Among all other countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States is the highest spender in matters education. The general expectation would be that these funds would then translate to an improved education system but, in reality, problems are plaguing the United States education system constantly. During its peak, the Civil Rights Movement had championed for an end to inequality and segregation that would now see children of all races and creeds have an equal opportunity to access education. The Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas of 1954 abolished all forms of segregation in schools with students from all races now able to enroll (Brooks, 2013, p. 56). 63years later, oppression in the education system has morphed into a new covert type with students from minority communities caught in between this maze. The Hispanic community, in particular, has been a victim of this systematic form of institutionalized oppression that has seen many of its members miss out on opportunities to gain a decent education. In the research paper, I will delve into an emotive subject: the modern day oppression evident in the United States Education system with the Hispanic community as the subject.
Statement of the Problem
Being the largest minority group in the United States, Hispanics make up a substantial demographic in schools around the country. Multiple studies have sought to understand the stark inequality present in the education system when White and Hispanic student’s level of education are compared. Inferences gathered suggest that the Hispanic education level was dependent upon factors such as autonomy, family income, access to educational material in their homes and the parent’s education level. Most recently, it has been discovered that pervasive oppression practices sanctioned by the United States education system are largely to blame for the oppression that has seen many members stuck in a social progression rut. The rationale of this study is to bring to light the clandestine oppression perpetrated by the United States education system against members of the Hispanic community (Urbina, 2016, p. 8). A group of three respondents will also be interviewed to understand how their experience in the United States education system.
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Background of the problem
As a generic term, “Hispanic” was officially developed by the United States Bureau of the Census to refer to people of Spanish origin while putting them in one category (Comas-Diaz, 2011). People originally from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, South and Central America would automatically fall into this definition as it suggest the cultural link that these individuals share with Spain. As per figures provided by the Census Bureau in 2016, the Hispanic community is 56.7 million strong, roughly 17.6% of the country’s total population. The Hispanic community is mainly located in urban metropolitan areas such as Laredo (Texas), Hialeah (Florida), Brownsville (Texas), McAllen (Texas), Santa Anna (Texas), Miami (Florida), El Monte (California), San Bernadino (California) , Aurora (Illinois) and North Las Vegas (Nevada).The main reason why they populate urban metropolitan areas is because a large majority of them can trace their family history to immigrants who moved to the area in search of work opportunities. They were easily acceptable in such areas due to the cultural hodgepodge that makes these areas that readily allowed interactions of people from different ethnic backgrounds.
Padilla (1999) contends that oppression is a reality in modern day America and more so in the education system. It adds to the list of the many adversities that students with Hispanic heritage encounter on a continuous basis while living in the United States. The Hispanic community in the United States is marginalized as a result of the oppression experienced and that which they continue to suffer. For instance, the Ameri-Indians whose ancestors make up a large chunk of the modern-day Hispanic people had experienced 500 years of oppression under the yoke of colonialists. They were subjected to the replacement of ancestral beliefs, rape, and genocide meant to annihilate their culture to enable their assimilation into the colonialist’s version of “civilization”. As a result, this cultural genocide and its legacy have never died out completely and are exhibited in the economic, political and social disparities that the Hispanic people are presently plagued with (Figueroa & J.-E, 2014). They are viewed as a marginalized community in the larger American society and it is such sentiments that have seen the oppression spill over into the education system. By examining oppression in the United States education system this study sees to expose this grim reality and help members o the greater Hispanic community surmount this barrier to them achieving their dream of a better life.
The following are the research questions identified for the purpose of this study
- Why is the level of educational achievement among students of Hispanic heritage lower than that of their white counterparts?
- How is oppression in the United States education system possible?
- How has oppression in the context of the United States education system affected the interviewees?
The average Hispanic student in the United States schooling system is more likely to struggle academically as compared to their non-Hispanic peers. Several factors are to blame for this blatant disparity; their immigration status, “at-risk” student tag in school, inescapable poverty, lack of a quality education, inequitable distribution of schooling resources by the Federal government, lack of qualified teachers. It is this inequality in the education system that has been to blame for oppressing students from the Hispanic community, leaving them stagnant in the socioeconomic pit due to a lack of opportunities.
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A barefaced inequality exists presently in the education system where students from the Hispanic community. In inner-cities where enclaves of Hispanic community members live, schools are ill-equipped to deal with the ever fluctuating number of students (Gándara, 2010). The situation is further exacerbated by the poor student to teacher ratio that sees students crammed in classes with few teachers to attend to their needs. As a result, slow learners in these classes lack the full attention of their tutors, a situation that leads to worsening of their grades (Estrada, 2009). This explains why the number of Hispanic students graduating from high school has been dwindling over the years with no end in sight.
Navarez and Rico (2007) contend that it is during the formative years of a young child’s development that they are most impressionable or cognitive development. A study by the Schott Foundation reveals that the public school system in New York, one of the largest in the country, still remains largely underfunded. It is Hispanic students and their counterparts from minority groups that are enrolled in these schools but lack the educational resources that are necessary for a holistic education (Contreras, 2005). As a result, such students lack a fair chance to compete with other students from State-funded schools in other localities around the nation (Brindis, Driscoll, Biggs, & Valderrama, 2002). These children start their educational life at a disadvantage and have a slim chance at developing the skills needed to succeed in life. The only chance that they are accorded with is graduating from their local high school with requisite skills, proceeding to a vocational school or community college where their chances at a decent job are quite low.
