The Impact of Schooling on Latinos


This paper explores the purpose of schooling and the impact of schooling on Latinos. Through the use of various published scholarly articles it critically examines the schooling of Latinos through different lenses such as race, class, and political economy. The social forces outside of the educational system will also be examined to reflect upon if it influences the student achievement of Latinos. It will also propose a solution to bring change for Latinos in schools

The role of school can vary depending on many aspects. There is a battle in the world of education for a transformation that will lead all to gain an equal quality of schooling. “…As Marx had argued–struggle in the form of public contestation might also wring increased equity from the system or as we put it then–such struggle might produce ‘fundamental social transformation,’” (Anyon 2011, p. 3). Advocating for all members of society to have the right to a legitimate education that will allow all to pursue their aspired careers without prejudice and inequalities must continue to take place. The conflict will lead to a micro change that could eventually become a macro change. Equal education would allow many to become productive, transformative members of society. Therefore, all members of a “free” society as the U.S. claims to be, should have an opportunity to help uplift mankind and move it forward, rather than remain in the same space. Although, as Anyon (2011 p. 4), points out, race, social class, and gender do impact learning and schooling institutions are not socially neutral, but will maintain support in mainstream ideas that a particular group of people can benefit from. Particularly, the majority of L@tinos are strongly impacted due to the purpose of schooling and the social forces outside of the educational system.

The Purpose of Schooling

After over fifty years of the founding of the United States of America, there was a common school movement. This movement, “of the 1830s and 1840s was in part, an attempt to halt the drift toward a multicultural society,” (Spring, 2006, p. 102). It is vital to indicate that common schools were to protect the ideologies of the Protestant Anglo-American culture. The leaders of the common school wanted to promote more equalization and conformity of public policy school systems. Although, equality is an interesting word of choice when there was tremendous prejudice of the Irish and other cultures. The Protestant Anglo-Americans feared that the African, Irish and Native American cultures deemed detrimental to mainstream society, so they pushed for these schools to mold U.S. citizens into one culture through schooling. Essentially, these commons schools were the first public schools being called on by the government. Spring (2006, p.130), determines that even though common or public schools were created to; educate students for good citizenship, help end crime and poverty, and stimulate national economic growth, it did not stop from segregation and restrictive environments. The Protestant Anglo-Americans negative perception towards cultural pluralism remains until this century. It is reasonable to assert that the structure of the educational system remains to control the masses through a production of a particular knowledge and keep the status quo.

In the U.S are students of all cultures, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds presently offered an equal schooling opportunity? Arguably, the purpose of schooling can change across the board depending on many of these stated factors. Depending on these factors students will receive relatively different schooling opportunities. According to Anyon (1980), one cannot simply split the schools from capitalism. Anyon conducted research in five different elementary schools to compare the education differences of students with parents of a working class, middle class, affluent professional and executive elite status. She examined that in working class schools, the students were developing a potential conflict relationship with capital that denies creativity and preparation for future endeavors. In the middle class school, Anyon observed that the capital was bureaucratic. The school work these students were involved in would most likely lead them to white-collar working and middle class jobs. At the affluent professional school, students were developing a potential relationship to capital that would be influencing and expressive. Meanwhile, the executive elite school displayed that the students were gaining knowledge of how to manipulate the socially validated tools of society, (1980, p.88-89). These comparisons are an outstanding example of how students of different socioeconomic backgrounds were being prepared for different pathways. Her research also confirms that “schools are key sites for the reproduction of social and economic inequality,” (De Jesus 2005, p.345). Each different school setting in Anyon’s work prepared them differently and inside of the schools, the social setting varied tremendously. The school system is creating specific ideologies that also coincide with the student’s relationship to society based on their social status.

