It’s common knowledge by now; the Hispanic population is rapidly increasing in the Southwest region of the United States. Within in the next decade many states will join the state of New Mexico, the first state to boast a majority Hispanic population. We are beyond counting numbers, what’s emerging before us is evident to all. The Latino population is quickly overtaking many school districts, which are inept to deal with specific issues plaguing Hispanics, especially among the children of immigrants.
An example is taken from California’s Monterey County whose Hispanic student population is listed at 73%, while Soledad Union School District Hispanic population lists at 94%. Most school districts similar to Monterey’s are quickly making changes to their educational delivery systems to meet this growing trend by adapting their curriculum and hiring more bi-lingual teachers to talk to and orient parents to how their child’s educational system works. Another example is Texas, the Lone Star State, which now has a majority Hispanic population attending their schools statewide.
Facing the facts is not easy, especially for many school districts where the student population is shifting to reflect more of a diverse demographic, more so than a decade ago. What educators design and deliver within the next decade will decide America’s future for the next fifty years. So what quality of life and culture will our children inhabit? Will Latinos be an undereducated and dependent class or an enlightened and competitive community adding to the wisdom in the ever-changing global market?
The educational system cries out for more money to improve education. This has been the cry for the past 30 years plus, and we’ve seen no national measurable results to justify more. We don’t need more money, rather, we need innovative leaders who happen to teach; teachers who are empowered to innovate and introduce change to transform current systems of learning. We can no longer wait for problems to arise then counter them with ineffective measures. We must take a proactive, and at times an unpopular stance, to affect change and correct the current system. Therefore, we don’t need managers of old systems, what we desperately need is more innovative leaders to advocate, experiment and introduce new systems of learning.
This is why we need more courageous leaders like Dwight Jones, our new Clark County School District Superintendent; a visionary leader with innovative ideas, who ruffles the feathers of the status quo establishment. He is currently on circuit sharing his vision with many local and influential groups, more recently with the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, for the purpose of mobilizing support for his vision to change and transform our educational system in one of the largest school districts in the nation. There are other advocates like Giselle Fernandez who are striking at years of establishment thought by hard-hitting research and advocacy.
In her recent Huffington Post article dubbed The Latino Education Imperative, she notes, “The stats say it all and cast the same frightening projection: By 2020, Latinos are expected to represent close to 25 percent of the country’s 18-to-29-year-old population. In ten years, nearly ten million Latinos will be 15 to 24 years of age, accounting for nearly a quarter of the total US college-age population. But only 19% of Latino kids are graduating with an Associate of Arts degree, and only 12% with a Bachelor of Arts degree. This compared to 39% of whites, 29% of Blacks and 59% of Asians.” These facts are cause for great concern among us. So what are Latino community leaders doing about it?
What role should Latinos play in our educational system? At this point a desperate one! We need to summon not just the educational leaders together but leaders from the various genres of culture. We need the faith and business communities to step up, and collaborate to create innovative strategies for new educational systems. I’ve always been an advocate for creating learning centers in faith-based organizations who employ educated staff with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Many immigrants and their children attend church faithfully each week.
Why not create learning and tutoring centers at these locations? Immigrants have tremendous respect and trust in their faith leaders, and would follow their vision of education. A connection and dialogue with the faith community wouldn’t hurt education but add wisdom to the current strategy. In addition business establishments can also add to learning by inspiring their best employees to give their time and talent to local educational centers to mentor, inspire and tutor marginal students.
The business community can also create learning centers with an internship program to teach workforce principles. In my experience, Hispanics are more prone to “hands-on” learning; therefore, an interactive approach to learning could enhance their learning experience. Education in the future must seek community oriented solutions rather than the centralized-status-quo mindset that exists in today’s mediocre structure.