Japanese American Learning Styles

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Learning Styles

Since the 1960s, efforts to improve the academic performance of students in the United States have included a focus on the role of ethnicity in evaluating the educational success of American children. As the country becomes increasingly more diverse, what has been the mainstream/majority approach to education will change out of sheer numbers and necessity, as the very meaning of the terms mainstream and majority are transformed. As educators began to realize that the growing diversity of the country would eventually mean that the dominant white culture would itself become a minority, perhaps by as soon as the generation after the next, the conclusions of studies comparing the academic performance of various ethnic groups with one another would create all manner of controversy and conflict, as various interests competed to define the strategies and course of action to be undertaken to improve the American educational system. In determining some of these strategies, certain ethnic groups were assigned the label “at risk,” as the evidence used to measure their educational success showed that they lagged behind other ethnic groups in terms of measurements of their cognitive and intellectual abilities, with the various explanations as to why these deficits existed generating the most intense conflict and disagreement. The most insidious explanations came from social scientists who proposed that the condition of these at-risk groups was actually hereditary, and that their lower intelligence was “no fault of their own,” being “due to inherent shortcomings about which little can be done.” Interestingly enough, when certain ethnic groups scored higher on IQ testing than the dominant Euro-American class, these same sociologists did not credit hereditary advantage for their success, but rather chalked these results up to differences in cultural backgrounds and child-rearing practices. From this school of thought emerged the term “model minority,” used to describe Asian-American students who outperformed white students in measures of educational achievement. The term “model minority” was first deployed in an article that appeared in The New York Times Magazine in 1966, entitled “A Success Story, Japanese-American Style.” The article begins by praising the subject family for having risen above “color prejudice,” and in so doing avoiding the characteristics of those groups that the article refers to as “problem minorit(ies)”, a label used to categorize the experience of other ethnic groups at this point in history, notable primarily for the emergence of the Civil Rights movement. The political implications of such a label are described by writer Malcolm Yeung, “Asians were being used as a tool to quiet the cries of the enraged minorities (specifically African-Americans) and, on a much more subtle level, used to assuage the guilt of a white America whose system was…clearly not working for non-whites…” Nonetheless, the term “model minority” would grab hold of the country’s collective consciousness, and as any ethnic stereotype is bound to do, inflict damage on both its subjects (Asian-Americans, among them Japanese-Americans) and those who would view them through this narrow prism. Growing out of and emerging alongside the theories of multicultural education changing the American academic system in the second half of the twentieth century, educators would also focus their efforts to improve student performance on research which would yield more promising inventories of ways to understand and educate the growing diversity of ethnic groups comprising American classrooms, the development of learning style theories, or what educator Rita Dunn calls “instructional delivery systems responsive to how diverse students learn.” In the case of “at-risk” populations, a certain urgency helped guide the development of such strategies to improve their academic performance, as the successful and effective application of an...
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