Latinos Not Smart? Think Again
The 1900s saw a sweeping amount of oppression for all minorities, with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, and many other laws aimed at disadvantaging people of color. Latinos were no exception to this rise of oppression. Latinos have had their property, history, and culture systematically taken from them from government and legal actors. In the 1920s, Latinos in Texas “could not enter restaurants, parks, or even public swimming pools reserved for Whites.” Moreover, Latino children in school were subjected to the “No Spanish Rule” in which punishment occurred if children were caught speaking Spanish. As a result, many Latinos who are native born do not speak Spanish, nor have a firm understanding of their cultural identity. School experiences can have a positive and long-lasting effect on the social and educational development of students; therefore barriers placed on Latinos at school had a negative effect in adulthood.
Seven years before the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, Mendez v. Westminster challenged the validity of the separate but equal clause. The Mendezes brought a class-action lawsuit with other Latino families against four Orange County school districts in California that had separate schools for Whites and Mexican-Americans. Their case went all the way to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals where the Court ruled in favor of Mendez because it violated the Fourteenth Amendment by “ . . . depriving them of liberty and property without due process of law and by denying to them the equal protection of the laws.” Segregation in those districts ended and the rest of the state followed.
Unfortunately studies indicate that Latinos are still not ranking comparatively to other races. Latino students have the highest annual high school dropout rate at 7.1% (higher than any other ethnic group) and “the percentage of Latino adults ages 18 to 24 are no longer enrolled in school and who have not completed high school is more than double that of any other ethnic group measured by the [US] census.” This evidence suggests that the mis-education of Latino children may indeed be the norm.
A 2003 study shows that Latinos 25 years of age and older find themselves at the bottom of the educational rankings. Only 11% of Latinos have a college degree and 57% have a high school education. Concentrated poverty within particular school zones is a direct cause of educational inequality, a reality evident within the Latino community—home to the highest percent of impoverished students.
These results indicate the common feeling amongst the Latino community in that “schools try to brainwash Chicanos. They try to make us forget our history, to be ashamed of being Chicanos Mexicans, of speaking Spanish. They succeed in making us feel empty, and angry inside.” In 2013, a Pew study estimated that 40% of Latinos do not speak Spanish; however, this number might be even higher for native-born Latinos since it is estimated that native-born Latinos outnumber first generation Latinos by a two-to-one ratio. Research has shown that Latino children with low parental involvement is linked to low academic achievement, therefore, schools “must be seen as a potentially key preventive and protective resource for [these] children.”
Adolescents who are less comfortable or have a negative correlation to their ethnicity have lower self-esteem. With many Latinos disengaged with their culture and unclear of their own ethnicity, ethnic studies need be a priority amongst the general population, particularly because the lack of ethnic studies remains a barrier for Latino children. Despite the rich Latino history and heritage of the Southwest, only seven percent of the secondary schools surveyed in the 1960s included a Mexican American history course in their curricula.
For example, in Tucson Arizona—a city that is predominately Latino—created the Mexican-American Studies Department (MASD) that encouraged “equitable educational ecology" and a chance for students to develop a critical consciousness. MASD offered a curriculum that challenged the status quo and promote a better bond between student and teacher. But ten years later, Arizona's Republican leadership attacked MASD as “being segregationist, racist, and desirous of overthrowing the U.S. government.” Legislation was proposed that attempted to prohibit the use of any curriculum that focused on "voices and experiences of people [of] color." However, some students disagreed, arguing that the course offered made them more aware, more respectful, and “more accepting and open to different ethnicities, different ways of life[,] and different traditions." But critics like previous Attorney General Tom Horne of Arizona disagreed; asserting that if the teaching is about “la raza, how is that developing respect for other ethnicities?" Horne made these assertions without ever visiting a MASD classroom, instead only gaining knowledge through second hand sources.
The attacks on the MASD program led to H.B. 2281, a bill that proposed individuals should “not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people.” Despite its rhetoric that created a barrier for the MASD program, the bill was passed. As a result, MASD came under fire by Horne who “repeatedly and publicly stated that he intends to find the [MASD classes] to be in violation of the statute.”
