Smart vs. cool: Culture, race and ethnicity in Silicon Valley schools (San Jose Mercury News)

Sandra Romero and Bibiana Vega do their best to shrug off taunts from fellow Latino classmates at Del Mar High School in San Jose.

The 17-year-old seniors are called “whitewashed.” Mataditas – dorks. Cerebritas – brainiacs. They’re told they’re “losing their culture” – just because Sandra has a 4.0 grade-point average and Bibiana has a 3.5.

The put-downs are clear: Smart is not cool.

And too many Latino students are choosing cool over school.

But a few miles away at Hyde Middle School, in the heavily Asian Cupertino Union School District, Tiffany Nguyen detects the opposite attitude. If you’re not smart, “you’re really looked down on,” said the Vietnamese-American eighth-grader.

After years of tiptoeing around racial issues for fear of invoking stereotypes, California educators are now looking squarely at how ethnicity and culture shape achievement and attitudes toward school.

Full story… 

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