Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Immigration and Education based on TDSB stats

Posted by chinesecanuck on February 28, 2009

The Toronto District School Board just released stats on elementary (kindergarten to Grade 6) students based on their background (ethnic and socio-economic) in hopes that kids who’re most in need.  Questions asked included the family’s ethnicity (both the child’s and his/her parents), family education level, expectations of the child, income, etc…and results of each question was shown on a chart.  While some of the questions were typical, there was one that bothered me, one which asked whether the parent(s) were born in Canada or not.  What bothered me wasn’t the question itself, but it didn’t seem to ask WHEN the parent came.  It makes a BIG difference.  I know several people who were born abroad, but came to Canada as elementary school aged kids.  Since they were so young, they learned English relatively quickly and sound no different than anyone born and raised here.  Unlike 2009, young immigrants (as in elementary school aged)  and non-English speaking Canadian born children were able to learn English at a much quicker pace in the 70s and 80s than today, since they were less likely to live in areas with larger populations of people who speak other languages.   But anyway…

The results weren’t surprising.  Children from lower income families and/or from families of certain ethnicities did poorer in school than others.    While parents  all had high expectations of their children, many more children did not meet the provincial standard in tests.  Other interesting points:  White families seemed to value sports more than non-white parents.  73% of kids with white parents participated in sports outside of school, while East Asians parents were more likely to send their children to arts-related activities (48%) than other groups.   South Asians and blacks were more likely to participate in religiously related activities at 45% and 44% respectively.  And while Asian students tend to do well, their parents are much less likely to participate in parent-teacher interviews.  Perhaps it culturally related – in many cultures, parents only see teachers if their child is in trouble.  I realize the results sound somewhat stereotypical, but that’s what was sent in.  What do you think?

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Non-English Speaking Households and Education

Posted by chinesecanuck on February 10, 2009

Something I discovered which I find interesting:

Toronto high schools known primarily as academic institutions have more students which speak non-English languages at home than more “general” schools or schools with technical programs.  For example, 39% of students at North Toronto Collegiate Institute speak a language other than English at home.  However, at nearby Northern Secondary, a school which has a tehcnical program, only 24% speak another language.  Both schools serve relatively the same area.  Further into the city, we have Jarvis Collegiate and Central Tech.  At Jarvis, 74% speak another language at home, while only 56% of students at Central Tech do. 

According to profs I had in graduate school, the opposite would have been the case just a few decades ago.  Academic-based, public preparatory schools like Jarvis and North Toronto would have seen multi-generational middle to upper middle class, Anglo students, while the technical programs would have been in more blue collar, immigrant neighbourhoods (though Northern might be an exception – it’s also more “academic” than other technical schools, which is probably why it’s Northern SECONDARY rather than Northern TECH)

Readers, do you think this has to do with immigrants to Toronto and how they view education?  What’s it like in other cities?  Does it have to do with which countries immigrants come from?

Posted in education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Dinner party or just a communal table?

Posted by chinesecanuck on November 10, 2008

I was recently at a dinner hosted by an accquaintance of mine.  She’s a university student and is the president of one of the school’s clubs.  Most of the guests at her dinner party, which was held at one of the local restaurants, were members of said club, with the exception of myself and another guest.  The club was somewhat diverse:  Half were Asian (mostly immigrant or foreign (visa) students), one was South Asian, one black guest and the club president and VP are white. 

There was something about the dinner that bothered me.  It wasn’t because the executive wasn’t “ethnic,” but how people interacted with each other.  WIth the exception of myself, the other Asian guests only talked with each other, even after the host tried to get them to join in.  The dinner felt more like dining at a counter or communal table – it felt like two separate groups.  Some may suggest that language was an issue, but they seemed to speak English well enough to join an organization that was English-speaking only.  Discussion topics might have been an issue, since we spent some time talking about movies, music, etc…but it didn’t dominate the entire meal. 

There was a lot of self-segregation when I was in school in the 90s and early 2000s, but generally, people didn’t join clubs if they were only going to talk amongst themselves.  Of course, I’ve only met these people once.  They might not be like that outside of that dinner situation (or accept the post-dinner mall excursion invite) – after all, there were two outsiders (myself and another person) at the party.  However, that wasn’t what it looked like to me as an observer.  And it just bugged.

