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Immigrants and their children experience many challenges assimilating into the United States. Often people of the same ethnicity gather to form communities to feel at home and support each other. As the largest ethnic minority with more than 50 million people in the US, the Latino community deals with numerous issues. Amongst the Hispanic community, education, while a priority to increase socio-economic standing, is often a point of concern stemming from a low economic status that leads to socio-ethnic barriers and discrimination.
As with any social, ethnic group, education is a necessity that serves many roles. The school gives children a supervised place to be while parents work and serves as a community center, often hosting local entertainment, meetings, and serving as a voting location. However, the primary goal of education is to give children the basic knowledge and skills that they can use in life and their decision-making.
Immigration is the main issue concerning immigrants making the headlines in modern media, especially Hispanics. Despite that, per recent polls of both registered and unregistered voters, the Latino community values education at 57%, higher than any other issue on hand (Krogstad). However, the social statistics up to date show there is a need for necessary improvement in the sphere, with 52.4% graduating high school and a mere 10.4% with a bachelor’s degree or higher, numbers tremendously lower compared to the Caucasian population. In schools, 80+% of students in the English Language Learners (ELL) program are Hispanic despite the majority of them being born in the US (Hispanics: Education Issues). Both statistics show a poor level of preparedness for schooling and dropping levels of social support and motivation which are key for completing any task as monumental as education.
The economic status of families often impacts the academic performance of students. Hispanic families place on the lower-income spectrum, 23% below poverty (Hispanics: Education Issues). The parents’ immigrant socioeconomic status puts the families at a disadvantage as they are unable to provide the resources necessary to prepare and eventually keep their kids learning efficiently. Primarily, the parents lack the knowledge of the US education system, and their background of poor and incomplete schooling causes a lack of advocacy on behalf of the children. Due to low income, children often have inferior resources necessary to have access to school supplies, computers (crucial in modern education), social services, and health care. In some poverty-stricken communities, clothing, hygiene products, and food may be of shortage (Schneider et al. 179). Taking this into account, children are unable to get the necessary resources to learn well, participate in extra-curricular activities, or attend any developmental summer programs.
The responsibility for making sure for providing quality education falls on schools. Public policy and education funding contribute to educational disadvantages amongst Hispanics. Low-income and high-poverty neighborhoods often have schools that are socially segregated and heavily underfunded despite some government funds and subsidies. The Latino culture provided a “high cultural, but low social capital” (Ortiz et al. 138). In the United States, communities help fund the school along with the school district. It is more profitable and prestigious to fund schools that have high academic and extra-curricular achievements, with poor district schools left to exist on their own. The economic polarization of neighborhoods is reflected in the quality of schools. Segregation, while still based on ethnicity, has become no longer an issue of color but economic status (Schneider et al. 181). It is important to note, that ethnicity itself has no proven biological effect on intellectual ability or critical thinking. A slew of socio-economic problems affecting the children from an early age from lack of necessary preparation, the inability of parents to give time to their kids to poor economic capital resources in schools creates problems within the education system.
The Latino community because of its socio-economic status, like the African-American urban community often experiences segregation on a social level. Subject to many stereotypes in combination with the catastrophic social environment, Hispanics are discriminated against, including in education. Labels are created, with Latinos being a “minority.” When taking a test, applying for college, or a job, people are forced to self-identify as Hispanics, which automatically places them at a disadvantage (Gimenez 232). Students in a classroom also experience the effect of their background. Administrators and teachers lack cultural training; language programs are underfunded. Hispanic students often fall behind, the lack of a student-parent-teacher relationship leads to poor judgments. Students’ literacy and mathematics skills are not accurately tested, and it is assumed that Hispanic kids belong in ELL and other remedial programs. Weak relationships and communication demotivate students; they are not engaged in lessons. Combined with low expectations, academic achievement falls sharply (Schneider et al. 199). The process becomes a vicious circle of neglect that the Latino community experiences in education. Problems described above begin with early primary schooling, and heavily impact students as they transition into high school and the workforce with time.
High school completion and college attendance rates amongst Hispanics are abysmal. The Latino population has grown exponentially in the last four decades, however, it remained the lowest-achieving group academically over that time. It was found that just 6% of kindergarteners of the Hispanic ethnicity will ever attain a bachelor’s degree. This is highly contradictory considering that the children despite maybe poor preparation enter school with fundamentally similar, or even greater (due to being bilingual) cognitive capabilities than their peers (Ortiz et al. 137). High educational expectations are found amongst both parents and students initially, however, these aspirations often fail to transfer in practice. Due to the numerous challenges, Latinos face higher rates of high school dropout, teen pregnancy, substance abuse. Low academic achievement turns into cultural blaming as well as a sense of failure. Other reasons for high school dropouts include negative peer pressure and the desire to go into the workforce to aid their family economically (Ortiz et al. 139). According to studies, women in the Latino community experience more academic success as they see achievement as their form of resistance against the system. Meanwhile, males, especially in urban areas often turn to substance abuse and crime. It reinforces the media’s social portrayal of them and their masculinity. The maturation begins in school, where the youth, labeled as hooligans, are policed unfairly by administrators and are assumed to be affiliated with gang activity. Psychologically reinforced, the student becomes older and does begin to engage in such behavior. In turn, this increases dropout rates and academic failure (Cammarota 56-57).
The Latino community faces many challenges in their socio-economic status including providing quality education for their children. To achieve success and stimulate the economy through spending and job creation, it is necessary for the population generally to receive quality instruction. Hispanics must work with lack of resources, ethnic biases, and psychological barriers to gain such a basic given right as education. It is important to note that there are many groups of Latinos and situations may differ in various cities amongst various backgrounds. However, many do experience the problems described in this essay as they immigrate from nations with even poorer conditions in an attempt to have financial security. With these growing social problems, there are policies and projects implemented in schools and neighborhoods to aid Hispanic children to learn and succeed.
Cammarota, Julio. “The Gendered and Racialized Pathways of Latina and Latino Youth: Different Struggles, Different Resistances in the Urban Context.” American Education Quarterly, vol. 35, no. 1, 2004, pp. 53–74. Web.
“Hispanics: Education Issues.” National Education Association, n.d. Web.
Krogstad, Jens Manuel. “Top issue for Hispanics? Hint: It’s not immigration.” Pew Research Center, 2014. Web.
Gimenez, Marta. “Latino/Hispanic-Who needs a Name?: The Case Against a Standardized Terminology.” Latinos and Education: A Critical Reader, edited by Antonia Darder et al., Routledge Press, 1997, pp. 225-238.
Ortiz, Carlos J., et al. “Trends in Hispanic Academic Achievement.” Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, vol. 11, no. 2, 2012, pp. 136–148. Web.
Schneider, Barbara, et al. “Barriers to Educational Opportunities for Hispanics in the United States.” Hispanics and the Future of America, edited by Faith Mitchell et al., National Academies Press, 2006, pp. 179–227.