Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Posts Tagged ‘Toronto’

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 »

What exactly is “Chinatown”?

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 19, 2008

Many Greater Toronto Area sites boast that there are several Chinatowns, including those in the suburbs. But are the Chinese areas in Markham, Scarborough and Mississauga truly Chinatown? To some, “real” Chinatown is in the downtown areas of Toronto, along Dundas and Spadina or the “Eastern” Chinatown in the Riverdale area. The “Chinese enclaves” in Markham, Scarborough and Mississauga are, on the other hand are suburbs that just happen to have many services catering to Chinese speaking communities.

The “real” Chinatowns downtown have a unique feel to it in every sense of the word. And it feels historical, a little like something out of a Wayson Choy or Amy Tan novel. Markham (or other suburban “Chinatowns), on the other hand, feels like any other suburb, where house prices start at around $350K. Markham is fairly middle class all-round, while “Old Chinatown” is mixed – generally students, “Old Chinatown Chinese” (i.e. seniors who came decades ago), and higher-earning hipster types. There’s obvious poverty there.  It’s often dirty.  The two largest income groupings are either over $100K/year or between $10,000 and $19,999.

Many suburbanites don’t consider Old Chinatown safe, especially at night. When I was in high school, I was warned over and over not to go down there. I wasn’t even supposed to wander around during the day.  Perhaps this is why these people don’t want to claim the suburban Chinese areas as “Chinatown.” It’s all about rep, you know. And in Confucian cultures, you just can’t lose face. People in the old country know about “Chinatown” (meaning downtown) and if you tell them you live there, they’d think that you’re not successful (unless you’re a student at th University of Toronto).

So this brings us back to the original question. Are the suburban Chinese communities “Chinatown,” or does Chinatown have to reflect the the immigrant/”ethnic” stereotype of being dirty, poor and “other”?

Posted in Asian, Cantonese, CBC, China, Chinatown, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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 »

OMG, Stereotypes!

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 16, 2008

This is really bad.  I was on the subway the other day and sat next to a girl who had not one, but TWO designer bags (she was *THIS CLOSE* to being a label whore).  I didn’t get a look at her face at first, so I assumed she was one of those Asian girls who highlight their hair and shop at high end stores.  Turned out she was white.  In Toronto and Vancouver, one can find some Asian women (or more specifically, Hong Kong women) who shop at these stores, and sometimes, they’re head-to-toe label.  And these brands have to be big names to them.  For many, Tory Burch isn’t a big enough name.  It has to be Prada, Gucci, LV, Hermes, etc…

Readers, have you mistaken someone for another race/culture/ethnicity based on what he/she was wearing, or what accessories he/she had?

Posted in Asian, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity, fashion, Hong Kong, minorities, shopping, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Metro Asian Guys, AGAIN

Posted by chinesecanuck on June 16, 2008

Last month, I posted something about Asian guys who are metro.  Metro Asian guys seem to be a common sight around here, yet I’ve never really seen any posts about it.  I’m sure there are plenty of metro Asian guys in the US as well, aren’t there?  I don’t understand why I’m reading stories about Asian guys not feeling confident about themselves when it comes to dating.  These metro guys seem to have women all over them all the time.  Sure, most are not “from here,” but many are, or at least, have lived in this part of the world for a significant number of years. Though metro men aren’t my type, I can’t say that anyone could say that these men are unattractive.  They don’t even fit the stereotype of the geeky Asian male.  Can a geek seriously wear tons of product in his hair (perhaps even with highlights), jeans and t-shirt similar to an American Eagle or Abercrombie ad and still be a geek/nerd?  Of course, these guys often turn it up a notch or two with their man bags (and often, the man bag is what elevates them to metrodom)

Maybe I’m just living in a bubble called Toronto (yeah, there are geeky guys too, but I don’t really know any, at least not over 18) and most of my friends and acquaintances grew up in middle class suburbia.  Maybe if I hung out with restaurant kids (not restaurant owner kids…..staff kids), things would be different.

Posted in culture, ethnicity, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

What exactly is cultural diversity?

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 22, 2008

Several months ago, a very well-known boys’ school in Toronto announced that they were going to close their boarding program in the next few years. The reason behind this was because TPTB (The Powers That Be) wanted to attract more local kids from communities who could otherwise not afford the $25,000/annum day tuition by spending more of their funds on financial aid for local kids. They wanted to make the school more “culturally diverse” from what I understand. However, this caused uproar within the school’s community. Many are saying that international students is what makes the school unique and that the school will actually be LESS DIVERSE, culturally, if they only recruited within the Toronto area. People have cited that there’s a difference between being, say, Korean from Korea and Korean from Canada. First generation immigrant culture is still diluted. It becomes diluted within a year of one’s arrival. (I’m guessing that the general public, who probably isn’t that familiar with such schools are applauding this because there still is a tendency to believe that boarding schools are “Bastions of WASPiness.” I guess most people don’t realize that it hasn’t been this way for some 25-30 years.) Anyway,
what do you think? Does an international student body make the school MORE DIVERSE? Or does the school become more diverse by recruiting talented kids from diverse communities within the city (who may otherwise not be able to pay for the school)? Are TPTB confusing cultural and class diversity?

**NOTE: I’m not sure about the exact make-up of the non-white kids at this school. I’m guessing most are of East or South Asian descent. If it’s anything like my school back in the 90s, then they’d likely skew more boarding than day (especially with East Asian kids).

Posted in culture, education, ethnicity, minorities, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Phasing out middle schools?

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 18, 2008

Not really ethnic-related but interesting…

According to this Toronto Star article, the Toronto District School Board may be phasing out (some) middle schools and putting Grades 7 and 8 (and at times Grade 6) kids in elementary school. As someone who attended a public middle school for one year before moving on to a private school, I think going to a separate school for at least two years is a great idea. I think a half-rotation system, which was used for Grade 6 and 7 students (our homeroom teacher taught us “Core” subjects – English, math and social studies)…going from teacher to teacher, and having the use of “high school style” facilities of labs (rather than a standard classroom) gave me (and the other students) a larger variety of ways to learn hands-on. Doing labs with water from the fountain across the classroom is very different from having several sinks IN the classroom. And also, how would the teacher demonstrate the use of a Bunsen burner without gas taps?

Another thought: What about 7-12 schools? I know that most people are against it because they feel the older kids can be a bad influence on 12 year old Grade 7 students, but don’t they realize that many private schools have 7-12 “senior schools”/senior divisions? At some schools, the middle school aged kids have their own wing for most classes, but share other facilities like the gym, music, art and drama rooms and the cafeteria. At other schools, the students share all facilities. The middle school aged kids at private, university preparatory schools are no more influenced by older kids than kids who go to K-8 or middle/junior high schools.

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