Friday, September 30, 2011

Hispanics make up the fastest growing segment of the American population, but are lagging when it comes to education and the consequences are huge not just for individual families, but for the entire American economy

Barack Obama said in 2010 that Hispanic school children faced challenges of monumental proportions. He was articulating what many in the United States have been worrying about for years - that Latinos - from kindergarten to university - are falling far behind. A White House report published in April 2011 states that less than 50% of Latino children are enrolled in pre-school; just 50% earn their high school diploma on time and, those who do are only half as likely as their peers to be prepared for college. Just 13% have a degree. Hispanics are the youngest and fastest growing group in the country. They make up 16% of the population now and will account for 29% of the population by 2050. The issue has essentially reached a tipping point. It's harder to ignore a problematic minority group when they affect a third of the population. At present, America can boast the best educated workforce in the world but in 50 years' time, the majority of those workers will be Hispanic. If they are uneducated, what hope is there for American global competitiveness? There are also fears about how poor educational outcomes could lead to greater inequality in America. In a 2009 book, The Latino Education Crisis, professors of education Patricia Gandara and Frances Contreras warn that: "Latino students today perform academically at levels that will consign them to live as members of a permanent underclass... their situation is projected to worsen over time." Later, they write: "If their situation is not reversed, democracy is in peril." Four million Latino children struggle in class because they don't know English, even though three quarters of them were born in the United States. Hispanic mothers have far less education than their counterparts in other ethnic groups. According to Professors Gandara and Contreras, formal education is not as much of a priority in Latin America as it is in the United States, so the parents may not be pushing their children to succeed. There is also the issue of immigration. According to the Census bureau, 50% of immigrants in the United States are from Latin America.

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