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Bethany Karasek

Lee, Stacey J. (2001). More than “Model Minorities” or “Delinquents”: A Look at Hmong
American High School Students. Harvard Educational Review, 71(3), 505-28.

Roberts, Theresa. (2008). Home Storybook Reading in Primary or Second Language with
Preschool Children: Evidence of Equal Effectiveness for Second-Language Vocabulary
Acquisition. Reading Research Quarterly, 43(2), 103-130.

Rationale: I chose this ethnic group to analyze because the Hmong population has been
stereotyped as either the “smart Asians” or slackers. There is a trend among Hmong American
students of truancy. The trend of truancy is in part due to academic and cultural reasons. Hmong
immigrants coming to the United States generally need to learn English, this ties into my field of
study, TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). I also have many Hmong
friends and wanted to learn more about their culture and educational experiences.

Author Credibility: Stacey J Lee is the author of “More than “Model Minorities” or
“Delinquents”: A Look at Hmong American High School Students.” She is a professor at the
University of Wisconsin Madison. “Stacey J. Lee is a professor in Educational Policy Studies
and a faculty affiliate in Asian American Studies. She received her PhD in Anthropology of
Education from the University of Pennsylvania, MA in Political Science from New York
University and AB in Political Science from Vassar College. Her research focuses on the role of
education in the incorporation of immigrants into the US. She is the author of Unraveling the
Model Minority Stereotype: Listening to Asian American Youth and Up Against Whiteness:
Race, school and immigrant youth” (Personal Biography).

Motive for writing the article: Author Stacey Lee did this ethnographic study to show that
Hmong American students are more than just the model minority or delinquents. Lee asks the
question, “How do Hmong American students view education?” She focuses on the difference
between 1.5-generation students (those who arrived in the United States as children and are
brought up and educated in the United States) and second-generation students (Lee 2001). As a
Chinese American woman, she shares a panethnic/ racial identity with the Hmong students,
which helped facilitate initial conversations during her ethnographic study.

Central Argument: While some researchers may argue that Hmong students fall into either
“good kids” or “bad kids,” Lee suggests that there is a much more complex picture. Her data
suggests that the success of Hmong students is supported by accommodation (conforming to a
certain extent), and making cultural adaptations while staying true to their cultural identity. To
fully include Hmong students in American schools there needs to be educators who understand
and respect Hmong culture and the difficulties in adjusting to American society. There also
needs to be a sense of inclusion in the school, as well as in the curriculum.

Section I: Cultural Characteristics of Ethnic

Early American descriptions of Hmong culture portrayed them as rural, preliterate,

patriarchal, and traditional. In Laos, women were encouraged to marry young, in their teens, and
have many children (Lee 2001). Their large families were beneficial because of the agricultural

lifestyle they led. The children could work on the farm when they were old enough.

The Hmong culture is a patriarchal one. This leads to distinct gender roles and gender

inequality. Women are generally not encouraged to get an education, although this idea is

changing from generation to generation. In America, Hmong girls are often expected to cook,

clean, and take care of younger siblings before they can work on schoolwork. In Laos, the

women are under the command of the men in the household. She works for her husband, father,

brothers, sons. Once Hmong girls are married, the decision about her education is up to her in-

laws. It is often hard for women since they are duty-bound to care for their in-laws’ family (Lee

2001). Hmong immigrants have been increasingly supportive of education for women.

Generally, they have a “folk theory of success” that connects education to social mobility (Lee


Hmong children are expected to obey their parents and respect their elders. One common

conflict between Hmong parents and children involves dating. Parents want dates to come to the

house and meet the entire family. Many Hmong parents are in favor of arranged marriages. Some

girls ultimately agree to marriage out of feelings of obligation to their parents (Lee 2001). Many

Hmong children have to interpret for their parents, drive them to appointments, and even work to

support the family. These Hmong children obey their parents and take care of them because they

feel that it is the right thing to do and out of respect. Parental authority is preserved, even though

the roles are reversed, because parents make certain cultural accommodations and the Hmong

community is keeping an eye on the children’s behavior.

“Hmong culture, like all cultures, is fluid and dynamic” (Lee 2001). Hmong families

have to change and adapt their culture to adjust to a different life in America. This does not mean
that Hmong culture is dying; it just means that they are figuring out how to be Hmong in


Section II: Important Societal Factors

When Southeast Asian immigrants started arriving in the United States, the press began

to portray the “smart Asian” stereotype. Hmong American students were having difficulties in

school and not fitting this idea of the “model minority.” Hmong American students generally

face high rates of poverty and low levels of parental education. Students start to compare

themselves with their white, middle class peers, and this makes them exceedingly aware that they

are poor. The press has portrayed Hmong students as falling into one of two groups: high-

achieving, model students or delinquents, truants, or gang members (Lee 2001). This form of

racialization really puts strain on minority high school students. Some researchers say that

second generation Hmong students have become over-Americanized and are particularly

vulnerable to gang involvement and trouble in school and with the law (Lee 2001).

