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The Story of Latinos and Education in American History

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Abdin Noboa-Rios

The 2014–2015 academic year marked the first year that American, preK–12 public school enrollment became majority nonwhite, with Hispanic/Latino as the largest minority. Population shifts have continued to occur, with Latinos now representing 28% of public school students.

American public schools are in trouble, with national achievement reaching new lows and progress for nearly two-thirds of all 4th and 8th graders below proficiency levels and stagnant for years. According to the Nation’s Report Card, students of color rank lowest, with Latinos and African Americans consistently at the bottom.

To understand the history of Latinos in particular, The Story of Latinos and Education in American History goes back in time to recreate the story. In this book, Dr. Noboa-Ríos relates the dark legacy before and after Plessy, as well as the post-Brown challenges that linger. For a better and more balanced future for the nation, America’s challenge is to ensure that Latino students excel. Understanding how and why this dark history has occurred is imperative to rectify the situation.

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Chapter 1. The Birth of American Education

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The Birth of American Education

The truth which makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear.

Herbert Sebastian Agar

As history and education intertwine, it is important to understand how past policies and practices have shaped our schools. In the United States, the role of public education is to provide society with a competent and highly-informed citizenry that can help sustain its democracy and ensure it flourishes. One of the articles of faith by the founding fathers is that the American republic will survive only if its citizens are educated.1 To this end, the common schools movement of the 19th century became a major source that fed the industrial revolution. Economic growth was fueled by immigrant labor and nurtured by public schools, with an achievement in American education midcentury onward that eventually surpassed the education of European nations by the end of that century.2

So then, what should we know about public schools? What are the antecedents that have resulted in today’s successes as well as challenges? While times have changed, education has not always changed along with it, and seldom as quickly. What does this mean? Simply put, education has changed more slowly the past half century than it did during its heyday during the mid-19th century. In other ways, education has taken a back step. More recently, it has nearly stalemated, often reactive and minimally adjusting to current trends....

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