These specific ideologies are a, “consensus-oriented perspective [that] is taught through a ‘hidden curriculum’ in schools,” (Apple, 1971, p. 27) This implies that the children are being taught how to relate with authority in schools. The students are conditioned to be passive and withstand from conflict even if it could be beneficial to their learning. This hidden curriculum forces students to experience specific encounters with the rules set for or against them. In a working class school environment distinct rules are created to cause conflict with the students and authority figures. The students do not have an opportunity to realize social conflict can be progressive due to exploitation of their social class. The working class students are likely to view authority as always having the final say, while in higher class schools students and parents feel comfortable in addressing any agenda arranged. Lareau (2003), found that “working class children…were less likely to try to customize interactions to suit their own preferences, when [they did] they generally were unable to make the rules work in their favor nor did they obtain capital for adulthood,” (p. 403,404).   Minority children, especially Latin@s are placed in schools that teach dominant Anglo-American ideas. Commonly, Latin@ history is left out of the curriculum or portrayed incorrectly. This also causes many Latin@s to be unsuccessful in assimilating to the school’s forced culture. When assimilation is forced upon, it leads to an erosion of the student’s capital, (Valenzuela, 1999, p. 20,21). Students of color enter into school systems that are labeling them “at risk” because they do not value or understand the capital the students do come in with. This social decapitalization is detrimental to the community because the children will either assimilate and lose their identity or be unworthy in the eyes of Anglo-American society.

The Impact on Latin@s

Without doubt, the media depicts Latin@s using numerous derogatory racial stereotypes in Hollywood films. This negative implication of Latin@s in the films lead to a distorted view of the youth in school settings. According to Yosso and Garcia (2010) the movie formula leads to myths about all Latin@s. Even though some may argue that these movies are just films, they are not because they are made to control. They control by constantly putting forth the “six basic film stereotypes of Latin@s which are; the bandito, halfbreed Harlot, male buffoon, female clown, latin lover and dark lady,” (Yosso & Garcia p. 452). Instead of characterizing Latin@s  as studious, as business owners, lawyers, doctors of a middle class, they are constantly illustrated as if they are rejects of society or promiscuous. The youth can easily transcend to what Hollywood is portraying without even realizing it. The films also allows for all people to bestow the negative stereotypes upon them when they enter a classroom, walk down the street and enter any public space of Latin@ presence.

Unfortunately, most movies with Latin@s also have the syndrome of a white teacher rescuing the students who fulfill the role of the basic stereotypes. The white teacher is viewed as a heroin by saving them from their lives that are portrayed as insignificant.

The movies validate the notion that:

People of color ‘lack’ the social and cultural capital required for social mobility. As a result schools most often work from this assumption in structuring a way to help ‘disadvantaged’ students whose race and class background has left them lacking necessary knowledge, social skills, abilities and cultural capital…” (Yosso, 2006, p. 70).

When students see the films portraying this they learn from an outsider how to identify with who they are. These deficit theories allow for the young L@tino students to look at the movies as a mirror reflection. Even if they disagree with the status quo of the movie, the marginalization can create an invisibility and/or silence. Since many students in the school system are not taught to challenge authority, they may not bother to create critical dialogues of the underlying messages of the movie. In addition, if they do challenge it they may be countered with, “oh it’s just a movie,” and they should be less sensitive. Instead of the movies depicting the Latin@ students as barren and lost, the movies should imply that an education debt of students of color exists.