Posted in assimilation, culture, education, English, ESL, ethnicity, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Quebec Schools Required to Mark Non-Christian Holidays

Posted by chinesecanuck on September 2, 2008

And this goes for private schools too, according to the Globe and Mail.  I’m a little confused about the article.  Do the students have to take these days off?  I hope not, as won’t be that many days left for instruction!  And why is it an issue to teach other religions in a (say) Catholic school?  I went to an Anglican school with chapel, and sat through presentations on Islam and Judaism.  It’s great to get some exposure to other cultures.  However, at the same time, I worry that teachers aren’t trained properly enough to teach other religions/cultures.  Those not properly trained will make people of non-majority cultures feel more “other” than they already are.  This is especially the case for non-majority cultures who are assimilated.  People, even those who know you quite well, will start assuming that your culture is one way and will avoid doing some things around you because of what they were taught.  Take, for example, baby showers.  This is not done in many cultures (including Chinese culture) because of all the risks associated with childbirth.  But someone born and raised in North America may want one.  Heck, even immigrant women may want one!  Apparently, my mom’s work friends threw her a baby shower before I was born.  However, that was 1979, before all those sensitivity seminars were brought into the workplace.  I highly doubt that something like that would be done today, even outside work hours.  People are trained to believe that some cultures just don’t find them appropriate and may even be insulted.  Even the article has mentioned something that could be considered a faux pas in my book.  The curriculum mentions that “while most Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving, Jews mark the autumn harvest with Sukkot.”  I know Jewish people who do Thanksgiving.  Sukkot.  I know Jews who do Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is NOT a religious holiday in Canada.  That’s why I feel badly for the non-Catholic students at Loyola (school mentioned in the article).   But is not teaching it better than teaching it?  If Loyola doesn’t have many non-Catholic students, then kids there may not be exposed to other religions all that much.  Wouldn’t it make sense to teach about other religions?  However, at the same time, private religious schools shouldn’t have to teach things they don’t believe in.

What do you think about this?  Do you think Loyola is going too far by considering legal action?

Posted in assimilation, culture, education, ethnicity, religion | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Chinese may be winning medals, but sports aren’t popular at schools

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 21, 2008

According to the Wall Street Journal, the lack of organized sports at schools may make it difficult for companies like Nike to sell in China. Most schools just don’t have organized sports teams.  Athletes (such as those winning medals for China), on the other hand, attend special training schools.   The Wall Street Journal blames the culture – traditional Chinese culture still seems to prefer academics over extra-curricular activities.  This may be true, but only to a certain extent.  What the article does not mention is funding.  Many schools, especially those in rural areas have very little money.  Some of these schools make inner-city schools in the US and Canada look like they’re the most equipped and up-to-date.

My experience, of course, is very different.  Most Chinese people I know are not from the mainland, and never grew up with the stigma that sports was not for people who want to succeed in proper jobs.  Different ethnic groups did participate in different sports at my high school (e.g. in the most extreme, badminton was 99.9% non-Canadian born Chinese, while hockey (both field and ice) was 99.9% white.), but almost everyone did SOMETHING (even I ran cross country for one season).  However, I do hear stories from the older generation that school sports just wasn’t part of academic culture in elementary or high school.  My parents certainly never talked about it.  My parents DID have phys. ed at school though.  And I guess schools had house leagues.  But i don’t think inter-school sports existed until recently.

What do you think?   What about the culture?  Do you think the success of the Chinese Olympic Team would change parents’ perception of sport, that it’s something everyone could participate in, rather than “special kids” who’re sent to schools at a young age?  Were you on a school team?  What did you play?

Posted in Asian, China, culture, education, school, sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Education, Tradition, Legacies and Interfaith Relationships

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 6, 2008

Some people say that interracial relationships are more difficult than other intercultural relationships. I beg to differ and say that interfaith is harder than anything else. It isn’t necessarily holiday-related, but for things like what school hypothetical children should go to.

Several of my classmates are legacies. Legacies, not because they did something while at the school that would go down in history, but because they’re daughters of Old Girls (alumnae). While the term isn’t officially used in any of the school’s literature, emphasis on the importance of continuing a tradition of sending daughters to the school is definitely felt. There are scholarships and bursaries that give priorities to these girls.

Many outsiders, however, do not understand this, but eventually do so (or at least attempt to) after a short explanation. My boyfriend is one of those people, but I’m not sure if he truly understands. I haven’t officially told him that should we marry and have daughters, that I’d like the girls to go to school there. This could be an issue down the road, because he doesn’t seem to be comfortable with the idea of sending them to a school that I consider to be “vaguely Christian.” (some would beg to differ, and say that it’s very religious…this school is a university preparatory school, not one that emphasizes faith, especially when the vast majority of its students aren’t even of the school’s religion!) He would blame his mother, but I’m not so sure it’s all his mom. It’s him too. I’ve tried to overcome this by suggesting that the hypothetical daughters go to a more neutral school. But I still have a preference for my alma mater – it’s just something that’s ingrained in many of us who went there.

