Race and Education

Education has always been touted as one of the most crucial things in
the contemporary human society. This may emanate from the relationship
it has with the quality of life that individuals lead, as well as the
overall wellness of the economy of a particular country. This could
explain the immense amount of money that governments in different
countries invest in enhancing the quality of education, as well as
increasing the percentage of individuals who are educated. However,
recent times have seen an increase in the interest of individuals with
the variations or disparities in the levels of education among people of
different races. A case in point would be the education levels of
Spaniards or the Hispanic community.
Hispanic youths come as the fastest growing segment or portion of the
United States population, with Hispanics accounting for over a quarter
of all the new entrants into the United States labor force. The census
carried out in the year 200 showed that there were about 35.3 million
Hispanics residing in the United States, which represented close to 60
percent increase from the population ten years before. These Hispanics
have emanated from Mexico, South or Central America, Puerto Rico, Cuba,
as well as other Hispanic countries. The key cause of the increased
population has been immigration in the past four decades, although
future increases will primarily be driven by the high birth rates
pertaining to the second and third generation citizens. Indeed, future
projections indicate that by 2050, the Hispanic community will be
accounting for about 51% of the growth in population, taking up a fourth
of the entire United States population.
While this is the case, the Hispanic population has been lagging behind
other communities and races as far as education is concerned. As at
2000, only about 10 percent of Hispanics between the age of 25 and 29
had attained a bachelor’s degree, which was quite low compared to the
18% and 34% for African Americans and Whites respectively (Vernez &
Mizell, 2001). These variations in the attainment of postsecondary
education have resulted in substantial inequalities as far as the
percentage of the population in the United States labor market is
concerned. Unlike the case of African Americans who have persistently
been subjected to discrimination and are, therefore, paid much less,
Hispanics have presently been having more or less the same salaries as
whites provided they have similar levels of education (Vernez & Mizell,
2001). Nevertheless, the low formal schooling levels have immensely been
responsible for the overrepresentation of the Hispanic community in
occupations that require low skills and paying much less, not to mention
that the community have considerably higher rates of unemployment than
other communities (Santiago, 2006). Research shows that Hispanic
households can only claim ownership for less than 10 cents for every
dollar of wealth that white households own. It goes without saying that
unless there is a significant increase in the rates of post-secondary
graduation among the Hispanics, there will undoubtedly be an increase in
the rates of poverty and unemployment for this group in the coming
Dropout Rates and Disparities in School Environment
While Hispanics have been among the least (if not the least) educated
groups in the United States, they have been making considerable impacts
in educational institutions at all levels. Research shows that in the
year 200. More than 11.4 million school aged Hispanic children were
living in the United States, which represented about 16% of all the
kids. Scholars projected that over 20% of all kids below the age of 18
will be Hispanics by the year 2020. However, the variations in the
educational experiences pertaining to the Latinos or Hispanics are
evident as early as in preschool, with Hispanic kids being considerably
less likely to attend preschool programs compared to children from other
communities (Oakland & Rossen, 2005). It is worth noting that there
exists an element of consistency in the variations throughout the K-12
education of Hispanic students. Research shows that the proportion of
dropouts aged between 16-24 years who leave school prior to attaining a
high school credential is constantly higher in the case of Hispanic
students than in students from other communities. Scholars believe that
about 48% of the Hispanic students who have been enrolled in middle
school in the 8th grade will be unlikely to return to school to start
their high school education (Vernez & Mizell, 2001). Compounding the
issue further is the fact that out of the Hispanic students that go to
high school and even graduate, only about 45-40% would be going ahead to
It goes without saying that the low rates of high school completion
especially among immigrant Hispanics have a negative impact on their
enrollment in post secondary educational institutions. Research shows
that less than 50 percent of all high school students of Hispanic origin
in the United States would currently be qualified to be enrolled in
4-year institutions. Out of these, only around 30 percent to 40 percent,
subject to geographical location, would be enrolled in higher
institutions of education immediately after their high school graduation
(Oakland & Rossen, 2005). These statistics would be equal to only about
22 percent of the Hispanic students between the age of 18 and 24 years
having enrolled to colleges. However, there seems to be an increase in
the number of eligible Hispanic students that go ahead to college, at
least considering attendance in community college levels. For instance,
in the year 2000, about 36 percent of Hispanic students that completed
high school enrolled in college, which was an immense increase from the
meager 27 percent that had been reported in 1985 (Oakland & Rossen,
2005). Underlining the seriousness of the education completion
statistics are the figures on Hispanic post secondary educational
pathways reported in the 2000 and 2001 California Postsecondary
Education Commission (CPEC). CPEC noted that only forty out of every 100
Hispanic students that graduate from high schools in California are
enrolled in postsecondary educational institutions. Out of the 40
students, seven start at the California State University system
campuses, three would enroll and be admitted to the University of
California, while the rest (30) would start at the community colleges in
the state. It is regrettable that these figures are not restricted to
California State only, rather they appear to be a reflection of the
Hispanic students across the country.
