Dialogues on Difference

On November 6, the Office of Equity and Inclusion held its second Dialogues on Difference, a professional development series focused on a variety of equity and inclusion topics.

Vivian Wu Wong, a history teacher and former chair of the history and social sciences department at Milton Academy, spoke to more than 40 faculty members on the "Myth of the Model Minority." She discussed the history and experiences of Asian and Asian-American students at independent schools and how the label "model minority" is disadvantageous and unduly burdensome to these students.

She cautioned faculty not to forsake multicultural education for global education initiatives, adding, "Global education can provide a convenient out for schools when it comes to diversity work within their own communities." She encouraged a more diverse narrative of the American experience since that can provide an important window through which all students can learn about the politics of race in this country while simultaneously helping Asian and Asian-American students form their own racial identities. Faculty members divided into small group discussions to discuss key questions: What may we not be seeing about the experience of our Asian-American and Asian international students? How does the model minority myth play out at your school? and What are we hearing from our Asian-American and Asian students about their own experiences.

Said Katie Jewett, Director of Curricular Initiatives, "Listening to the chronicle of someone's life experience and hearing that it has strong resonances in schools like ours is just the reminder we need that our students have their own stories to tell us. Vivian Wu Wong gave us useful questions to elicit those stories and support our students." Adds Science Department Head Ben Small, "Vivian remarked that some international students feel themselves caught between two worlds: never quite fitting in where they are. With our increasingly global students, who may grow up in many places, they may have more complex identities, and feel less rooted. Being aware of the 'model minority' stereotype is very important for teachers."

Last month's Dialogue on Difference was on the topic of unconscious bias and how to recognize, disrupt, correct, and recover from forms of unconscious bias such as microaggressions and aversive racism.