In U.S schools there is an achievement gap that the schools and government are aware of. To understand this gap, one must understand that there is an educational debt that is made up of historical, economic, sociopolitical and moral components (Ladson-Billings, 2006, p. 1). What the debt is made up plays a huge role in why many students of color are faced with an extreme challenge in a public institution that is against them at all odds. Especially, if the students do not have access to diverse schools with educators who are trained to engage their students regardless of their background. According to Ladson-Billings (2006) research, “America’s public schools are more than a decade into a process of resegregation. Almost three fourths of Black and Latina/o students attend schools that are predominantly non-white,” (p. 9). Even though desegregation cases such as Mendez v. Westminster in 1947, ruled Mexican and Mexican American students segregation from Whites in schools was unconstitutional. Many Latin@s are subject to attending schools isolated or with other subjugated groups. The segregation in school is unbeneficial because it does not allow people to get to know different people and stereotypes remain to exist. Unfortunately, many Latin@ children were even mistreated in the school systems and classified as inferior. “Educators used biased test scores results to classify Latino children, mostly Mexican and Puerto Rican, into one of at least four categories, educational mentally retarded (EMR), slow, regular or gifted…Latino children for the most part, were classified as EMR or slow,” (San Miguel Jr. et al. 2010 p. 31). This was in the early part of the twentieth century, but even today teachers still come in with bias views towards Latin@ children. In addition, teachers who do not have training in bilingual education, may not know how to correctly guide Latin@ children. Even if they do speak both languages they could use training because there are many theories that help support emerging bilinguals. Also, many of NYC foreign-born students from Latin America are more likely to be segregated in schools where they may be living near the poverty line, teachers are less experienced, less educated, and test scores are below average, (Ellen et al., 2002 p.) The political economy plays a key role in determining where the student will attend schools and if they will gain the education they deserve.

Latin@ students should have access to not only peers of the same socioeconomic status and vice versa because it would allow for an opportunity of growth they are less likely to attain segregated. Although, it is insinuated that this reproduction of classes is what is desired by the government. Even though there is no law for segregation, it still takes place due to one’s capital, which allows for the oppressors to, “weaken the oppressed…to isolate them, to create and deepen rifts among them,” (Freire, 2000, p. 141). The oppressors, also known as the government, continues to divide through schooling and the culture of Latin@s continues to be invaded or viewed abnormally as they are rejects of society. Even when a Latin@ does succeed in school, work or academia, many negative stereotypes still haunt them by mainstream society.

Conclusions and Future Study

Frequently, Latin@ students regardless of their socioeconomic situations are told by their teachers, by society in general that if they work really hard they will be able to achieve their goals. What is left out is that their school is preparing them for a certain autonomy. Too often, are teachers placed in a school setting that they have not gained experience to work in. Teachers should be taught how to teach culturally relevant pedagogy and not enter into the teaching field with any deficit theories of Latin@ children. At the university level, all teachers of any discipline should be required to take courses like the PRLS Department offers at Brooklyn College, CUNY. It is also problematic that Latin@ students are not taught their rich history that is part of the United States history, in all of the public education institutions. Even though the oppressors are working hard to have school programs dismantled, such as what took place in the removal of ethnic study programs in Arizona. There needs to continue to be a push factor towards fighting against the oppressor to continue conquering. Ladson-Billings strategy in addressing the achievement gap as an education gap is very effective as long as more of the public is aware of the educational debt. The cultural invasion of Latin@s can only be put to an end if more Latino@s have an awareness in what is taking place in their communities. “No governance reform alone will solve all the problems of the schools. A poorly constructed governance system, as New York City had…from 1969 to 2002, can interfere with the the provision of education,” (Ravitch, 2011, p. 91). The school system cannot just run merely off one hand, in fact it needs the community to be involved and the faculty and teachers in the schools to be involved in the surrounding community.

An advance for ethnic study programs in all public schools would help Latin@ students learn about their history and others. A call for unity would allow students of color to dismantle the negative stereotypes that the media illustrates in films. Further research should be done on the impact of one’s political economy in the the current day school system. In fact, there should be a way to bridge the work in academia to the public. Research enabling this awareness of how the school system is set up to reproduce class would be helpful in letting the people of the Latin@ community understand how they are being marginalized and what is necessary to form a revolution. The micro change is taking place by teachers who do teach to read the world, but there needs to be a stronger push to put an end to false accusations of Latin@s in the media. In addition, if children were not segregated by their socioeconomic status, more potential growth would be seen because they would begin to see their “different” classmates as humans, rather than by their mere appearance. Schools play a huge role, but it takes the entire community advocating for change, to help uplift the schools from not creating reproducing negative stereotypes in today’s society and allowing students to see conflict can help change society for the better.


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