back from denver

Had a jam packed 3 days in Denver at AERA.  With the exception of the disturbing “laughing escalator” at the convention center, Denver is a pretty great city–and soon it’ll be the home of Dr. Cheryl Matias (Ph.D./mother of twins/new asst prof at UCD) so it’ll be even greater.   

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/opinion/04brooks.html

This article annoys me in a few ways (lumping all Asian Americans together, generalizations and problematic terms like “culture of achievement”) but Brooks makes some okay points towards the end when he recognizes how good policy fosters human relationships/social capital.  (don’t promote policy that destroys social bonds.  too bad no one thought of that during…slavery?)  Min Zhou has good work on how social capital networks that are fostered through civic organizations (churches and the like for korean americans) strengthen the ethnic economy, which in turn bolsters institutions and businesses that facilitate more social capital relations/the flow of information on how to say, navigate the education system, start a business, get a job, etc.  So basically how a bunch of ahjumas (aunties) standing in line at Galleria Market gossiping about each other’s kids MATTERS because those ahjumas are swapping information about which high schools they should get their kids to, which SAT prep center does the best job, etc.  Brooks might call this a culture of achievement, because those social bonds facilitate heightened educational expecations and aspirations for their kids, yadayada.  But as Zhou and friends point out, those expectations and aspirations are pipedreams without the institutions (for instance, quality schools, SAT prep centers, etc.) that can help people turn aspirations and expectations into material educational gains for their children, and the existence of these institutions is shaped by (surprise surprise) policy!  Other things, yes, but you can’t have quality schools without policy, SAT prep centers are supported by policy that supports small business owners and the ethnic economy, etc. 

 
Furthermore, there are broader forces (including, yes, policy) that contribute to 1) the existence of Galleria Market in the first place 2) the existence of Koreatown as a destination where both low, middle, and high SES Korean Americans come to do their business/shopping/nrb-ing/worshipping/mohgyuktang-ing–which also promotes the flow of information because low SES Korean Americans are less likely to be information-isolated [can access information about navigating educational institutions through civic organizations and businesses that attract mixed-income clientele] 3) immigration/family reunification that enables people to be in the U.S. in the first place 4) other stuff.
 
Oh Galleria Market, how I miss thee–your food court, cheap produce, and ample free parking. 
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