Various school heads and community leaders in areas worst stricken by this institutionalized form of oppression have been at the frontline in the battle to see changes in the system. What is rather shocking is the government’s lackluster approach to dealing with this issue it is common knowledge that the government is aware of the present situation with the education system and in particular among neighborhoods that are predominantly Hispanic, yet it chooses to either ignore or overlook this current situation. Oppression in the education system has a ripple effect in the society. Hispanic males, for example, who have been denied these educational opportunities are more likely to drop out of school, join criminal outfits, get involved in violent acts of crime and end up in Federal Prison on a mandatory minimum charge or a life sentence (Carter, 2007). Some of these individuals are fathers who leave behind young families that have limited opportunities to earn a living and hence end up repeating the same cycle.
The purpose of carrying out a qualitative study was to put the trauma experienced by members of the Hispanic from an oppressive education into an educational context. The use of this research method is a growing trend that has proven beneficial in psychology, sociology, anthropology and even education (Gastic & Verdugo, 2013, p. 128). Through these methods, we are now able to analyze a participant’s language use, actions, words and behavior during the said interview. By using qualitative inquiry we employ social constructivist technique in the most transparent of manners while at the same time using the observer’s viewpoint and their social life.
The world also becomes inter-subjective as qualitative research deals with the understanding of peoples perspectives and their lives. The number checking technique is particularly vital as the researcher is able to provide the interviewees with the data that they collected to counter whether it is consistent with their experience. The use of this method is prevalent due to the possibility that a researcher might misinterpret statements collected from field notes and interviews. For the purpose of this study, three interviewees of Hispanic heritage volunteered to be part of the process in order to bring to light their experience in the public school system and how the systematic oppression perpetrated against the Hispanic community ended up affecting them directly.
Close interaction with the interviewees was necessary was initially important to ensure they were well aware of intentions. By involving them before the interview, there is an opportunity to have a casual chat about the subject in relaxed environment before the actual interrogate. The next phase would be to inform them of what to expect in the interview so as to avoid offending them in any way. The interview phase then followed with the audio being recorded for transcription later on. It is through the comparison methodology involving the three employees that one is able to understand the salient themes affecting the Hispanic community. Open coding was then used for the purpose of dividing the data into different segments to be sifted later on. For the purpose of cross-analysis, transcriptions from the interview were then scanned to obtain all reoccurring terms. The results obtained from this scanning process included recurring term such as language, stereotypes about Hispanics, school, work, oppression, being first generation, low-income and opportunities in life.
The study’s intention was to examine a group of Hispanic participants willing to discuss their experience in the United States education system and how oppression plays a huge role in it. It was expected that in the course of the interview, the participants would give detailed accounts of their experience. The following themes were also discussed; higher education, inequality, lack of educational resources and opportunities in life.
Sara, the first interviewee, was fortunate enough to graduate from a state university. She is a third generation Hispanic and describes how she had to struggle through an oppressive education system. There were no resources for her to use to during her stint at elementary school and she had to walk 7 miles every day to a local library, traversing dangerous gang-affiliated neighborhoods in her quest for education. “It is like the education system was setting us up for failure,” she intimates sternly describing the struggle that students went through (S. Valdez, personal communication, July 19, 2017). She credits her success to a local Father who encouraged her to always visit the library but notes that not everyone was as lucky as she was to get a mentor.
Jorge is a former gang member who served five years in Federal prison for possession of 50gm of Cocaine and the aggravated assault of his landlord. He notes that dropping out of school was necessary for him as he had other siblings to feed back home and the inadequate teachers and quality of education seemed as, in his words, “a waste of time” (J.Loera, personal communication, July 19, 2017). He was now in the streets selling illegal Schedule 1 drugs and it was not long until the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) arrested him during a drug swoop. He blames the poor education system on how his life turned out as a better education system would have given him reason to stay in school. Due to his past criminal record, he is currently unemployed as a result of the stereotypical nature in which ex-convicts are viewed, and seriously contemplates going back to the drug business.
Alejandra, the last respondent describes herself as the daughter of humble Hispanic immigrants from Tijuana, Mexico. Hers is a different tale, but with a very important lesson. She was enrolled in a predominantly white school that offered general-ed classes to Hispanic students and high-level courses preserved for her Caucasian counterparts. She was, however, an exception as she was the only Hispanic student to enroll in the yearly college-program. It was an uncomfortable experience being selected for International Baccalaureate Studies when she came or a poor background with her counterparts coming from wealthy suburban families. Before applying for state university, she decided to visit the school counselor for advice on her choice. She was strongly dissuaded from applying or the university and following her dream, settling or her local college as an alternative as she trusted the counselors. In retrospect, however, it made her aware of this modern day caste system in an education system which had officials acting as roadblocks or Hispanic students who wanted to aim higher in life.
This study acts as a ground breaking revelation of an oppressive education system that is hell-bent on maintaining the status quo even in this modern day environment. It is this type of institutionalized oppression that has seen the Hispanic community marginalized from the mainstream and their socioeconomic condition remaining the same. An implication of this study is that the U.S Department of Education will look into the oppressive inequality that has relegated the Hispanic community to their current status and most likely deal with the problem in time.
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