Some people may think that my wanting little legacy children is a little on the superficial side, especially when I’m not a legacy myself, and that I’m not from a “traditional prep school type family.” (read: WASP – but see, there are a lot of things that some people (especially people involved in “minority politics” don’t understand…like why some Hong Kong Canadians like these schools). But don’t legacies have to start somewhere? Not everyone is multigeneration. In any case, the school has very high standards when it comes to academics, as well as up-to-date teaching methods and technology. If one has daughters and can afford the tuition, they should apply.  Religion shouldn’t be the number one factor to consider when it comes to applying to a school.  Academics should be priority.

I think the religious thing is hindering him from fully accepting the whole legacy/tradition thing.  I’d love to be able to send any daughters I have to the school, but if one of us doesn’t agree, then there’d be issues.  If I were dating someone who was of a different ethnicity, but the same or similar religions, choosing to apply to the school wouldn’t be a problem – unless his side has has connections to another school.

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What did you eat for lunch in elementary school?

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 31, 2008

I’ve read, heard and seen many stories/movies about kids of immigrants bringing ethnic foods to school, only to be made fun of.  This is interesting to me, because when I was in school in the 80s and 90s, I rarely saw anyone bring ethnic food, not even newly arrived kids.  At my elementary school, which was part of the Catholic school board (and therefore, non-fee paying), everyone brought sandwiches.  I think I saw rice ONCE, and that was in Grade 4.  The closest thing we had to ethnic-based lunches were in the sandwich fillings.  Some of the Hong Kong kids, both immigrant and locally raised, had, for example, char-siu (barbecue pork) sandwiches rather than, say, ham and cheese.  Even then, it wasn’t every day.  That’s why I never understood those stories/experiences.  No one I know ever was made fun of because of their lunches, probably because their lunches didn’t seem so exotic.

Is this something unique to the elementary school I went to?  Or is it, again, more of a class thing than an ethnic thing?

Posted in culture, education, ethnicity, food, school | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Being Cultured

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 28, 2008

This is pretty much part two of my earlier post on stereotypes.  Many people feel that it’s necessary to avoid certain works because they contain characters, storylines, etc which are no longer considered politically correct.  My question to them is this: What the heck are we supposed to read/watch/listen to?  Are we going to have to avoid everything created before the 1970s?  How the heck are we even supposed to be “cultured” if we do that?  Do we not give a child piano lessons because most of the composers were Christian and wrote music for the church?  Do we homeschool the kid because they’re going to be reading works by writers from the past, whose works will, in the eyes of someone in the twenty-first century, not be PC?  Why keep kids away from them when you can discuss why it’s wrong?

Honestly, people who believe these things bother me.  It’s a form of censorship, IMHO.  Keeping a kid in the dark is no better than sanctioning such behaviour.  In high school, I read a novel for English class called The Wars.  This Timothy Findley book is about a young Canadian man who fights in WWI.  The novel is very graphic, especially towards the end.  Yet, it was part of the English curriculum at my high school, an all girls’ independent school.  You’d think that the English department would prefer us reading books which are “cleaner.”  However, the English department wanted us to broaden our horizons.  Many of the books we read were not exactly appropriate for teenage girls.  In fact, some were even banned in schools at one point (Cather in the Rye, for example).  So you don’t want your kid exposed to stereotypes.  However, as I said in the earlier post, everything CAN BE A STEREOTYPE.  Or are some stereotypes just “better” than others? 

IMHO, people who ban certain material from others because they feel that it would negatively affect their outlook on a culture (or cultures) or because they feel that it’s racist/stereotypical are just not exposed enough.  They aren’t cultured enough and/or fail to understand that there’s more than one interpretation.  And to me, it is really sad.  To deny another person exposure to something because one only sees something ONE WAY is denying someone the ability to express how they feel.  It’s denying the person a learning opportunity to discuss why something is wrong/inappropriate.  It’s denying someone AN EDUCATION.

