There is in the U.S. education reform movement and amongst status quo education leaders across the country, little recognition of and appreciation for the value of Latino Role Models as a collective intergenerational group. Latino Role Models are particularly attune to and stand to offer a depth of understanding towards making faster progress in improving the educational plight of Latino youth in the U.S.
In New York City there is a renewed public outcry for new admissions procedures to increase diversity in New York City’s elite public high schools (see here) and the nation continues to engage in the decades old discussion to “figure out” what it takes for public schools to deliver on their mission of ensuring that all Latino, and other minority students, obtain a quality education. Why not begin by having students, administrators, faculty and anyone who purports to support educational innovation and improve educational outcomes, study the fundamental lessons learned by the successes of fellow Latino Americans (“Latino Role Models”) who have earned college and/or advanced degrees. The aim of this suggestion is to alert all of us as to what “works” in contributing to the academic success of Latino students.
There is in the U.S. education reform movement and amongst status quo education leaders across the country, little recognition of and appreciation for the value of Latino Role Models as a collective intergenerational group. Latino Role Models are particularly attune to and stand to offer a depth of understanding towards making faster progress in improving the educational plight of Latino youth in the U.S. According to the U.S. Census, there are 4 million Latino Americans who had at least a college degree in 2012 and 1.3 million who held advanced degrees in 2012 (source). The study of the fundamental lessons learned by Latino Role Models, of course, will not answer all questions, but would most definitely put profoundly basic questions into a much clearer perspective and provide context. Latino Role Models’ individual and collective shared experience of public schooling, specifically those who have successfully negotiated the American Public Education System in the past 40 years, reveals the following “conventional wisdom:” to create your own future, you must begin by taking individual responsibility for your own learning and then construct your own game plan to take control of your education, career and life. This”conventional wisdom” is startling and foreign to some.
Throughout their lives Latino Role Models have demonstrated a record of problem solving, creating, developing and executing tactical and strategic planning to successfully achieve their goals, against all odds. Interestingly enough, Sugata Mitra reached the following observation via his thirteen years of experiments in children’s education and his findings, which follow, have been described as nothing short of”startling:” “children can self organise their own learning, they can achieve educational objectives on their own, can read by themselves and the most startling of them all: groups of children with access to the Internet can learn anything by themselves.” This is not news to Latino Role Models. As children, Latino Role Models had to self organize (i.e.”self manage”) their own learning in order to achieve their educational objectives. They came to believe in their educational journey—from childhood, adolescence and into adulthood—that they could learn most anything on their own, if need be.
Latino Role Models are those people who displayed some unusual and extraordinary qualities in turning around their lives in the face of disillusioning adversity. These individuals, out of necessity, were willing to have an open mind to consider new possibilities outside their existing experience/knowledge and who made the effort to do whatever it took to secure their dreams and ambitions. The substantive knowledge, subtle adaptive insights and practical skills individually acquired and collectively accumulated within the “collective consciousness” of Latino Role Models during the past 40-50 years of successfully negotiating the educational pyramid should be seen and utilized for what it truly is: a powerful transformative educational agent and national resource. In other words, a teaching “think-tank” and “accelerator.” Latino Role Models’ life accomplishments, if studied, can paint a clear picture of what it takes to succeed.
Latino Role Models’ backgrounds and accomplishments demonstrate that they have “figured out” what made them successful and can provide a national service that goes beyond simply conveying information and inspiration to Latino youth. The internet allows a scalable platform for the presence of these individuals in providing our Latino youth guidance on the essential learning principles, activities, and most importantly, the mindset they can boldly adopt and integrate into their daily routine. With Latino Role Models having previously been relatively absent in the U.S. education reform conversation, their presence being brought to the forefront of “identifying what works” is a step forward to making faster progress in closing the Latino education achievement gap.