Critical review of ‘Voicing Names and Naming Voices: Pedagogy and Persistence in an Asian American Studies Classroom’

Amy, Yen-Mei, Tsai

Dr. Peter Nien-chu Kiang is a Professor of Education at the University of Massachusetts Boston, U.S.A.. There he teaches graduate courses in social studies curriculum design and directs the university's Asian American Studies Program. Therefore, he found out and observed that his Asian American students have some problems with integrating in the college. He also pays attention to the area of pedagogy and voice in the classroom, minority, immigrant and refugee youth and community development. In the following, I will summarise the article,’ Voicing Names and Naming Voices: Pedagogy and Persistence in an Asian American Studies Classroom’ first. Then, there are some ideas the author pointed out that I think it is not strong enough; consequently, I will discuss about my questions and doubt in the main body part. At last, I will make a suggestion for this situation.

Research shows that student persistence is more and more important as the amount of Asian American students is arising in higher education. Tinto (1993) points out student persistence could be integrated in the college socially and academically without any assistance outside; however, Kiang (1996, 2002b) does not think Asian immigrants and refugees can integrate well in the college by themselves. Because students can not receive a lot of help within schools, what they can get the motivation to stay and persist in college is finding reference points (Kiang, 1996) outside of college, such as refugee flight, family life, and race or gender discrimination, to facilitate themselves to achieve the whole study. As a result of Kiang’s observation and individual cases in his class, we can find out that although some students changed their names into English ones in order to let others pronounce easily and correctly, they do not want to change their names at all because of the stories , family background and identities of their original names. They think as soon as they change their names, they will lose the recognition and country at the same time. Kiang (2004) also demonstrates that the assignment called ‘meaning of names’ is a useful pedagogy for students integrating, breaking the gap and getting closer with others in class; moreover, it can remind students the identities and re-build their self-respect. Through sharing the meaning and special points of their original names, students can confirm and emphasise their culture and language; also, they can share the stories to other people. Teachers can use this strategy to help students producing more and more confidence with others to pursue their college life more successfully. Although Kiang already took notice of this issue; in my opinion, I think there are three points I want to criticise.

To begin with, the author just takes his students in his class for example, he did not investigate that if other students can integrate in the college well or not. How can it only be the evidence? Also, the author just talked about some students in his class have these kind of difficulties; in fact, he can try to check up other students not just in his class. Moreover, he just ask his students the questions about the feeling of sharing their name stories, we can not know clearly about the process. There is another problem and unsure part, that is, how can we believe that the statements from the students are definitely trustful? In addition, there are only declaration based on research, for audiences, they are too abstract, we need more concrete statistics or any standard regulation and formulation to convince it.

Furthermore, according to this article’ Voicing Names and Naming Voices’, Kiang (2004) demonstrates that there are three reference points, refugee flight, family life, and race/gender discrimination respectively, could support Asian American students to persist finishing their study in college. However, there are other points the author did not mention. For instance, friends’ support could be one of the reference points as well. Because of friends’ wishes or the pressure from peer, the Asian American and international students may tell themselves to persist staying in college for finishing the study. Through the friends’ encouragement, there also could be another positive thinking for the students. That is why I think the author’s opinion is too subjective.

Lastly, the author, Kiang, did not give us the follow-up after doing this activity ‘meaning of names’ from beginning to end. We can not know if teachers really could use this way to help their students facilitate their motivation to integrate or not. The author just suggested teachers can use this pedagogical strategy in class, but we can not understand how to use it and is it really helpful for this kind of case. If teachers could not solve the students’ problem by this teaching way, we can not say it is a worth research. The author should show audiences some evidence that can prove this pedagogical strategy. Otherwise, it could becomes a suggestion and guess, but not academic writing. The author should be careful about this deficiency.

In conclusion, nowadays, according to Kiang (2004), it is an interesting and more and more crucial issue that some Asian American students can not integrate in college socially and academically very well, with this article, teachers and some educators may pay attention to this problem. It is good for Asian American students, they can be helped; after all, they are in the different country, they need help more than home students. If teachers can think highly of this situation, students may feel become more respectful by others. It could motivate them and push them ahead to study and work hard. However, when the author pointed out some phenomenon, he must give audiences some specific evidence, but not just state it like matter of course. What is more, the author can use some scientific ways to demonstrate if his assumption is right or not, rather than hypothesizing.