In addition, there have been noticeable discrepancies or variations with
regard to the type of institutions that Hispanic students attend in
comparison to White students. Research shows that Hispanic students,
currently, have a higher likelihood of enrolling into or attending
community colleges or even considerably less selective 4 year
universities compared to their white counterparts. Statistics on the
year 2004 show that about 66.2 percent of Hispanic students were
admitted into community college or open-door institutions, which was a
high figure considering the 45 percent figure for white students
(Oakland & Rossen, 2005). As much as similar percentages may have
enrolled into highly selective colleges, 6 percent of Hispanic students
attended selective 4-year educational institutions compared to 9 percent
for the white students.
On the same note, there are disparities in the types of courses or
careers that they pursue in the institutions of higher learning.
Research shows that at the graduate level, Hispanic students attain a
mere 4% of all master’s degrees, 5% of all professional degrees and 3%
of the doctoral degrees. In comparison to the national averages,
Hispanic students have a higher likelihood of earning master’s degree
in education than their white counterparts (33 percent vs. 27%), while
also standing considerably less likelihood for earning master’s
degrees in health professions, computer information sciences,
engineering and business (Oakland & Rossen, 2005). Similar statistics
are registered at the doctoral level, where Hispanic students have been
attaining higher than average numbers of doctorates in psychology and
education but stand considerably less likelihood of attaining terminal
degrees in engineering (7 percent for Hispanics in comparison to the 12
percent registered nationally), science technologies and physical
science (6 percent for Hispanics compared to 9 percent nationally)
(Garcia, 2001). This would, undoubtedly, have an impact on their levels
of earnings, as well as the qualities of lives that they lead, both as
individuals and as a community at large.
Language barriers in Hispanic education
There has been a longstanding public debate pertaining to the use of
more than one language in public educational institutions. Some of the
most fundamental events pertaining to this history that goes back
further than a century were the steps that were taken in an effort to
guarantee equality when responding to a decision in the Brown vs. Board
of Education in 1954. The case paved the way for equal participation in
public educational institutions without asserting the right for minority
groups to practice their own culture (Santiago, 2006). On the same note,
there was the Bilingual Education Act in 1968, which came with
supplemental funding for school districts so that they can teach
students who did not have English as their first language.
Currently, there has been intense public debate pertaining to the rising
rates of dropout for the Hispanic students, as well as the variations in
achievement between Latino and White students. The plight of Latino or
Hispanic students has taken the country back to the equality guarantees
pertaining to the Brown vs. Board of Education case (Oakland & Rossen,
2005). The increasing numbers of Hispanic students, as well as the
incorporation of increased numbers of Spanish speaking students to
educational institutions has been seen as disadvantaging the students,
as well as labeling them as a minority group that is outside the main or
dominant cultural group.
Scholars have noted that there is a close connection between language
and schooling or the academic development pertaining to an increasing
number of kids in American schools including American schools. It goes
without saying that the increasing variation in demographics seen in
many parts of the country especially the American south has caught
school administrators and educators by surprise (Kohler & Lazarin,
2007). More often than not, they do not have the appropriate training or
even resources that would allow them to offer sufficient teaching and
learning to an increasing number of young individuals that go to school
ill prepared to be immersed in schools that only provide lessons in
English (Garcia, 2001). Of course, this problem is not limited to
educational institutions, rather it is present in almost every other
public institution including healthcare sector.
Unfortunately, their low proficiency in English and the inability of
educational institutions to offer lessons in multiple languages have
determined the quality of course that these individuals can pursue, as
well as the quality of lives that they can live. Scholars have noted
that they usually go for courses that would lead to careers that do not
pay much, thereby lowering their prospects for the lives that they lead
(Oakland & Rossen, 2005). Indeed, this may also explain the increased
cases of drop out among Hispanic students. A large number of them are
already performing badly in their formative years of education, in which
case they do not perform sufficiently well as to proceed to the higher
institutions of education (Santiago, 2006). This is, undoubtedly a
result of the barriers pertaining to the disparities in languages,
especially considering that their first language is not English, and a
large number of educational institutions do not have the appropriate or
sufficient resources to offer English as a Second Language lessons.
Effects of education
While Hispanics have been the least educated, those who have pursued
education have reaped immense benefits from it. Indeed, it is worth
noting that, while Hispanics are considered a minority, the benefits
that they reap from education are not different from those of other
races or communities (Kohler & Lazarin, 2007). Indeed, they may be
considered as reaping somewhat more than their black counterparts
considering that they, unlike their African American counterparts, are
not subjected to discrimination in the workplace especially with regard
to the wages and salaries that they earn.
