to quiet any parental doubts. At the same time, however, they observed evidences of activist parent movements in many of the urban school systems that their children attended. These movements directly confronted school authorities and demanded changes.
During the 1980s, when Cambodians emigrated to the United States in large numbers, some began to participate as active parents. What was novel about this role was the directness with which parents encountered authority, the organized character of the action, and the cooperation with non-Cambodian parents. Because many of the schools involved were located in inner-city areas, they enrolled a broad range of children from ethnic and racial groups whose parents were dissatisfied with the education being provided their children. In Philadelphia, Asian parents, including Cambodians, filed a lawsuit against the board of education, which was charged with a long list of educational failings. A settlement was reached in the case. 123 In Lowell, Massachusetts, the second-largest Cambodian community in the United States, Puerto Rican, Cambodian, and other parents combined to protest against inadequate language policies and programs of the city's school board. 124 Massachusetts, which was the first state to enact a bilingual education law had, a decade later, become a center of the English-only movement. By the early 1990s, Cambodian families began a large- scale move away from Lowell. 125
Cambodians have been largely submerged as parts of two groupings: Indochinese and Southeast Asians. The first term was invented in 1886 by the French to cover Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, the French colonial empire in Southeast Asia. 126 The second term stood for Indochina and surrounding countries, including Thailand and Burma. Although Indochina disappeared in 1954 when the French armies were defeated by Vietnam, the term continues confusedly to describe present-day countries. For example, in 1993, a researcher wrote that, "Overall, Indochinese students are performing admirably in American schools"; unfortunately, this is followed immediately by a caution that "it is important to recognize that there is considerable between-group and in-group variation." 127 No specific groups are mentioned and the reader is left to speculate whether Vietnamese, Cambodians, or Lao are meant. Undoubtedly, the second assertion is quite correct but is difficult to apply in the absence of subgroup data. In the previous chapter and the present one, the span of social class and education was seen to be very large as between Cambodian and Vietnamese. (The cases of the Lao and Hmong are examined in the next chapter.)