Bilingual Education an Cultural Research Paper

Pages: 6 (1669 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: American History

Bilingual Education

An Overview of the Cultural Experience of Chinese Immigrants

The Chinese experience in America is one marked by a combination of opportunity and oppression. Perhaps more than many other immigrant groups less distinguishable by physical features, Chinese were subjected to a wide-ranging and sustained discrimination upon their arrival here en masse in the mid 19th century and onward. However, the Chinese would also play a critical role in the industrial and geographical evolution of the United States, first as laborers and eventually as an inextricable part of America's ethnic and cultural makeup. The discussion hereafter considers the various cultural conditions and predilections that have defined the Chinese experience in the United States.

Historic Background:

The Chinese first began to arrive in substantial numbers to the United States during the Industrial Revolution and, simultaneously, the California gold rush. These forces just across the Pacific in California and the American west called to Chinese immigrants to the extent that, the Library of Congress (LOC)(2009) reports, in the era following the Civil War between 1870 and 1900, their immigration comprised a significant portion of the 12 million new citizens arriving from overseas. Indeed, the LOC reports that in 1882, federal law was passed to prevent their immigration. LOC, p 1) the Chinese Exclusion Act would mark a low point in America's frequently racialist immigration policies.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Research Paper on Bilingual Education an Overview of the Cultural Assignment

Addition, this would be a remarkable decision considering the important role already played by the Chinese in helping to achieve many of the goals of the Industrial Revolution. According to Wei (2002), Chinese immigrants "became a significant part of the labor force that laid the economic foundation of the American West. Chinese could be found throughout the region, laboring in agriculture, mining, industry, and wherever workers were needed. They are best known for their contribution to the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, the completion of which united the country economically and culturally." (Wei, p. 1)

That the United States would as a whole turn on this population at the time underscores the xenophobic tendencies against which the Chinese would historically have to insulate themselves while trying to adjust to life in the United States. As Wei goes on to report, for those already in the United States hoping to earn the money to bring families over, the immigration policy would impose a heavy toll of permanent separation. Additionally, while the Chinese population dwindled across the first decades of the 20th century, those who remained behind suffered some of the most virulent exclusionary and segregationist policies that any group had seen since the end of slavery in the U.S. Wei reports that it was not until the United States allied with China in World War II that these immigration restrictions were softened, eventually to be removed altogether with the Immigration Act of 1965. (Wei, p. 1)

Social Structures and Customs:

Even still, decades of exclusion and discrimination would cause the imposition of certain social structures on the Chinese who had arrived in the U.S. both before and after the Exclusion Act's existence. The difficulty of adjustment to life in the United States and the persistence of both social and legal conditions isolating the residential living of Chinese citizens would create the insulated urban communities that became the various Chinatowns all over the U.S. The social structure within was very much defined by the conditions of immigrant life and the imperative to sustain an important cultural identity. Accordingly, Wei tells that social structures differed considerably from those in China because of the deconstruction of the most important unit of Chinese life; the family. According to Wei, "the worst effect was to undermine the one thing that was most precious to the Chinese, their families. Chinese men were forced to live lonely bachelor lives in the almost all-male society that was Chinatown. Meanwhile, wives and children were forced to remain in China, supported by remittances from the United States and rarely seeing their husbands and fathers. Such separations made it difficult to maintain strong family ties." (Wei, p. 1)

As a result, social structures in the United States depended significantly on strong brotherhood and support between Chinese men. Particularly across the first century and a half of their inhabitants in the United States, immigrant men would depend on one another for the creation of a sustainable internal economy, a context where spiritual practices could be adhered to collectively and the forging of a new identity within the U.S. As a result, Chinatown would become at once a symbol of the Chinese struggle and its achievements in planting its roots in America. And as the Asian-American Alliance (2010) points out, this makes Chinatown a unique symbol of Chinese culture contextualized by life in America but resistant to assimilation. This functions as a great support system for new immigrants even as it often epitomizes the rough, impoverished urban conditions facing them. Accordingly, the Alliance notes that "in Chinatown we have seen the poorest of the Asian culture, but that is not all. Chinatown is more than just immigrants without papers or immigrants who wish to keep a part of their Asian culture in America. It is a community of individuals who can feel like a large family. They have a support network." (AAA, p. 1)

Cultural Mandates and Taboos:

One of the great areas of cultural sensitivity not just in Chinese-American culture but among all ethnic groups in the U.S. is the subject of inter-marriage. For groups that struggle to retain a sense of cultural identity in spite of the challenges specific to life in America, marriage outside of national ethnicity can sometimes be perceived as a transgression of this identity. This is not just a factor that enters into consideration for Chinese-Americans marrying Caucasian or African-American citizens but perhaps even more so impacts patterns of marriage between Chinese-Americans and members of other Asian-descended immigrant groups. According to Qian (2005), as the Chinese-American population does become more assimilated through residence, education and work in ethnically heterogeneous contexts, intermarriage has become more commonplace. According to Qian, "interethnic marriage is frequent among American-born Asians despite small group sizes and limited opportunities for contact. For example, in 1990, 18% of Chinese-Americans and 15% of Japanese-Americans aged 20-34 married spouses of other Asian ethnic groups (compared to 39% and 47% who marries whites. Many people view the increasing number of interracial marriages as a sign that racial taboos are crumbling and that the distances between groups in American society are shrinking." (Qian, p. 37) This denotes also a shift in the cultural experience of many Chinese-Americans away from isolation and relegation and toward assimilation.

Educational Priorities and Perspectives:

Perhaps one of the forces most determinant in the 'mainstreaming' of the Chinese-American experience is that of education. Chinese-Americans, as we have noted, initiated their experience in the United States as laborers often exploited for their susceptibility to low wages and poor working conditions. But for the 3rd and 4th generation children of Chinese immigrants and for those who are newly arriving here as bilingual students, an historically omnipresent cultural emphasis on diligence and hard work is now contextualized by school rather than by the Transcontinental Railroad or modest retail operations. Instead, Chinese-descended or immigrated students often perform at comparatively high levels in academics and, as the text by Wei reports, have advanced significantly within the socioeconomic hierarchy of the United States. Wei tells that "at the end of the 20th century, there are an estimated 2.3 million Chinese-Americans. Today, Chinese-Americans are doing relatively well. They are generally seen as hard-working professionals or small business people, with stable families. Indeed, the most recent census data indicates that they have median household incomes and educational levels higher than their White counterparts." (Wei, p. 1) in many ways, this may be attributed to the intersection of hard work and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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