Saturday, November 26, 2011

In New York, Mexicans Lag in Education

In the past two decades, the Mexican population in New York City has grown more than fivefold, with immigrants settling across the five boroughs. Many adults have demonstrated remarkable success at finding work, filling restaurant kitchens and construction sites, and opening hundreds of businesses.

But their children, in one crucial respect, have fared far differently. About 41 percent of all Mexicans between ages 16 and 19 in the city have dropped out of school, according to census data.

No other major immigrant group has a dropout rate higher than 20 percent, and the overall rate for the city is less than 9 percent, the statistics show.

This crisis endures at the college level. Among Mexican immigrants 19 to 23 who do not have a college degree, only 6 percent are enrolled. That is a fraction of the rates among other major immigrant groups and the native-born population.

Moreover, these rates are significantly worse than those of the broader Mexican immigrant population in the United States.

The problem is especially unsettling because Mexicans are the fastest-growing major immigrant group in the city, officially numbering about 183,200, according to the Census Bureau, up from about 33,600 in 1990. Experts say the actual figure is far larger, given high levels of illegal immigration.

A small group of educators and advocates have begun various educational initiatives for Mexicans, and there is evidence of recent strides.

But the educators and advocates say that unless these efforts are sustained, and even intensified, the city may have a large Mexican underclass for generations. “We are stanching an educational hemorrhage, but only partially,” said Robert C. Smith, a sociology professor at the City University of New York who studies the local Mexican population. “The worst outcomes are still possible,” he added.

Experts say the crisis stems from many factors — or what Dr. Smith called “a perfect storm of educational disadvantage.”

Many Mexicans are poor and in the country illegally. Parents, many of them uneducated, often work in multiple jobs, leaving little time for involvement in their children’s education. Some are further isolated from their children’s school life because of language barriers or fear that contact with school officials may lead to deportation.

Unlike some other immigrant populations, like the Chinese, Mexicans have few programs for tutoring or mentoring. “We don’t have enough academic role models,” said Angelo Cabrera, 35, a Mexican immigrant who runs a nonprofit group that tutors Mexican and Mexican-American students in the basement of a church in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.

Many young illegal immigrants in New York City say there is no point in staying in school because their lack of legal status limits their access to college scholarships and employment opportunities. Some drop out under the erroneous belief that they are not eligible to attend college. (Illegal immigrants who graduate from a high school in New York State or earn a G.E.D. are not only allowed to attend the state’s public university system, but are also eligible for in-state tuition.)

“They just give up,” said Karina Sosa, 22, a Mexican-American undergraduate at Baruch College and an education activist.

Educational achievement among Mexican immigrants is worse in New York than in the broader Mexican population around the country in part, experts say, because Mexicans in the city have shallower roots, less stable households and higher rates of illegal immigration.

Ivan Lucero, who emigrated illegally from Mexico with his mother when he was 6 and grew up in the Belmont area of the Bronx, said his parents urged him to stay in school and study. But his father was distracted by long work days, and his mother, who did not speak English, had no contact with the school.

Mr. Lucero said he began skipping classes to hang out with other young Mexicans who had formed a gang. Once heavily Italian, the neighborhood was experiencing an influx of Mexicans.

Mexican children were filling Belmont’s schools, Mexican workers were staffing restaurants in the Little Italy section around Arthur Avenue and Mexican-owned shops were popping up on every other block.

Many young Mexicans were compelled to get jobs to help their families. In high school, Mr. Lucero began working as a busboy, which further distracted him from school work, he said. He was forced to repeat 10th grade twice, though he would lie to his parents about how he was doing. “You don’t think of nothing else but having fun with your friends, meeting up with girls, having your boys with you,” Mr. Lucero said. “The last thing you think of is school.”

He was expelled when he was 18, while still in 10th grade. Most of his Mexican friends from high school also dropped out and entered the work force, and so did one of his younger brothers. “I don’t see many Mexican kids going to school,” said Mr. Lucero, now 28 and working as a waiter. “It’s horrible.”


Casual sex and 'bad touching': Guess what British eight-year-olds are learning at school these days

Official pornography

The camera pans to the bedroom. Soon, a computer-generated image of a naked man and woman appear on my screen. They begin to chase each other around the room; she tickles him flirtatiously with a feather; he responds by hitting her with a pillow. They start to kiss and caress. The next moment they leap onto the sheets and begin having sex in a variety of different sexual positions.

The voiceover informs us: ‘The man’s penis slides inside the woman’s vagina. It’s very exciting for both of them.’

A late night adult show on Channel 4, perhaps? An animated version of the Kama Sutra? Or a free CD that comes with a copy of Loaded or any number of other lad mags or soft porn publications?

Well, it is a Channel 4 production (they’re rather good at that kind of thing, after all). But shockingly, the target audience for this film is children as young as eight, and the film could soon be showing at a primary school near you.

The DVD also features information about masturbation, orgasms (including an animated sequence depicting ejaculation), casual sex and ‘good and bad touching’. The list of X-rated topics is almost endless.