Critics of the bill argued that Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District v. Pico, sets precedent in that “the State of Arizona confronts an almost insurmountable challenge on First Amendment and Equal Protection grounds in defending [the] harsh legislative measure to eliminate the ethnic studies program. The First Amendment prohibits state action that infringes on a right to express oneself.” In Pico, the Supreme Court affirmed the Second Circuit’s decision that the local school board had no right in its removal of library books from high school and junior high school libraries. After members of the local school board attended a conference by a politically conservative parents' organization, the board decided to remove books that were deemed “objectionable and anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and just plain filthy." Pico and other plaintiffs, students, filed a claim under the Civil Rights Act claiming that their First Amendment rights had been violated. In the Supreme Court opinion, Justice Brennan, writing for the majority, stated that “local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion." The Court, citing other previous cases stated, that: (1) student's freedom of expression is not to be restricted because of the fear that those views might upset other students and (2) school officials must establish that their actions are “something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint."
Studies conducted on the MASD curriculum of more than 26,000 students, found that students with lower prior achievement benefitted significantly more from taking MAS courses. Further studies have shown that by removing these programs “could potentially harm the most academically vulnerable students (i.e., those students whom the MAS program tended to serve)”. Given the results of this study and the absence of a viable replacement, the needed discussion is how to replicate and expand the successes of this program beyond Tucson.
Despite these numerous studies that encourage ethnic studies—in conjunction with the growth of the Latino population and the inequality of the education system among minorities, ethnic studies continue to be a barrier for Latino children.
 Lupe S. Salinas & Dr. Robert H. Kimball, The Equal Treatment of Unequals: Barriers Facing Latinos and the Poor in Texas Public Schools, 14 Geo. J. Poverty Law & Pol'y 215, 221 (2007).
 Lupe S. Salinas, Language: Immigration and Language Rights: The Evolution of Private Racist Attitudes into American Public Law and Policy, 7 Nev. L.J. 895, 909 (2007).
 . Id. at 917. Many young Latinos have stated their parents instructed them to learn only English since each parent had been punished at school for speaking Spanish on school grounds. In addition my father, Jose Robles Sr. was held back in first grade for not knowing “good English.”
 Jens Manuel Krogstad, et al, English Proficiency on the Rise Among Latinos: U.S. Born Driving Language Changes, Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends (May 12, 2015), http://www.pewhispanic.org/2015/05/12/english-proficiency-on-the-rise-among-latinos/.
 Robbie Gilligan, The importance of schools and teachers in child welfare, Child & Fam. Soc. Work 13, 14 (1997).
 See Salinas, supra note 49, at 222.
 Id. at 222-223; quoting Westminster Sch. Dist. v. Mendez, 161 F.2d 774, 780-81 (9th Cir. 1947).
 Martin J. La Roche & David Shriberg, High Stakes Exams and Latino Students: Toward a Culturally Sensitive Education for Latino Children in the United States, 15 J. Educ. & Psychol. Consultation 2, 205, 206 (2004).
 Lupe S. Salinas, Arizona’s Desire to Eliminate Ethnic Studies Programs: A Time to take the Pill and to Engage Latino Students in Critical Education About Their History, 14 Harv. Latino L. Rev. 301, 314 (2011).
 Id. The researchers conclude that poor schools are a barrier to quality education since students in segregated minority schools were eleven times more likely to be in schools with concentrated poverty, but ninety-two percent of white students did not face that barrier.
 See Salinas, supra note 7, at 287.
 See Krogstad, supra note 53.
 Barri Tinkler, A Review of Literature on Hispanic/Latino Parent Involvement in K-12 Education, (2002), available at http://www.buildassets.org/Products/latinoparentreport/latinoparentrept.htm.
 See Salinas, supra note 60, at 315.
 Id. at 314, the United States Commission on Civil Rights conducted research on the crisis of Latino educational attainment.
 Id. at 301-02.
 Id. at 301.
 Id. at 304-06.
 Id. at 307.
 Id. at 309.
 Id. at 308.
 Id. at 304.
 Id. at 312.
 Id. at 318; see also Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982); e.g. First Amendment provides in part: "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652, 666 (1925).
 Id. at 316.
 Id. at 317; see also Pico, 457 U.S. at 871-72.
 Id. at 317-18.
 Id. at 319.
 Nolan L. Cabrera et al., Missing the (Student Achievement) Forest for All the (Political) Trees: Empiricism and the Mexican American Studies Controversy in Tucson, 51 Am. Educ. Res. J. page 6, 1084, 1106 (2014).
 Id. at 1109.
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