Cultural barriers are cited as being the cause of high dropout rates, as well as early

marriage. Some young women even hide their marriage from their schools because they fear

moral and legal judgement. Students who were born outside of the United States and remember

their life before emphasize that things are better in the United States. This “dual frame of

reference” helps students persevere through hardships in their new country (Lee 2001). For

example, students complained that they couldn’t make American friends. This frustrated them,

but they still emphasize that they are getting better educational opportunities in the United States

(Lee 2001). Some students still see education as a path out of poverty. This is a good example of
push and pull immigration factors. They are clinging to the “folk theory of success,” believing

education is going to lead to social mobility.

Hmong parents identify the “good kids” and the “bad kids” based on their clothes, their

relationships with adults, and their stance on education. Parents view Americanization in a

negative light and think the “bad kids” are not keeping the Hmong culture alive. Second

generation Hmong Americans live in a different world than their parents. They were born and

educated in the United States, and they are more fluent in English than Hmong. Increasingly,

they have a lack of faith in education leading to social mobility.

For one student who was facing many truancies and was having a hard time adjusting,

getting suspended confirmed his mistrust in the school system. He got suspended for hitting a

white student who called him a demeaning name. The principal was sympathetic but had to

suspend him based on the rules. This made this Hmong student view school as a racist

institution. The vice principal said, “school is set up in a sense to be very responsive to the kids

… who are achieving” (Lee 2001). He is essentially saying that school is set up to support

students who are already at the top and neglect those who need extra attention to succeed.

Strikingly, the highest achievers in the Hmong American student population seem to be

the girls. This is seen in part as a response to their culture’s view of education for women.

Teachers identify the girls as “exceptionally hard workers,” and they are most likely to

participate in after school tutoring (Lee 2001).

Hmong students experience extreme racialization in school. One guidance counselor said,

“An East Asian student might be number three in the class and going to Yale, but the Southeast

Asians aren’t very motivated” (Lee 2001). Second generation Hmong students are disinclined to

overlook occurrences of racism and discrimination. Non-Hmong people mock their culture and
stereotype them profusely. They say that say that Asians eat dogs and cats or that all Hmong are

on welfare (Lee 2001). One cannot just assume these things of an entire ethnic group. Comment [WNP1]: Great discussion in this, and the
previous, section!

Section III: Educational Strategies and Interventions

Most of the 1.5 generation students, those born outside of the United States, in this

ethnographic study were enrolled in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program. This

program offered classes in ESL, social studies, science, and math. The ESL program was to help

transition students to mainstream classes. The department also had part-time bilingual specialists

to help tutor and translate and a special guidance counselor to help the students choose classes

(Lee 2001).

In this ESL setting, students are encouraged to think about their own cultural experiences.

They were free to develop their English language skills in a setting where they could not be

mocked by the “mainstream” students. The students often formed close relationships with their

ESL instructors as well. The ESL program provides a safe space for students in a large,

intimidating school (Lee 2001).

Some truancy concerns stem from students skipping class because they cannot keep up

with the material. Unfortunately, these students are often neglected and not given the assistance

they need to succeed. “Resistance to schooling is not always expressed through direct

confrontation” (Lee 2001).

Many educators blame students for their own academic problems, saying they simply

“lack motivation.” Hmong students have said they would like to see curriculum that includes

their history and culture. Second generation students want to learn more about their people and

would like to have classes about Hmong culture, history, or language (Lee 2001). Classes like
these would benefit these students by making them feel more included and educating their peers

about their rich culture. Comment [WNP2]: Let’s operationalize this a bit more
concretely for you in terms of things you can think about/do
in your own classroom.
Many of the 1.5 generation students participated in the Asian club with other Asian
I ask you to think about the Culturally Relevant Teaching
ethnic groups, while second generation students made up the Hmong club exclusively. The 1.5 framework as developed by Gloria Ladson-Billings and
operationalized by two of my Saint Paul Travel Study
Teaching Assistants Aubrey and Adrienne (see Discussion
generation students emphasized that they wanted a club that helped teach others about their section of D2L). Here are the parts of Ladson-Billings
culture and suggested that the members of the Hmong club were more interested in parties than
Academic Achievement: What are the academic
experiences and challenges faced by Hmong learners?
their culture. Cultural Competence: How can a teacher both identify and
make use of these learners’ Funds of Knowledge (See my
Lee’s data concludes that academic success is in part because of cultural transformation Activities to Investigate Funds of Knowledge List)?
Critical Consciousness: How can a teacher use both his/her
knowledge of Hmong learners and acquired cultural
and preservation. The ESL program serves as a huge support system for students adjusting to competence to empower/advocate for these learners in
social and academic ways (e.g., adjustment of curriculum –
American high school. We need to “make these students full citizens in the schools that are content specific tools to help these students see academic,
social, economic inequalities facing them and their
communities; making changes in pedagogy – look this term
intended to serve them” (Lee 2001). This can be achieved by having educators who are up on the web; removing learning barriers, utilizing learners’
families and community as academic resources, etc.)?
respectful and understand the culture of their students and the difficulties of transitioning to

American culture. The success of Hmong American students in high school depends on both

external and internal forces, and these have to be taken into consideration by the educators who

interact with them. Comment [WNP3]: Nice discussion in this Research Report
- Rubric Score: 3/3/3


Personal Biography. Bio for Stacey J Lee, Retrieved from eps.education.wsic.edu/