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Getting Down to the Business of Educating Today’s Undocumented Immigrants can Save Tomorrow’s American Dream

It’s been widely believed in the illegal immigration debate that there are only two ways to see this debate: you’re either for it or against it.

Either way involves just seeing where the issue stands today.

Some see the undocumented as lurking on every street corner acting more like science fiction characters from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” ready to steal the identities of unsuspecting citizens.

Others see the undocumented as a group who either continually put themselves at the mercy of strangers depending on them for their livelihoods like at day labor camps, or as a people who are just trying to put down roots and give their families a decent life that includes three meals a day, sending their kids to school, having a job, and a roof over their heads.

What is indisputable is that there are over 12 million undocumented whose main mission in this country has been to work. From where they come from, education is a luxury that means little if you can’t put tortillas or rice and beans on the table and a roof over your head.

Many of the undocumented, by virtue of wanting better for their children, insist their children go to school. But too many times, the children, who may not be legal themselves, see little value in pursuing any kind of education if they can’t get a job or afford to go on to college.

It’s a trend with some very disturbing outcomes.

A new report, America’s Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nation’s Future, by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) documents that factors are converging to create a future workforce who will be far less literate by 2030 than where we are today.

The three factors converging together to create this perfect storm are:

* substantial disparities in skill levels (reading and math)
* seismic economic changes (widening wage gaps)
* sweeping demographic shifts (less education, lower skills)

According to a Christian Science Monitor article on the report, Baby boomers are retiring and being replaced by less-skilled workers. A combination of immigration and population growth means that the share of the population that is Hispanic is expected to grow from 14 percent in 2005 to more than 20 percent by 2030. More than half of the immigrant Hispanics lack a high school diploma.

What this means in black and white is that the foundation of this country’s strength — its Middle Class — is dissolving before our eyes.

Shouts of “send them back” is not the answer, nor will it work. It has to be understood that even with all the stress of living a covert life on this side of the border, it is still better than living with nothing on the other side.

What needs to be done, and now with documentation, there’s more urgency than before, is to narrow the acheivement gap among students so that all students can read, write and possess the kinds of high cognitive skills that will be needed for the workforce of the future, and to maintain a strong middle class.

In an unusual move, three organizations are banning together to release a national report card grading states on the K-12 education in nine categories.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Center for American Progress and the American Enterprise Institute plan to not only release the report card but also an action agenda.

The ETS and these organizations recognize the urgency of the situation because of what the long-term consequence will be: inequality.

From a Question and Answer interview on the ETS site:

What makes this inequality different or of greater concern?

Traditionally America has had a rather large middle class. What will these forces do to affect the middle class where many families have the opportunity to improve themselves?

A: What is different today is the growing inequality among large segments of our population with respect to wages, income and wealth. According to the Economic Policy Institute, CEOs in 1979 earned 35 times more than the average American worker. By 2005, this gap widened to 262 times as much. Looking at the overall distribution of incomes, we find that in 1980 the richest 20 percent of Americans earned about 44 percent of all income and by 2002, their share had grown to 50 percent. Income inequality is important not only because it limits our economic potential but also the quality of our democracy. According to Benjamin Friedman, “economic growth is not merely the enabler of higher consumption; it is in many ways the wellspring from which democracy and civil society flow.”

Recognition that all children should receive a thorough education with the intention of preparing them for a future that not only values their skills but acknowledges their presence, is no longer something that can be relegated to drawn out debates.

(Source: Hispanic PRwire)

As the cliche goes, “The future is now.”

And it’s within our power, for the time-being, to mold that future into something prosperous or watch it result into something far less desirable.

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