizens, immigrants, and their children.

Objective/Focus: As APIs are absorbed into the fabric of society, how will they define themselves? How will they be defined? This article begins by deconstructing the social category Asian and Pacific Islander in order to reveal the immense diversity contained under this label. The discussion illuminates both the horizontal diversity of APIs—differences between ethnic groups, and vertical diversity—differences within ethnic groups, to underscore the insufficiency of the API label. Against the diverse backdrop that APIs truly (re)present, (Asian) American education framed by three curricular contexts in the United States—the major reforms of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, culturally relevant pedagogy, and the “model minority” mythology—is theorized using postcolonial theory as an analytic lens. The article concludes with thoughts on how APIs can resist domination and what might be sites of resistance in schools or society.

Research Design: This is an analytic essay that examines both historical and contemporary educational and policy contexts.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Curriculum, defined not simply as subject matter content and instructional procedures, but as a tool of acculturation and a depository of (U.S.) national and cultural values, has the power to emancipate or colonize. Each of the three curricular contexts in the United States—the major reforms of the No Child Left Behind Act, culturally relevant pedagogy, and the “model minority” mythology—exemplify the role Curriculum plays in defining, silencing, and/or marginalizing APIs. Imagined sites of resistance against Curriculum as colonizer include this very page, where one voice deliberately pushes back against the obfuscation of fixed realities layered onto people of Asian descent in the United States, the reexamination and revision(ing) of teacher preparation curricula, and the larger policy arena.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 12, 2010, p. 3102-3138
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16091, Date Accessed: 7/24/2021 1:46:35 PM

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About the Author
  • A. Lin Goodwin
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    A. LIN GOODWIN is Professor of Education and Associate Dean for Teacher Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research and writing focus on the connections between teachers' identities and their development and learning; between multicultural understandings and curriculum enactments; and on the particular issues facing Asian and Asian American teachers and students in U.S. schools. Some of her most recent work includes: “Globalization and the preparation of quality teachers: Rethinking knowledge domains for teaching” in Teaching Education, and Promoting Social Justice for Children: Facing Critical Challenges to Early Learning and Development, an upcoming book edited with Beatrice Fennimore.
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