Higher Learning

Dear Mexican: After the great migration of Jews to this nation, a question was posed: "How long does it take a Jew to go from being a street sweeper to becoming a corporate attorney?" The answer given was, "One generation." Not so for Mexicans. Most Mexicans seem to recoil from education like the fictional Dracula recoils from a wooden cross. Up to high school, education is free for everyone and millions of extra taxpayer dollars go to accommodate Mexicans in their own language. Everyone knows that Mexicans have the highest school dropout rates in the nation. Consequently, they are relegated to the most menial jobs, leading to less income and thus no health insurance and poor living standards. Thousands of Mexican children leave school as soon as they are old enough to operate a lawn mower, wash a car, hammer a nail or wash a dish. Do you think this is because of their genetic makeup, that they haven't been made aware that education is the great equalizer and the springboard to success, or could it be for some yet-to-be discovered reason? Cuban-Americans are the most affluent of all Hispanic groups, and most are Republicans. Mexicans are the least affluent and are mostly Democrats. Is this a factor? If not, what do you think is the problem?

—Go South, Young

Mexicans

Dear Readers: Por favor learn from Go South—don't allow stupidity to get in the way of a good question. To wit:

Don't start off with a hammy quote that proves absolutely nothing.

Get your stats right. Mexicans do not have the country's highest school dropout rate—that dishonor falls to Central Americans, according to the Department of Education's recently released Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities (and more native-born Puerto Ricans and Indians fail to finish high school than American-born Mexicans). Cubans aren't the most affluent Latino group in los Estados Unidos and Mexicans aren't the poorest—Ecuadorians and Dominicans have the highest and lowest Latino median income levels, respectively, according to the United States Census' The American Community—Hispanics: 2004.

Stay away from politics in explaining income disparities amongst voters. Look at Tom Tancredo's supporters, and you'll know what I mean.

And never, never introduce genetics into a conversation about Mexicans and education. If it were that simple, Mexicans would do nothing else but build massive pyramids and extremely accurate calendars.

Now, on to what Go South was trying to get at before bigotry muddled his brain: Yes, there is an education problem amongst young Mexicans. The reasons are multifold: apathetic parents, terrible school conditions, students who follow the lead of the uneducated adults in their community and thus forsake college for a working-class job. These were also the pathologies identified in Italian-American high schoolers in New York during the 1980s, back when 21 percent of them were dropping out (read "Italian American Youth and Educational Achievement levels: How are we doing?" by Drs. Vincenzo Milione, Ciro T. De Rosa and Itala Pelizzoli for more details). But that figure dropped to single digits within a decade due to a concerted community effort—and if the guidos can do it, Mexicans sure as hell can too.

E-mail your preguntas to themexican@askamexican.net.

 
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