The communities that constitute the racialized category of Asian Americans consist of approximately 20 million people in the United States, or about 5% of the total population. About 20% or 4 million are of primary or secondary school age, and over 1.1 million are in higher education. Both in popular and academic discourse, “Asian American” generally refers to people who have ethnic backgrounds in South Asia (e.g., Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), Southeast Asia (e.g., Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam), and East Asia (e.g., China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan). As “Asian American” is an umbrella term used to categorize a very diverse, heterogeneous, and transnational set of populations, Asian Americans as a group present various challenges to education and research in and about the United States. These challenges can concern paradigms of achievement, citizenship, family involvement, access (e.g., higher education, bilingual education), language and culture, race and ethnicity, and school community.
In order to address these paradigmatic challenges, a great deal of scholarship has called for a disaggregation of the data on populations that fall under the pan-ethnic “Asian America” umbrella term, to gain a more nuanced and dynamic understanding of the many diverse populations and their historical, cultural, economic, and political experiences. To further address the problematic framing of Asian Americans in education and related fields, scholars have applied critical lenses to key tensions within conceptualization, policy, curriculum, and pedagogy. More recently, the notions of intersectionality and transnationalism have been generative in the study of Asian Americans, within not only educational research but also Asian American studies, which generally falls under the field of ethnic studies in the U.S. context, but has also been categorized under American studies, cultural studies, or Asian studies. While characterizations of Asian Americans as “the Model Minority” or “the Oppressed Minority” persist, the relevance of such static binaries has increasingly been challenged as the Asian American populations and migrations continue to diversify and increase.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Globally, English literacy has sought to address the needs of all learners by focusing on English varieties in isolation. This method of addressing learners’ English literacy needs was based on the assumption that focusing on languages and linguistic varieties in isolation would allow students to be more adept with standardized English literacies. In turn, this assumption arose from the traditional conception of Englishes as geographically bound and nation-based, and from standard language ideologies that privileged the use of standardized versions of English over others. In the 21st century, these conceptions can no longer hold. Why? The postmodern era of globalization, transnationalism, and internationalization has changed the way in which Englishes function across geographical regions and nations, and via technology. As a result, learners increasingly need to use literacy for communicative purposes as they effectively engage with a variety of Englishes based on a multiple contexts.
To empower learners to communicate effectively and to become literate citizens in the postmodern diaspora, English literacy can no longer continue to address the needs of all learners by focusing on English varieties in isolation, as is reflected by the literature on non-standardized Englishes in the field. If learners are provided with opportunities during literacy instruction that position them to learn the nuances of Englishes, with and from their diverse peers, they may be better able to function successfully across linguistic boundaries. To accomplish this goal, the field can create pathways that allow students to utilize, communicate with speakers of, and examine the contexts that surround the use of various Englishes in English literacy instruction.