National Writing Project

Why Are the Asian American Kids Silent in Class?

By: Carol Tateishi
Date: Winter 2007

Summary: Author Carol Tateishi, co-director of the Bay Area Writing Project, probes into why Asian American kids are silent—a difficult question that dates back several generations. The answers are complex, but the recommendations Tateishi puts forth are more than possible.


Asian Americans are among the fastest-growing segments of the population and are expected to reach 20 million in this country by 2020, writes educator Carol Tateishi in "Taking a Chance with Words," an article in Rethinking Schools Online. But despite their rise in numbers, many Asian American students find themselves confined by cultural barriers and often fall silent during classroom discussions.

In this article, Tateishi offers her insight into the situation based on personal experiences, and provides several recommendations for teachers on how to engage Asian American students in oral language activities.

Of her list of recommendations Tateishi writes,

While this beginning list of ideas only skims the surface of what is possible, they address the concerns of the students I spoke with—students who said they were raised to wait to speak out of respect for others, who needed to have a definite turn to speak or needed to be called on in order to speak, who needed better understanding of the academic and intellectual purposes of talk in school settings, and who needed scaffolded practice in venturing into talk that might reveal personal feelings and opinions or provoke argument.

Copyright © 2008. Used with permission. Reprinted from Rethinking Schools, Winter 2007/2008.
Tateishi, Carol A. 2007-08. "Taking A Chance With Words." Rethinking Schools 22 (2): 20–23.

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