In one section, a group of boys who look no more than ten are shown in a public toilet where there is a condom machine on the wall. ‘They have even got different flavours,’ one of the youngsters observes.

Not surprisingly, the film, entitled, Living And Growing, is causing concern among parents across the country. It is now being shown to youngsters at scores of primary schools.

Admittedly, the world is a very different place to the one many of us grew up in. But are we really to believe that explaining the ‘facts of life,’ in explicit detail, to youngsters, many of whom still believe in Father Christmas, could help solve the teenage pregnancy epidemic or reduce the rates of sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents?

Surely, even the most liberal-minded members of the last Labour government, which championed the controversial policy, would be left feeling a little queasy at some of the material now finding its way into primary school classrooms in the name of Sex And Relationship Education (SRE).

The examples we have highlighted are just a sample of the controversial subject matter now being peddled to our very youngest pupils; it’s not even the worst of it either.

Labour, of course, wanted to make SRE compulsory in all primaries, just as it is in all secondary schools, but it failed to win cross-party support and was forced to abandon the initiative. Instead, the decision on whether or not to introduce such lessons remained with governors.

Yet, nearly two years on, what seemed like a victory for common sense is proving to be quite the opposite. Under Department of Education guidelines, any primary school planning to introduce SRE has a duty to consult parents, to ensure they have an ‘input’ and their voice is heard. ‘It is essential that schools involve parents in developing and reviewing their sex education policy,’ the guidelines state.

‘Schools should ensure that pupils are protected from teaching materials that are inappropriate having regard to the age and the religious and cultural background of the pupils concerned.

‘Governors and headteachers should discuss with parents and take on board concerns raised, both on materials which are offered to schools and on sensitive material to be used in the classroom.’

But many schools have been accused, rightly or wrongly, of simply paying lip service to the consultation process; sending out letters which ‘play down’ the content of proposed classes and holding meetings at inconvenient times for mums and dads.

And, by the time such meetings are held, schools have already invested considerable time and money in choosing from a variety of SRE packages and can be reluctant to discard them.

Those parents who have complained say they have come under pressure to conform from headteachers or been forced to remove their sons or daughters from SRE lessons.

Perhaps this is part of the reason why such classes — driven by the powerful sex education lobby (including groups like fpa, formerly the Family Planning Clinic, and the Brook sexual health advice service) — are now being extended to more than a fifth of UK primaries. That’s at least 3,400 schools and nearly one million pupils.

Almost all of them will see, if they haven’t already, the Channel 4 DVD showing on my computer.

Entitled All About Us: Living And Growing, it was produced by Channel 4 in ‘response to requests from teachers and heads for a resource that promotes sex and relationship education as a developmental process, beginning in the early years at an appropriate level and progressing through childhood and adolescence.’

Childhood? Would any youngster aged between eight and 11, the intended audience, have much of a childhood left after watching it?

Children such as eight-year-old Jasmine Hague, who attends Grenoside Primary School in Sheffield, which was planning to use the film in sex education classes before her mother and other parents kicked up a fuss. ‘I’m not the sort of person who normally complains and I’m definitely not a prude,’ said her mother Luana, a single parent. ‘But I feel strongly about this. It’s just not appropriate.’

Up to 20 families are now said to be prepared to pull their children out of SRE classes if they are introduced at Grenoside. It is becoming a familiar story all over Britain.


British university admissions: best pupils 'losing out'

In part because of England's insane policy of basing admission offers on "expected" High School exam results, not actual ones

Teachers may be hurting pupils’ chances of getting into university by predicting high grades for them – because higher predictions can lead to higher offers. Some admissions chiefs like to get a range of abilities and skills on their courses and so make a range of offers.

Academically strong pupils with higher predicted grades may therefore have to get higher grades to secure a place, while those predicted lower grades may get lower offers if they can persuade admissions staff they have other qualities.

The problem is that the admissions systems vary considerably and are complicated, according to the report in the Times Educational Supplement.

A pupil predicted three top grades at A-level may be made an offer of AAA, whereas a candidate expected to achieve As and Bs may be offered AAB or ABB for the same course.

Roberta Georghiou, the head of Bury Grammar School for Girls in Greater Manchester and co-chairman of the Independent Schools’ Universities Committee, said: “The danger is that universities admit candidates who are unable to capitalise on the opportunity they have been offered, while others who meet the criteria are excluded.”

Pia Pollock, the admissions policy adviser at Manchester University, said: “Some of our academic schools use what we call a range of offers to ensure that they recruit and select the best students.” Lower offers were made to candidates unlikely to achieve the highest grades if they could convince staff that they had the potential to succeed, she added.

Details of the variation in admission systems were laid bare in a Freedom of Information Act request.

“Students and their teachers are being put in a difficult position by the complexity of the university admissions system and the lack of predictable patterns, with each university setting its own rules,” said Dr William Richardson, the general secretary of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference.


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