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Asian-Americans Debate Stereotypes

Five-Person Panel Discusses Perceptions of Passivity, Careers, Parental Influence

By Radi M. Annab, Contributing Reporter

The Asian-American Association (AAA) debated stereotypes with which Asian-American students are labeled in a panel discussion last night.

The five-person panel, which addressed an audience of 60, focused on stereotypes including passivity, career choices and parental influence on students.

"We want to find a way to get the Harvard community more educated about Asian-American affairs," said AAA co-president, Mark H. Kim '94.

Although the panelists agreed on several points, some issues, such as the "science/pre-med" stereotype of Asian-American students, remained controversial.

According to panelist Divya Chander '93, Asian parents pressure their children to choose professional pathways, such as medicine, in their education.

"Asian students have an obligation towards their parents because they've given us so much," said Chander.

But another panelist, Judy M. Iriye '95, said that engineers and scientists were not dominant in her family. She said her parents did not pressure her about work but instead encouraged her to enjoy her time at Harvard.

"I really don't think my parents are the stereotypical Asian parents," she said, but "Asian families put a strong emphasis on education because they do want [their children] to do well."

Panel members Daniel H. Choi'94 said that when Asian parents immigrated to the United States seeking better lifestyles, they chose professions such as medicine and engineering that required achievement and intelligence, but not necessarily language proficiency. But Choi, who is an editor of The Crimson, said today's Asian-Americans are part of a new generation, creating a conflict between them and their parents.

"We are a different culture and speak the language very fluently," Choi said.

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