One of the key effects of education on Hispanics revolves around its
capacity to offer the necessary knowledge, as well as opportunities that
allow individuals to alter or modify their circumstances and even lead
sustainable and prosperous lives. As noted earlier, a large number of
Hispanics are migrants from countries such as Mexico, Puerto Rico and
Cuba, which have considerably low economic status compared to the United
States. Indeed, a large number of immigrants from these countries come
to the United States (through legal and illegal means) in an effort to
look for opportunities and ways of enriching their lives (Kohler &
Lazarin, 2007). While the first generation may choose to settle for odd
jobs that require little skills, the second and the third generation is
usually taken to educational institutions in an effort to carve a place
for them in white collar jobs that pay considerably higher salaries and
wages, and are more sustainable (Santiago, 2006). This would,
undoubtedly, result in the improvement of their quality of lives, as
well as their levels of prosperity.
In addition, scholars have underlined the fact that education allows for
the development of a strong sense of identity in individuals and comes
with absolute autonomy or independence over their decision-making.
Indeed, recent times have seen an increase in the interest of the
political class on issues that mainly affect Hispanics (Santiago, 2006).
Issues such as migration reforms, healthcare provision to illegal
immigrants and even the provision of education and lessons in second
language have triggered hot political debates and have formed a basis
for seeking political offices (Kohler & Lazarin, 2007). Scholars have
noted that politicians are increasingly passing legislations and
policies in favor of the Hispanics, in an effort to prevent political
backlash. This has resulted from the increased comprehension of issues
that affect them, which has informed their pursuit for customized
solutions to the issues (Vernez & Mizell, 2001). On the same note,
scholars have underlined the fact that there has been increased
participation of Latinos and Hispanics in the political arena, all in an
effort to increase or enhance their own welfare.
In addition, education is seen as enhancing the sense of belonging and
attachment among Hispanic students. Scholars have noted that the
extraordinarily high rates of drop out among Hispanic students are
related in part to their deficiency of attachment to schools, as well as
their lack of sense of belonging (Oakland & Rossen, 2005). For instance,
students become attached to schools and even their communities through
extracurricular activities, which also provide an opportunity for the
formation of supportive friendships. Unfortunately, Hispanic students
have a considerably low likelihood for taking part in these activities,
which may be as a result of their perception of the clubs as exclusive,
as well as their inability to communicate and relate with the
participants (Kohler & Lazarin, 2007). It is worth noting that their
deficiency or lack of a sense of belonging is related to their
deficiency of access to similar social circles with their White
counterparts, which reduces the chances that they will be invited to
such activities. Nevertheless, education often provides them with an
opportunity for the elimination of these barriers and allows for
enhanced interactions especially considering the heterogeneous student
bodies, as well as the enhanced chances of improvement of the quality of
their lives.
In conclusion, education has always been touted as one of the most
crucial things in the contemporary human society, thanks to the
relationship it has with the quality of life that individuals lead, as
well as the overall wellness of the economy of a particular country.
Recent times have seen an increase in the interest of individuals with
the variations or disparities in the levels of education among people of
different races, especially in the case of the Hispanic community. While
the Hispanic community is the fastest growing in the United States, its
education levels have been particularly wanting (Vernez & Mizell, 2001).
Indeed, they have lower education levels than even the African
Americans, in spite of the fact that the later are subjected to
discrimination in the United States. In addition, Hispanic communities
have been having considerably high levels of drop out, with about 48% of
the Hispanic students who have been enrolled in middle school in the 8th
grade being unlikely to return to school to start their high school
education. Compounding the issue further is the fact that out of the
Hispanic students that go to high school and even graduate, only about
45-40% would be going ahead to college (Oakland & Rossen, 2005). This
also affects the type of institutions or the school environment that
they have, with a considerably high percentage of them going to
community colleges. In addition, a large number of them go for degrees
in education and not healthcare related professions, engineering and
information technology, which also has a bearing on the level of income
that they have, as well as the quality of lives that they lead.
Kohler, A. D., & Lazarin, M. (2007). Hispanic education in the United
States. National Council of La Raza. Statistical Brief No. 8. (Padron et
al, 2002)
Padron, Y. N., Waxman, H. C., & Rivera, H. H. (2002). Educating Hispanic
Students: Obstacles and avenues to improved academic achievement. Center
for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence.
Vernez, G., & Mizell, L. (2001). Goal: To double the rate of Hispanics
earning a bachelor’s degree. RAND Education. Center for Research on
Immigration Policy. Santa Monica, CA.
Santiago, D. (2006). California policy options to accelerate Latino
success in higher education. Excelencia in Education.
Garcia, E. E. (2001). Hispanic Education in the United States: Raices y
alas. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield
Oakland, T., & Rossen, E. (2005). A 21st-century model for identifying
students for gifted and talented programs in light of national
conditions: An emphasis on race and ethnicity. Gifted Child Today. Vol.
28, Issue 4, pp. 1076–2175.