Latino Education: The Weakest Link : By Manuel
If specific and concrete programs are not implemented ?as
soon as yesterday (Burt Posner)?, education will continue
to be the Latino?s population?s weakest link. Whenever charts,
statistics and reports on crime, poverty, unemployment, drugs,
teenage pregnancy and other social misadventures are depicted
and graphically displayed in the media, Latinos are almost
always first in each category. Without education, the on-growing
Latino people risk losing their voice in American institutions
There is no doubt that heroic efforts have been made by schools,
universities, non-profit organizations and other institutions
to support and help children receive a quality education.
Notwithstanding those past and present efforts, a national
program must be organized, coordinated and integrated immediately
to detain the Latino high school dropout rate and improve
the percentages of Latino teens in college and universities.
History has taught us to look back at the social struggles
of many groups, individuals and non-profit organizations of
the 1960?s and 1970?s that left us with groundbreaking community
and academic organizations such as Aspira and Upward Bound,
just to mention a few, that went beyond academic expectations,
walked the extra mile and made a difference in the academic
lives of millions of American children, including Latinos.
As a consequence, Bilingual Programs were created and placed
into effect to meet the academic demands and educational needs
of the great Latino immigration wave that swooped across America
in the decades immediately following World Ward II. The transition
to the mainstream for the millions of Latino and other immigrant
children was smooth and swift and the cultural bridge was
crossed with love, care and devotion.
But The English Only movement and the antagonists of these
programs killed them, and once again we find ourselves in
an educational dilemma. At the dawn of a new era, we find
ourselves once more at a crossroads, and without a doubt the
weakest link for the largest minority in this century is education.
Educational programs in America need initiatives. First,
there must be a strategy to help students, especially Latino
teens to enter high school reading at their grade level and
create interest in literature and improve progress in reading
and as a result, students will improve their scores on city,
state and national testing requirements. Secondly, United
States based Latino/a literature may be presented as an alternative
(tool) in the English classroom. Last, integrate Latino/a
literature and other minority literatures (depending on the
dominant immigrant populations within a geograhical boundary)
in the curriculum as a bridge/jump off point to the American
and British classics.
United States based Latino/a literature written in English
by Latino/a immigrant writers themselves helps to make a transition
to the literature of Hemingway and Shakespeare. The literature
constructs upon the Latino teens' prior experiences and skills.
It is a mirror of the language, culture and history of the
American Latino experience and allows them to transform their
learning experience into a dynamic, pro-active and meaningful
adventure with purpose and a greater understanding of themselves.
A well-designed reading and writing program should provide
opportunities for daily reading and writing activities. Scholars
and researchers agree that it is only when a personal, social
and cultural understanding of the second language learner's
background is obtained that the learning skills of that L2
student are developed. Latino/a literature provides students
with authentic reading and symbols necessary to make a personal
connection with the literature.
The vision of the initiative is to help teachers improve
educational outcomes of teens, and provide the motivation
and encouragement needed for them to help teens read at their
grade level and to develop progress in reading. This may be
just an initiative, but it has already been placed into effect
with excellent results in cities such as New York, Saint Paul,
Orlando and Fajardo, Puerto Rico just to mention a few. Ideas
are first envisioned, then developed and ultimately placed
in action. The purpose of the initiative is to transform the
weakest link into the strongest asset of the Latino population