U.S. Is Failing Latino Boys

The way things stand, we have failed Latino boys.

Twenty percent of Latino boys in the United States drop out of high school – that’s according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That leaves a very large chunk of the Latino community stuck in a cycle of under achievement.

Dr. Luis Ponjuan,  an assistant professor of educational administration and policy at the University of Florida, calls it a “silent crisis.” He spoke at the National Education Association and pointed at the causes, as reported by the NEA Today :

The primary causes vary, but come from the lack of parental involvement and outreach, lack of professional skills among teachers to work with young boys of color, and the pressing challenges to adhere to high stakes testing.

I’d probably go deeper than that, but it’s a good place to start.

It’s telling, for instance, that spending in public education (specifically in Texas) is decreasing proportionate to the increase in Latino student population. Not that money is the solution to the problem, but neither is cutting budgets and increasing standards – they haven’t helped either. It’s just that in the United States, as an unspoken rule, we fund what we prize. If there is something we deem worthy, like a strong military or a race to the moon, we pump dollars into it and foster its growth.

Now couple this with our present economic struggles.

Yes, the bad economy is partially to blame for the cuts in funding, but it’s also a cautionary tale. We’re a forward thinking society that values it’s strong economy so shouldn’t we be doing something today to prevent a weakened economy tomorrow?  And if Latino boys will be a significant part of the that future economy, filling the ranks of the workforce, paying taxes, fueling growth, why are we standing idle?

One in 5 Latino boys doesn’t finish high school, is relegated to a life of under achievement, underemployment, of being prison fodder. Dr. Ponjuan calls it a “silent crisis,” because no one seems to be paying attention – we treat them as if they were weeds, left to grow haphazard and unattended. And then we feign surprise at what we’ve reaped?

The majority of Latino boys are raised in low income, inner city environments and education research tell us that these children learn differently and have different needs than those of a typical suburban community where schools are still patterned after a 1950’s model of how schools should look and feel.

We look at these problems as if they were restricted to the classrooms.

But the effect is much larger. Our neglect of Latino boys is already biting us in the backside and the pain will get stronger as our boys move into the workforce unprepared.

This is an economic crisis that will have an effect on our nation as a whole, not a “Latino” problem to be shelved and left to fester in the classrooms and in the barrios.

As Dr. Ponjuan put’s it:

The primary solutions require communication across various stakeholders, collaboration across multiple organizations that cross boundaries between schools, communities, and government, and long-term commitment to help boys of color, especially, Hispanic boys…

But none of that will happen until we start looking at Latino boys as critical to our future, not dispensable in our present.

Follow Victor Landa on Twitter: @vlanda

[Photo by America Redefined]

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