chapter  2
21 Pages

The Problematization of Cambodian Adolescent Boys in U.S. Schools: Beyond the Model Minority Stereotype of Asian American Youth


Some scholars have documented the ways in which many Southeast Asian youth, including Cambodians, are negatively read by local school personnel (Chhuon and Hudley 2010 ; Conchas and Vigil 2012; Lei 2003; Ngo 2009 ; Lee 2005). This study examines how Cambodian American adolescent boys, in particular, are commonly perceived through a pervasive discourse of the Cambodian dropout, troublemaker, and gangster at Comprehensive High School (CHS). 2 Discourse in this study refers to popular and often stereotypical images ascribed to individuals and groups (Gee 1999), including Cambodian adolescent males. My aim is to understand not only what individuals say, but how their statements and attitudes about Cambodian American male youth are nested within a larger sociopolitical context of immigration, ethnicity, gender, education, and U.S. society (Fairclough 1989). I describe how these ideologies infl uence how Cambodian American students see themselves and approach schooling. As well, I show how educators at CHS utilize particular discourses of Cambodian male youth to

defl ect attention from larger school and institutional inequities. I conclude with a discussion of the signifi cance of understanding these discourses for improving the education of Cambodian students and other immigrant and urban youth of color in U.S. schools.