The Latino Education Crisis Series Part 2: The Art of Teaching and Modeling “Learning How To Learn” To Think Critically: Pedagogical Best Practices

How will Latino/Hispanic students be more successful if past and current classroom instruction has been an unconscionable failure in successfully addressing their learning needs?

How will Latino/Hispanic students be more successful if past and current classroom instruction has been an unconscionable failure in successfully addressing their learning needs?

Cognizant that despite the fact that a greater proportion of Latino/Hispanic students are being encouraged to attend college, any enthusiasm over the increases in participation must be tempered by the fact Latino students fail to meet rudimentary college and career readiness benchmarks. A fair-minded assessment reaffirms that we must address the issue of Latino/Hispanic student preparedness much earlier and intervene in a more focused way than our public school systems have in the past.

The “Latino Education Crisis” reveals the incontrovertible fact that a greater, or better yet, “herculean effort” must take place in order to dramatically improve the preparedness for the growing number of Latino students in college and the work place. It’s long overdue for something to be done about realistically propelling the number of Latino/Hispanic students forward and truly making a difference in their lives.

It will take a national “attitudinal readjustment” on the part of all “stakeholders” in order to effectively realign our public educational institutions, organizations and programs so that they interact at their most powerful and together successfully overcome the pedagogical obstacles that inhibit the academic success of the Latino youth in our country. The goal being to allow for the dramatic reduction of the Latino high school dropout rate, increase college attendance and improve college graduation rates.Classroom students

From my perspective, a powerfully effective approach to readjust our collective attitudes towards the “Latino Education Crisis” invokes Albert Einstein’s simple, yet profound, suggestion that “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Offering and relying on the same old textbook publishers and testing companies thinking in the face of the breadth, depth and lasting problems is just not good enough. We must objectively and collectively identify the obstacles to Latino student academic success, of which, admittedly, there are many.

In Paul Tough’s New York Times article, “Who gets to Graduate,” it appears that the University of Texas, Austin has identified what it believes to be a major obstacle to graduation, mainly, “… If you want to help low-income students succeed, it’s not enough to deal with their academic and financial obstacles. You also need to address their doubts and misconceptions and fears. To solve the problem of college completion, you first need to get inside the mind of a college student.”

As an immigrant from Mexico, raised in the Sacramento Valley of California in a low-income farm labor family, and as a college graduate, this is what is “inside my mind.” It appears from Tough’s article that the “U.T. Mindset” intervention approach has incorporated Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s idea that “we feel before we think — that emotion is natural and thinking a product of social conditioning — suffering is caused by our struggle to reconcile our ‘true’ emotional selves with social expectations.” In other words, we need to get into the “heart” (affective domain) before we can get into the “mind” (cognitive domain). That is a good start.

However, it is only a start. What requires particular attention and discussion is what is inside the minds of U.T.’s undergraduate faculty? In the article, Laude states: “To many professors, this pattern simply represents the natural winnowing process that takes place in higher education. That attitude is especially common in the sciences, where demanding introductory classes have traditionally been seen as a way to weed out weak students.” Therefore, it is timely and incumbent for all who are serious and fair-minded about breaking down the barriers that prevent low income students from graduating from college to consider Bertrand Russell’s enlightening explanation that:

“…science and philosophy were pursued in schools of societies where there was close collaboration between teachers and students. The important truth which seems to have been understood, implicitly at least, from the very beginning is that learning is not a process of dishing out information…All the more is it to the credit of the philosophers of Greece that they should have grasped how genuine education must be pursued. The role of the teacher is one of guidance, of bringing the pupil to see for himself. But learning to think independently is not an ability that comes all of a piece. It must be acquired by dint of personal effort and with the help of a mentor who can direct these efforts. This is the method of research under supervision as we know it today in our universities. Education, then, is learning to think for oneself under the guidance of a teacher…”

In short, I think Russell is restating what Heraclitus had previously pointed out–“The learning of many things does not teach understanding.” The entire U.S. educational community, from pre-school through colleges and universities, would be wise to take heed of both Russell and Heraclitus.

I agree with Tough’s observation that “…For almost all of the 20th century, the United States did a better job of producing college graduates than any other country. But over the past 20 years, we have fallen from the top of those international lists; the United States now ranks 12th in the world in the percentage of young people who have earned a college degree. During the same period, a second trend emerged: American higher education became more stratified; most well-off students now do very well in college, and most middle- and low-income students struggle to complete a degree.”

Paul Tough is correct to state that the United States can regain its global competitiveness and improve its level of economic mobility but to “do so will take some sustained work, on a national level, on a number of fronts.” Let’s begin our “attitudinal readjustment” in overcoming the pedagogical obstacles that inhibit the academic success of the Latino youth in our country by first reintroducing the art of teaching through caring and thoughtful guidance, encouraging a person to openly explore materials and ideas and express their observations with the aim of fostering a genuine sense of inquiry, creative critical thinking and experimentation. Secondly, carefully documenting and reviewing these expressions to gain insight into the person’s understanding of the world around them, all the while, having a lot of fun!

See. Hear. Learn!

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