Posted in culture, education, ethnicity, learning, literature, minorities, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Don’t you LEARN from Stereotypes? Doctors, Geisha and All That Jazz

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 25, 2008

A post in Racialicious yesterday about stereotypes opened a discussion between me and another poster. The other poster had replied to a thread on stereotypes that she would like a stereotype free home for her child. There’s no such thing. Everything out there is a stereotype. Cristina Yang (doctor of Korean descent) from Grey’s Anatomy is as much of a stereotype as Cio-Cio San (Madame Butterfly). Oh yeah, I forgot. A doctor is POSITIVE, while a geisha who commits seppuku is not. Especially if she gives up her life because she proves “tragic beauty and nobility by sacrificing yourself for the white man and abandoning your hapa kid!” (post number 61). I guess she doesn’t realize that Pinkerton, the American character is a stereotype too. The stereotype of the Evil American who Just Doesn’t Care. The authors of the story (can’t give Puccni all the credit, since it was adapted from a John Luther Long play, which was in turn, adapted from a Pierre Loti (yeah, French dude) work) were trying to show the West’s cruelty.

Another poster said:

…whatever Puccini and his collaborators had in mind, somehow that’s not what’s being seen on the stage–that’s why Madame Butterfly is such a contested piece of art. Especially when Madame Butterfly is still seen in a country, like the US, that continues to stereotype APIA women as “submissive girls.” So, Madame Butterfly is seen, therefore, as another vehicle that folks just looooove as art but perpetuates that stereotype.

I don’t understand this point because I also see the evilness of the west (represented by Pinkerton) and the east (represented by Butterfly) being a victim of the evilness. However, one stereotype I DO see is that Butterfly is a love-struck teen.

So really, what *IS* supposed to be shown on TV, film, etc when it comes to non-whites? You can’t make an Asian woman too submissive/tragic, because it’s stereotypical/racist. She can’t be a bitch either, because that’s the dragon lady stereotype. She probably can’t be a doctor (or accountant), because that’s what lots of Asian parents want their kids to become (nor can she be a music prodigy….Asian parents stereotypically send their kids to CLASSICAL music lessons). Maybe that’s why writers have trouble putting non-white characters on TV. They’re worried that someone will be turned off.  In any case, it’s probably better to confront stereotypes and learn why it’s wrong than to ignore it all together.

Posted in Asian, culture, education, ethnicity, Opera | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Integration is really a class/education thing?

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 14, 2008

Over the weekend, I had a lengthy discussion on immigration and integration with a friend. Friend believes that immigrants who are more likely to retain old country values (ranging from total arranged marriages (i.e. not “this is A, this is B. You guys go out on supervised ‘dates’ and then decide whether you like each other or not” type arrangements) to marrying young to not moving out until marriage, etc) are those who are not as educated. Educated people, my friend believes, are more open to their children adopting mainstream, Anglo-Saxon (or Francophone if you’re in Quebec) values because they’re more exposed. In fact, they probably have picked up some of the values themselves (even if it’s more old fashioned – my mother, for example, gave me an etiquette book when I was 12. This etiquette book is likely a traditional gift to a 10-12 year old who attends junior cotillions and will be a debutante in her late teens. I was not a debutante. They aren’t all that common in Toronto, unless you’re Filipina). Friend cited the European immigrants who came in the 1900s or even after WWII. Many of these immigrants only had two or three years of formal education compared to Anglo Canadians had at the time (probably Grade 8-ish). They worked unskilled jobs and their social lives revolved around their place of worship which spoke the language from the motherland and observed traditions of the country.

I think my friend is only partially right in this case. There are plenty of immigrants who are really well-educated, yet their credentials from abroad do not make them qualified for the jobs they did in the old country. Immigrants who are the most integrated, those who have picked up Anglo-Saxon values are those who were educated here. Why? Because they came young. When you’re 18 years old and away from home, the first thing you want to do is something that is considered taboo to your parents. This isn’t only something that foreign students do, but basically anyone who is going to school out of town! 🙂 For some people, the new values stick, especially if you intend to stay in the new country. There aren’t parents to tell you that what you’re doing is not proper.  In addition, parents who are willing to send their kids abroad, especially girls, are probably already open-minded anyway.  It’s also the exposure that they may have career-wise.  I have noticed that many immigrants who are in, say, finance or law (especially of their senior management), are more culturally Anglo than even equally educated (or perhaps more so) and equally financially well-off doctors whose patients are primarily from the immigrant communities.  The doctor, in turn, is probably “more exposed”/culturally Anglo than someone who owns a small business.

Readers, do you think this is true? Is education the key to being more open-minded and perhaps even integrating? Or is it a combination of being educated in the new country and education itself?  Is it a class thing?

Posted in assimilation, culture, education, ethnicity, minorities, social class | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »