Last month, we received a report about a racial stereotyping book that is being used in LWSD classrooms. The book is The Cricket in Times Square. According to some Chinese students, they felt offended by content of the book.
We did a research on the book, and the students were right. This book contains the old racial stereotyping against Chinese immigrants. In the book, the author portrayed Chinese could not pronounce the letter “r” properly. “Very” was pronounced as “vely”, “truth” was pronounced as “tluth”, “cricket” was pronounced as “clicket”, etc. Chinese food was described as “funny”. The author even suggested that Chinese would eat anything: “[t]hey make soup out of bird’s nests and stew out of shark fins. They could make a soufflé out of a mouse”. In many places, the book described Chinese constantly bowing. An Amazon review called this book “Racist Book“.
We reached out to LWSD Superintendent, Dr. Jon Holmen on November 20th. Dr. Holmen quickly asked his team to look into the matter the next day. Associate Superintendent, Mike VanOrden, confirmed on November 22nd, that “[a]n excerpt from the book is included in a unit in our 4th grade literacy curriculum that was adopted in 2012, and the book is available as an optional extension for this unit.” Mr. VanOrden copied Director of Teacher and Learning, Dr. Jennifer Rose, on the November 22nd email. According to Mr. VanOrden, Dr. Rose “can work with her team to review the book and make a determination about next steps, which may include replacing or pulling the text from the curriculum materials. We have conducted similar reviews in the past. ”
In the same email, Mr. VanOrden also provided the instruction for parents to file a formal complaint and challenge the material. After some internal discussions, we decided to first let the school district go through its review process.
On November 30th, we sent Mr. VanOrden an email and said “we’d like to wait till Dr. Rose and her team review the book and make their determination before we decide the next logical step. Normally how long will it take for Dr. Rose’s team to complete the review process? And how will the decision be communicated to teachers and parents?” Dr. Rose was copied on the November 30th email.
We also provided below feedback we gathered from students and the community in the November 30th email.
1) Parents would like to see the excerpt from the book that is included in the 4th grade literacy curriculum.
2) Chinese students would prefer that the offensive content is not used in classrooms. For example, through out the book, the author implied that Chinese could not pronounce the letter “r” properly. “Very” was pronounced as “velly” , “truth” was pronounced as “tluth”, and many more. It described Sai Fong “looked slyly at the boy”, and “his eyes became even narrower than they had been before”… There are many more content in the book that Chinese students feel uncomfortable with.
3) Although Chinese students are feeling uncomfortable with the offensive content, many of them do not recognize this is a form of racial stereotyping and they should report to their teachers and schools.
4) None of the non-Chinese students we asked recognized that the content offended their Chinese peers. Some recognized after we explained, some still thought it was OK.
5) In some classrooms, teachers recognized racial stereotyping and pointed out to students. However in most classrooms, teacher did not point the racial stereotyping out.
6) Parents would like to use this as an opportunity to teach students that racial stereotyping against Chinese/Asian students has existed for a long time and is not acceptable. And students should learn to recognize and know their right to report.
To Mr. VanOrden’s credit, he promptly responded on December 1st, and said ” I’m including Dr. Rose on this email and will ask her to follow up with you about the next steps and a timeline. Because she has direct responsibility for overseeing our curriculum resources and the reconsideration process, she will also be the best person to answer your questions via email or meeting. “
That was when the district’s communication on this matter ended. Despite two follow up emails, one on December 2nd, one on December 7th, Dr. Rose, never once responded on this matter.
With the widespread anti-Asian hate crimes are still going on in our region and through out the country, you’d think that the LWSD would take swift action to address anti-Chinese racial stereotyping curriculum concerns. Yet, we are disappointed to see that the school district’s leadership is not taking racial stereotyping against Chinese Americans seriously. Parents of Chinese American students should demand LWSD to provide welcoming and inclusive environment for their kids.
Please contact: JOHOLMEN@lwsd.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org , and let them know that it is not acceptable to expose Chinese students in those racial stereotyping environment.
Thanks for everyone who contacted LWSD. We received an email from Dr. Rose on December 10th. We’ll provide more details on the next step soon.