The ‘culture of poverty’ is a term coined by social anthropologists who studied Latinos in New York City’s Spanish Harlem, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. The education attainments of Latino kids may be impacted by a ‘culture of poverty’. Recently this subject became the topic of an Facebook. California’s Latinos must address it in order to acquire orientation and direction.
An impoverished family cannot provide its children with experiences in life that change outlooks, perceptions, and futures. The local “Chinese Club” at Washington Elementary School, SJUSD, spearheaded by Dennis Fong (Tropicana Shopping Center entrepreneur), has used Skype and student exchanges to dramatically change the views of that community concerning future possible opportunities. This program and others, supported by the Rotary Club of San Jose’s Los Amigos Committee, has expanded the personal experiences of 4th and 5th grade classes by using field trips to San Jose State University, theater events, courts, CCOC (Central County Occupational Center) where some 20 vocations are taught. The career possibilities become real and the usefulness of having skills in reading, writing, and math also become real to those kids who have these exposures. An outcome is a higher level of focused motivation. The attitude of this school’s community has made a transition and transformation. It took a concerned leaders to accomplish that.An individual’s personal attitude is paramount to the personal achievements possible here in America, where one can strive for a better life with personal liberty, coupled with responsibility, in a quest for a state of happiness. Many factors are involved. The ones that are publicly discussed are those having to do with commercial firms needing skilled, trained individuals capable of being productive employees.
The reality being faced with great reticence is that many public schools are failures today. Teachers, school administrators, and support personnel are not doing what it takes. Their efforts result in high drop out rates. Graduate are often not prepared to participate in an internship, apprenticeship, or pursue of a professional degree. There are too many who become ‘NEENIS’ (Not educated employees; not in school)….a term crafted by Professor Armando Sanchez, Counselor, National Hispanic University, San Jose, CA.
Concerned parents try to compensate by transferring their kids to a local private school, parochial school, or charter school. There seems to be no way to get public schools to improve the education provided to our youth. But the quality of the graduates of public schools is a great index of the effectiveness of their education processes.
Yesterday Gloria, a local Latina grandmother, lamented the attitude of her grandchildren who believe that life will be good if they just finish high school. “They need guidance”. No, their parents need help in providing guidance to their kids about their future. What Gloria has done is to call attention to the reality that parents are often unable to counsel their kids because they have no knowledge about the intellectual needs of future jobs. They do tell their kids to work hard. Kids must learn to work hard and smart.
Francis Morales, Teacher, Gary Unified School District (Indiana) conveyed the outcome of the extensive use of computer technology to instruct local ethnic students. The students became very good in relating to computer programs and games, but had not developed the communications and social skills needed for interpersonal relationships on the job, in the family, or amongst friends. It took even more resources to mitigate this unintended outcome. Morales said, “Be very careful not to use too much technology in teaching. The student must be able to live in a society, participate in local government, and earn his/her way in this theoretical meritocracy.”
Alearn, Inc. began six years ago to focus on low- income ethnic students (90% Latino) in order to teach algebra and convey information on college application procedures and processes. Their training classes happen as ‘summer sessions’ using existing school district classrooms. A high success level has been experienced measured by students who are admitted into 4 year college/university programs. However, an analysis of their successful operations indicates that success is greater when parents are engaged, involved and committed. Alearn is about to undertake a ‘marketing effort’ to reach parents. One outcome is certain….if youth do not acquire training and skills useful to commerce, they will not escape their ‘culture of poverty’. A focus is on education of kids from an impoverished community. A question which needs to be addressed is “Is the Culture of Poverty induced by Poverty?”