The kids we can't afford to waste
In emphasizing the danger a poorly educated Hispanic population poses for the economic well-being of much of the United States, a recent report on education among Hispanics takes a new tack in efforts to highlight a problem of national scale.Skip to next paragraph
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Most of the facts cited in the report, released earlier this month by the National Commission on Secondary Schooling for Hispanics, are well known. It states, for example, that 45 percent of Hispanic youths never graduate from high school; that 40 percent of Hispanic dropouts leave school before the 10th grade; and that a majority of those who do stay in school are tracked into nonacademic courses of study. ''The fundamental finding (of the commission),'' the report says in its introduction, ''is that a shocking proportion of this generation of Hispanic young people is being wasted.''
As tragic as such facts and conclusions are, they are not new. For several years national educators and Hispanic leaders have acted to call attention to the low level of education among Hispanics. Recently concern has grown as an emphasis on ''excellence,'' and tougher standards in state education reforms left educators fearing that poor performance among Hispanics would be exacerbated.
But in an effort to kindle new interest in Hispanic education, the 16-member commission has placed particular emphasis on the dire effects such a national problem will have on all corners of society. Says commission co-chair Paul Ylvisaker, dean emeritus of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, ''We decided to make it clear that there are a number of selfish arguments for addressing this issue. The nation has a real selfish interest in making sure we don't lose such an important human resource.''
The report notes, for example, that as the US population in general ages, the country will have to rely increasingly on the growing and younger minority population to fuel the economy, pay taxes, and maintain programs - such as social security - upon which the rest of the population relies. By 1992 the total number of high school graduates will fall by more than one-quarter, to 2.3 million, but the number of potential Hispanic graduates will remain constant at one-third of a million. In Los Angeles they will constitute almost half the high-school-age population in 1995; in San Antonio, almost three-fifths.
The report also points out that Hispanics are increasingly concentrated in poor, inner-city schools. More than two-thirds of the nation's 15 million-plus Hispanics live in California, Texas, New York, and Florida.
''By the year 2000, in key areas of this nation, the majority population will be Hispanic,'' states the commission, whose members come from academic, business , and government circles. ''The prosperity of business enterprises, and the social health of entire communities, will depend mainly on Hispanics . . . and on their ability to support themselves and their families.''
Focusing on inner-city schools, the report addresses not only the needs of Hispanic students, but those of minority students in general. According to Dean Ylvisaker, the commission felt that most of the recent reports on education have ''not paid much attention to the special problems of low-income, inner-city students.''