In another internet group, someone posted the following article: Has Asian American Studies Failed? Take a look at it. It’s an article by a professor of Asian American Studies who argues that maybe Asian American studies has failed, since Asian Americans don’t seem to be shaping the public dialogue. This was the very first topic I ever blogged about. Back to my roots, baby.
While I agree that we haven’t been shaping the public dialogue, I don’t think that AAS has failed. The purpose of Asian American Studies is to study, not to change. I don’t know if everyone would agree with this since AAS came about by people who fought for change on the streets. But I would submit that while AAS was conceived on the streets amid protests and sit-ins, the purpose of the departments themselves were always to transmit knowledge of literature and history, rather than to teach people how to create change.
Think about it. In a typical AAS class, you learn about literature and history. You learn facts. You learn interpretations. You don’t take any classes to learn to make change. If that were the purpose, the curriculum might be different. Instead of just learning literature and history, you might be required to also study:
a) Management: so you could learn to motivate and lead groups of people and to fire deadbeats and Orientalists
b) Accounting: so you could learn to stay in the black with any organization you run
c) Government: so you could learn to lobby for effective change
d) Marketing: so you could spread the message
f) Fundraising: so you could generate a dangerous warchest
g) Law: so you could push the envelope and not end up in prison
If change creators were the end lesson, they’ve totally been going about it wrong. But come to think of it, this sounds like fun. Maybe Asian American Studies ought to have a more activist bent.
(Pic from here)