Professor examines factors in education that prevent success of Latino males
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 22:04
The emerging “boy crisis” has prevented the success of Latino males in higher education, an education professor told faculty here.
Dr. Victor Sáenz, education administration professor at the University of Texas at Austin, was invited because of his work focusing on improving the success rates for Latinos in higher education, in particular Latino males.
After Dr. Robert Vela requested the college look at equity here, a Committee for Equity and Engagement was established in fall.
The committee engaged Saenz to include focus groups with faculty and Latino students at this college.
“There’s something going on with our boys,” Saenz said. “How are we ultimately socializing our young boys in this country through the educational system to arrive at a place in high school and beyond where they may be underprepared or not as prepared as their female counterparts or as other student counterparts?”
“We’re going to address diversity from a Latino perspective first,” English Professor Richard Farias said in an overview of the committee’s work. “It’s our main priority, but it’s not where we want to stop.”
Farias said more focus is on Latino males because 8.2 percent fewer males than female students attend this college, according to fall statistics.
Sáenz said by 2009, there was a 56.3 percent difference between Latinas and Latinos in bachelor’s degrees earned.
He said last year, of all associate and bachelor’s degrees earned in Texas, Latinas represented three out of five.
“That, by the way, is the gap that keeps growing and growing,” Sáenz said.
Key pieces in the early education experience of Latino and African-American males are important when interpreting why young men of color are not highly represented in higher education.
Sáenz said that Latino males and African-American males attend elementary schools that suffer from high teacher turnover rates, a lack of resources, constant leadership change and overcrowding.
He said males constitute 67 percent of the special education population in this country.
Sáenz said boys of color are seven to 10 times more likely to be labeled or diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, ADD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD.
“We also know, and this is perhaps even more disturbing, that boys of color, black, Latinos, are highly over-represented in the school disciplinary systems,” he said.
Sáenz said according to a report by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, 83 percent of African-American males, 74 percent of Latinos and 59 percent of white male students had experienced at least one discretionary violation in the seventh grade in Texas between 2000 to 2008.
He said any student who has been suspended or expelled is three times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system the following year.
Sáenz said according to the National Center for Education Statistics, boys are more likely to enter elementary education with limited reading and writing skills.
“Girls are more likely than boys to have attended preschool based on NCES data,” he said. “By third grade, they’re on average a year to a year and a half behind girls in reading and writing skills.”
Sáenz said boys in fourth through eighth grade are twice as likely as girls to be held back a grade level.
“Now the kid’s been held back a grade,” he said. “Now they’re stupid. Now they begin to internalize those kinds of vicious calling out by peers.”
All of these factors ultimately shape the types of experiences that Latinos and African-Americans have as they accumulate and walk through their educational pathway, Sáenz said.
He said when Latino males arrive in high school, they are going to high schools that are hyper-segregated, under-resourced and understaffed.
By the time Latino males come to college, they are socialized around certain attitudes, understandings and codes, such as machismo, Sáenz said.
“It does reinforce certain hyper-masculine traits about what it means to be a man and that manifests itself in very simple things like young men coming to our doorsteps and being sort of adverse to seeking out any form of help,” he said.
Sáenz said seeking help is an acknowledgement of weakness or a sign that they are unclear or completely impotent in their educational achievement.
He said the college environment also has certain expectations of students in terms of what it means to be successful, and sometimes those expectations are at odds with the value system of the young person.
“They’re being asked to set aside those key values and adopt a whole new set of norms that they have never been exposed to. That has nothing to do with a kid not wanting to learn to be successful. That just means they’re coming in a new space, they may not feel safe, oh and by the way, society continues to reinforce certain signals to them about not asking for help because it’s a sign of weakness,” Sáenz said.
He said for Latino males, the role of family is a unique key factor in influencing and supporting them through the college experience.
Sáenz said 89 percent of them are first-generation-in-college students and have to rely on cultural reservoirs of wealth that they can identify, which tends to be a mother figure.
He said the female figure is the key positive influence in reshaping Latino males college pathway.