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The Story of Latinos and Education in American History


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 4. The Miseducation of Latinos



The Miseducation of Latinos

The education of Latinos is indivisible from that of American education. Yet, it developed quite distinctly and apart. It followed an altogether different path. Its route was like no other group before or since. Until the Second World War, Latinos were literally invisible in American society and discourse, as they were much smaller in number, poorly counted, and greatly isolated from most other groups. Living primarily in the Southwest and predominantly in highly-segregated sectors, they struggled in isolation and developed almost independently from all other groups.1 Puerto Ricans in the island were also remote and inaccessible. For both groups, navigating rather differently and away from nearly all other racial groups before civil rights, it was not until after the First World War2 that the Latino diaspora began to interface visible.

While migration north had started with the Mexican American movement out of the Southwest, it was propelled by the northern push from the Mejicano escaping Mexico during the late 1920s through the 1940s, as a result of the Mexican Revolution. Northern migration increased more rapidly after WWII with larger influxes from the Southwest coupled with continual movement out of Mexico due to the Bracero agreement and accompanied by the flow of migrants from Puerto Rico, primarily to northern urban centers, and to parts of the Midwest and Florida. Although much of the country had started←117 | 118→ moving to the suburbs by then, Latinos were moving somewhat differently, up...

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