Have Eighth-Grade Graduations Gone Too Far?

An article in the New York Times points to a curious trend in adolescence – the prom-ification and exuberant celebration of 8th grade graduations. A quick excerpt:

Modern eighth-grade graduations have become a tangle of outdated definitions of a successful education, inducements to remain in school, and contemporary values about self-esteem and enshrining a child’s many rites of passage. In some communities those rites begin with preschoolers wearing mortarboards. In their blow-out iterations, the eighth-grade bashes borrow from bar and bat mitzvahs for 13-year-olds, quinceañeras for Latina 15-year-olds and sweet 16 parties.

That picture certainly a bit different from this 1946 8th-grade graduation shot from St. Joseph School in Monroeville, Indiana.

Leaders, including Presidential contender Barack Obama, are speaking out against what they perceive as the overblown pomp and circumstance of middle school graduations. In Arizona, legislators have twice considered bills to ban the practice of handing out certificates to those heading to high school.

Out of the topic, one question emerges as most important for me, especially for our community which faces high drop out rates: What is the right balance of celebration, encouragement and instilling a real love of learning (and not just achievement) among our youth? Because, as much as we do not need more MTV-style Sweet 16 nonsense, we do need to let young people know that each educational milestone is special and that there is much more to look forward to.

Students Impacted by Asian-American Stereotypes

Facts, Not Fiction, a report released Monday by New York University, the College Board and a panel of educators and leaders, indicated that, by grouping diverse communities and experiences into one “Asian-American and Pacific Islander” group, some young people’s needs are likely going unnoticed.

The category “Asian-American” can be used for disparate groups – people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent, but also those whose families originate in India, Pakistan, Samoa, the Phillipines and Cambodia. The economic and educational background of these groups can vary widely, as do individuals within each group. By adopting the “model minority” stereotype of Asian-American students, schools may be neglecting individual needs. The report further argues that the stereotype positions Asian-American communities against other minority communities, creating the perception that one group is a “solution” and other groups a “problem”.

It’s all very interesting. And the report points to how our focus on groups more than individuals, as well as our culture’s reliance on stereotypes, can often hinder young people’s opportunities, even when the stereotypical expectations seem to be positive.

Read the report or a great overview at the NYTimes for more information.
To find out more about Asian-American stereotypes in education, visit this article at Eric Digest.
Wikipedia also provides some interesting overviews of the roots, articulation and impact of a variety of Asian-American stereotypes.