Last week’s post about the Latino student expectation gap struck a few chords with readers. Most commentators voiced support for raising student expectations through equity policy and culturally relevant training for educators. They ihttps://esereport.wordpress.com/wp-admin/index.phpncluded college professors, education administrators, and parents of school-aged children. Others shared their own stories of how they overcame the barriers created by the inherent bias of the Mr. Jones Effect.
One reader especially caught my attention by challenging the notion that inherent bias in individuals and school systems result in low expectations of Latino students. The reader concludes that the Mr. Jones Effect isn’t caused by bias, so “cultural relevancy is not as important as the ability to spot individual attributes.” If this is a debate about the ideology of rugged individualism vs. institutional intervention, the reader’s argument would be cogent and sound.
However, this isn’t an issue that can afford to be caught up in the quagmire of ideological debate. One just needs to look at the current paralysis of the federal government to see that ideological sparring isn’t productive. This issue is about raising expectations and accountability, allocating resources, and providing access so Latino students have an opportunity to achieve academically in our increasingly competitive world.
Let me explain.
The reader stated that individual student success is “still about [the school system] providing equal opportunity, plain and simple.” Makes sense, right? With equality, every student receives the same resources and access. The problem is that not all students are born equal. The child of a Beverley Hills heart surgeon has a dramatic advantage in resources and access to quality education compared to the child of an East Los Angeles landscaper. So, providing equal opportunity in the school system actually widens the resource and access gap.
With that said, the school system should provide an equitable opportunity to all students. Equity is the concept of allocating resources and providing access to where they’re needed, not equally, or the same, across the board. Governor Jerry Brown’s recent schools funding mechanism is an example of assigning resources equitably. Local school districts should allocate their newly gained resources in the same equitable manner to level the playing field for Latino students.
This brings us to culturally relevant training. The reader raised valid issues when he asked the following questions about Mr. Jones: “Did he not care?” “Was he being racist?” “Was he culturally biased? “ “Was he even trained to assess human potential?” Of course, only Mr. Jones himself can accurately answer those questions, but I’ll take a stab at answers: I believe he cared, I don’t think he was being intentionally racist or culturally biased, and he probably wasn’t trained to assess human potential. There’s a good chance, however, that his unintentional inherent bias was trained to pre-judge a student’s potential based on race and socio-economic background.
That’s why culturally relevant training for school board members, administrators, counselors, teachers, and staff is so important. Conservative critics will dismiss this as another minority as victim feel-good program. They’re wrong. Culturally relevant training is about individuals and school systems coming to terms with their own inherent biases to view Latino students as distinct human beings that should be expected to achieve in a rigorous academic environment like everyone else. In short, educators will be “trained to assess human potential,” and not assess students on their own perception of Latino potential.
In the final analysis, the reader and I are on the same page with respect to Latino student academic achievement. We both want high standards, accountability, and personal responsibility. He stated it perfectly by saying that public education is “also about making sure that educators know that they are in the human potential business.” As the Latino population continues to grow at an exponential rate, the future of California and, in the long view, the future of our nation depends on Latinos to be successful.
Latinos, like all human beings, have the capacity to learn and achieve. Individuals need to capitalize on that fact and institutions need to allocate the resources and provide the access to provide a level playing field so that individuals can achieve their potential. Engaging in ideological debate over whether the individual or institution is responsible for one’s success is fruitless. As another reader eloquently commented, “I’m for action…No talking; let’s do.” I agree. So, let’s get on with it.