1.13.2007

Badillo says Latinos don't care about education; but research says they do

The problem with having a reasoned discussion about education in America is that the research on important questions is either lacking or it’s poor.

Believe it or not, but research in education is typically conducted by advocates or special interests groups, or “researchers” aligned with these groups, much of is not worth the paper it's written on. They’re really political documents used to support or oppose a policy or program (typically tied to big dollars).

On the question as to whether Latino parents do or do not care about the education of their children, informed conclusions and tailored policy decisions without unbiased research is simply impossible.

Of course, that doesn’t prevent people with political agendas from writing and publishing reams and reams of opinion masking as serious inquiry.

Feelings about the condescending nature of the question aside, whether Latino parents do or do not care about the education of their children can be studied. However, Herman Badillo’s controversial One Nation, One Standard is not in any way or form a valid study.

While Mr. Badillo's sponsors, The Manhattan Institute, publishes many papers it is in no way an unbiased seeker of the truth. MI has unflagging commitment to one goal: the adoption by government of rightwing economic and social policies. Papers, books, seminars (and Mr. Badillo's musings) are simply a means to a predetermined end.

So while Mr. Badillo and his colleagues at the MI are producing slick and well-financed propaganda, who’s doing real research on what Latinos do or do not value?

Well, it appears that two professors at the University of Nebraska at Omaha have been looking at the very question regarding Latinos and education. They recently completed Second-Generation Latinos in Nebraska: A First Look. Here are some of their findings:

- Nearly 74 percent of first-generation Mexican Americans earned less than a high school diploma compared with 25.6 percent of second-generation and 18.6 percent third-generation of Hispanics.
- Nearly 23 percent of second-generation Mexican Americans held a bachelor's degree or higher compared with only 2.6 percent of first-generation Mexican students.
- More than 85 percent of Latino students in all three generations had aspirations of earning at least a bachelor's degree.

This study appears to rebut Badillo’s contention that Latinos don’t care about education. Most Latino students want to go to college and an increasing percentage in succeeding generations finish high school and go to college. None of that could happen if Latino parents didn’t place a great deal of value on education.

As I mentioned in the post regarding Colon and Badillo, I believe that the educational under-performance of Latino children has more to do with the dramatically poor quality of the schools they are assigned and a great deal to to do with the values and motivations of Latino children and their parents.

But mine or Mr. Badillo's views on these questions should not be the focused of attention and debate. The Latino community, the general public and policmakers should be demanding serious research on serious questions so that we can solved the real problems and begin educating all of the children.