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Professor Manuel Hernández
Essays Collection

Address: : 2012 Ernest St. Kissimmee, Florida 34741

Manuel Hernandez was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York in 1963. He completed undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus and finished a Master�s in Education from Herbert H. Lehman College (CUNY) in the Bronx in 1994. He has coordinated symposiums, produced and coordinated television interviews on the literature written by Puerto Rican and Latino/a writers from the Diaspora. He has done numerous presentations, workshops and seminars on how to integrate latino/a literature in the English classroom. In 2014, he participated in a TedxTalk (Connections) at Southern New Hampshire University. He is the author of three books, , Latino/a Literature in the English Classroom (Editorial Plaza Mayor, 2003), The Birth of a Rican (Imprenta Sifre. 2008) and Living the Kingdom with purpose (Imprenta Sifre, 2013). He is a Language Arts teacher at Osceola School District in Florida.

Latino Education: Progress?
By Manuel Hernandez-Carmona copyright

There have been claims of progress in the education of Latinos in the United States, and there is indeed power in the declaration of words made by the outgoing administration. Who can deny the good intentions of those interested in making a positive contribution to the education of Latinos? But statistics speak for themselves, and the National Center for Education Statistics has recently posted very insightful information on the present status of Latino education. America has always placed a strong value on higher education, but Latinos are being stripped of that opportunity by not scoring adequately in the SAT’s.

An overview on “SAT score averages of college-bound seniors, by race/ethnicity: in selected years, 1986-87 through 2006-07” will show that Hispanic students are scoring below 500 in reading, math and writing. As a matter of fact, there has been very little progress, if any, during the last 22 years in these statistics. During the last eight years, the Bush administration made claims of how the No Child Left Behind Act encouraged and facilitated the progress of the education of Latinos, but an up and closer look at these statistics overturn those claims. If Latino teens are scoring below average in the SAT's, then it makes it extremely difficult for them to receive a higher education.

In another table posted in the National Center for Education Statistics, in the "Percentage distribution of adults ages 25 and over, by highest level of educational attainment and race/ethnicity: 2007", Latinos have the highest percentage in the "Less than high school completion" category. The 39.7 percent is staggering and alarming at the same time. For years, the world-wide secret concerning the Latino high school dropout rate is that it is nearly an incomprehensible 50%. While the claims of educational improvement have been made, the reality of the education of Latinos continues to look dreary and disheartening. Who is responsible for the educational fallout of our children?

America is living a very interesting moment in history. While the economy has taken the forefront of all the issues discussed today, we continue to ignore the fact that the largest minority in America is not only at an economic disadvantage, but because it is less educated; it is in high risk of becoming a “crisis within a crisis,” Although the Obama administration is receiving high marks for its “stimulus packages”, there is no specific mention on how the Department of Education plans to help the millions of Latino children obtain the quality education that they deserve. Yes, it is too soon to evaluate, but there is no specific strategy on how they plan to undertake these and other educational dilemmas faced by Latino children.

The United States Department of Education has announced its participation in an unparalleled endeavor to refuel the economy by “expanding educational opportunities” in its so-called “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009”. It stimulates education by investing millions of dollars to help save teaching jobs and foster educational reform. That’s all good! States like California have taken a head start and have qualified for 4 billion dollars and according to the information provided by the US Department of Education--they will provide assurances that they will gather, produce, scrutinize and perform on basic information concerning the quality of classroom teachers, annual student improvements through city, national and state testing requirements, college readiness programs and other educational efforts being made to improve the quality of the education of all children. Without a doubt, there is an enormous power in words to reform, transform and make a difference in people’s lives. Nobody thought Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” would be a reality today. Who can deny the good intentions of those interested in making a positive contribution to the education of Latinos? But statistics always speak for themselves. Let us be optimistic about the current administration’s declarations and efforts and pray that the charts and tables speak differently in the years to come.



Mr. Hernandez,

In your recent article, you outlined the stagnant and sobering progress of Latino students, whose drop out rates are over 40% and SAT scores have not changed between1986 and 2006. You then go on to praise the President for sending more money to schools. Both the analysis and the cure are , in essence, wrong.

For one, unlike the white and black student population, which have been stable, the Latino population had grown dramatically due to immigration and the high birth rates to immigrants. From 1986 to 2007, the student population increased from 4 million to 10 million, almots all due to immigration, not to birth rates among 3rd generation Hispanics. More than 70% of all Latino students now are either immigratnts or the 2nd generation children of immigrants (the numbers for whites and blacks is 5 and 8%, respectively). So comparing progress is the equivalent of comparing apples and oranges.

Moreover, the dismal numbers you cite are not a surprise given the demographics of the influx. More than 50% of Latino immigrants arrive with no high school diploma (the number for Mexicans and Central Americans is 65%), versus only 8% of natives. Immigrants 100 years ago may have been unskilled along these lines, but the country today is far more educated. The disparity now is three times higher than what it was during that period. Since they did no attend school in their home countries, this disproportionately adds to the overall Latino drop out figures; though these immigrants never went to an American school.

Since they did not attend school for very long, these high school drop outs arrive with very low cultural capital, emphasizing education at far lower rates than do Asian Immigrants. Alejandro Portes abnd Ruben Rambaut surveyed immigrant parents and found that while 905 of Asian parents thought it was "important" or "very important" for their children to get A's and go to college, only 55% of Mexican immigrant parents (who are 60% of the total Mexican adult population here, and by far the largest group of immigrants) thought the same. So there is a huge cultural gap here that no amount of money can solve.

Moreover, the low skills and lack of educational emphasis is exacerbated by another problem:behavior. Of the more than 1 million Hispanic births last year, 24% of all births, MORE THAN HALF WERE OUT OF WEDLOCK (according to the National Center for Health Statistics). In 1980, only 20% of the 300,000 Hispanic births were illegitimate. In terms of rates of out of wedliock births per 1000 unmarried women, Hispanics aare the highest at 93, surpassing the black rate of 63. Every sociaoloist will tell you that single parenthood results in high ratesof social dysfunction. Moreover, Mexican immigrants, the largest and poorest cohort, have an avergae of 4 kids per woman, versus only 2 for Asian women. Not surprsingly, Hispanic teens have a drop out rate 3-4 times higher than Asians and whites, teenage pregnancy rate 4 times higher (which starts the vicious cycle all over again), gang membership rates 19 times higher, incarcertaion rates 3.5 times higher, and welfare usage rates several times higher.

This is all creating ahughe social cost for Americans, as the Hispanic population has increased 5 fold since 1970 and will increase to 129 million in 2050. If these trends in sociological behavior continue, we will have a massive, entrenched Hispanic underclass here. Why is this? It is obviously not about race, since Asian immigrants and their children are assimilating and succeeding at rate higher than that of European immigrants. It is not about self esteem; black and Hispanic students already have the highest self-esteem, and Latino majority schools celebrate their "Latino heritage" to the point of being racially chauvanistic. And it is certainly not about money, as we spend more per student than any other industrial nation. Moreover, Hispanic immigrants and their children are accomated in Spanish to a degree not imagined by European immigrants a century ago (who were told to assimilate or leave).

The bottom line is that you cannot import a poor 19th century workforce into a 21 st century economy where skills are necessary to succeed. Increasing the amount of money for education without addressing our immigration policy is the equivalent of sewing patches in a leaking dam. If we want immigrants and their descendants to succeed, we need to have apolicy which admits those that can succeed.

Chris Wiley