Education Challenges Facing Hispanics In The United States

1870 words - 7 pages

When one thinks about Hispanics, all too often the image of a field full of migrant workers picking fruit or vegetables in the hot sun comes to mind. This has become the stereotypical picture of a people whose determination and character are as strong or stronger than that of the Polish, Jewish, Greek, or Italian who arrived in the United States in the early 1900's. Then, the center of the new beginning for each immigrant family was an education. An education was the "ladder by which the children of immigrants climbed out of poverty into the mainstream." (Calderon & Slavin, 2001, p. iv) That ideal has not changed, as the Hispanic population has grown in the United States to large numbers very quickly and with little fanfare. Now, the population of Hispanics in the United States has reached numbers that are finally drawing that attention of schools, state offices, the federal government, and the marketplace. As the new, largest minority, as well as the largest bilingual group, in the United States, Hispanics are finally being recognized as a group of people with the potential to greatly impact economic, social, and education reform. In this paper, several issues will be examined that relate to education: language barriers, poverty, cultural representation, and problem schools. Through an understanding of the Hispanic culture and the motivation behind the Hispanic population, the American education system will be able to overcome the natural hindrances of a diverse society.

Before examining the educational issues surrounding Hispanics, an understanding is necessary of the population numbers that the United States and public school systems are seeing. According to Census 2000, the Hispanic population of the United States was slightly more than 35.3 million, or 12.5 percent of the total population. Of this number, 4.2 million Hispanics lived in Los Angeles County, California and 1.3 million in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The number of Hispanics has quickly surpassed that of African-Americans as the new, largest minority in the United States. The African-American population of the United States was approximately 34.7 million, or 12.3 percent of the total population. The Hispanic population has shown an increase of 57.9 percent from the Census of 1990. Due to the overwhelming increase in the Hispanic population and the diversity that has accompanied this increase, Census 2000 introduced for the first time an option for a Hispanic person to identify themselves as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or other Hispanic that could be written in an additional space. In the past, the option of writing in a description for "other Hispanic" was not available. This stands as an example of how diverse and rich the Hispanic culture is in itself. Out of the 35.3 million Hispanics identified, 58.5 percent were Mexican, followed by 28.4 percent other Hispanic (Spaniard, South American, Central American, Dominican, and all other), 9.6 percent...

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