Monday, August 27, 2012

In A Fast-Growing Latino Student Body, The Importance of Ethnic Studies is Essential to Both Latinos and Non-Latinos

Being around other Latino peers such as myself throughout the first five years within the New York City Public School system, made me overlook that we, as a community were a minority within society. It was not until Junior High School, where I realized how small of a student body Latinos were in the public school system.  

The lack of ethnic studies only added to the perpetuated social isolation within the primary and secondary public education environment. Somehow the rich history of Latinos within the United States got lost among Pilgrims, Ellis Island and World/Cold Wars. We were lost among a richly Euro/White-centric academic curriculum. And thus, we as students were lost, only trying to find our identities in a society that kept us as foreign.  

According to the Pew Hispanic Center for Research, between 1972 and 2011, Latino public school students K-12 rose from 6.0% to 23.9%. One in every four students are Latino present day, and in twenty-five years it will be one in every three.

Parallel to this rapid growth, certain States have adopted a method to empowering and recognizing the Latino community. One example would be the Tucson Unified School District, like other Districts in other states have adopted some form of ethnic studies program designed to include and thus educate students within a diverse community. While empowering their sense of identity, students learn of the rich history their communities have within this country.

As of January of 2012, the governing board of the Tucson School District banned this program, claiming it was unlawful and dangerous to this country’s security. However, last time I checked history should not be selective in providing facts.

It wasn’t until I enrolled in College where I found a sense of self-identity and empowerment. Ethnic studies, history and political science were some of the many courses that opened my eyes to facts left out of the primary and secondary public school system. No one can say history is pleasant and I will agree, much of what is left out is history of oppression, marginalization and subjugation.  

Nevertheless, these facts are an important part to learn as both a Latino/a and non-Latino/a. Contrary to what many conservatives might fear, knowledge of the truth does not promote hate towards the society we live in.  It provides a sense of self-identity and worth within this country. A sense of responsibility to move forward, away from mistakes that may have been committed due to lack of knowledge and tolerance. As well as an appreciation to what our ancestors contributed to U.S. History.

We are the largest growing minority in the United States, thus society has to accept this rapid change and instead of isolating our community through hateful policies and bans on ethnic studies programs; they should recognize us, as Latinos. As many immigrants before us, we have our own history, identity and way of life. We cannot be forced to live through other communities’ histories nor identify through their way of life and how they assimilated to this country. For if we continue to be isolated, this fact too, will resonate throughout history. Perpetuating a division within a country that is rapidly changing its demographics, isolation will simply create the animosity that conservatives fear if policies of tolerance and diverse education were implemented.