Wednesday , June 14, 2017 - 4:00 AM
CHICAGO — It is often said that Hispanics suffer from fatalism — the belief that whatever happens to them is inevitable. But far less often acknowledged is that Latinos also tend to look on the sunny side of life.
Over the past decade, various national surveys have shown that U.S. Latinos have a positive view of their lives and the future, surpassing whites and African-Americans in their belief that better times are ahead.
One researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign even found a statistical connection between this positive outlook and better cardiovascular health outcomes for Latinos.
Regarding money, last year a study by the Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends project found that Hispanics were likelier than the general public to expect their family's financial situation to improve in the next year. Plus, nearly three-quarters said they expected their children to be financially better off than themselves in their lifetime.
It's much the same story when it comes to education.
According to a recent nationwide survey on the attitudes and aspirations of black and Hispanic parents conducted by the Leadership Conference Education Fund, both groups of parents are worried about funding disparities in schools that are majority-minority. But Latinos have slightly more positive views about how public education is serving their children.
Though a majority of Hispanic families believe that their schools get less money than schools in white communities, slightly fewer reported believing this than last year (57 percent in 2017 vs. 61 percent in 2016).
As can be expected from the anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic sentiments that have run rampant lately, another big difference this year is that many more Hispanics believe that racism and racial bias affect school quality (28 percent in 2017 vs. 20 percent in 2016, but still fewer than black respondents). Still, slightly fewer Hispanics reported concerns with lack of access to resources and technology, low teacher quality and lack of parental involvement than last year.
Even taking into account higher concerns over racism — and worries about poor school facilities and language issues that have not changed over time — a stunning three-quarters of Latinos believe that U.S. public schools are doing a good job of preparing Latino students for success in the future, a 10-point increase from last year.
A slim majority (52 percent) now believe that the education Latino students receive in the U.S. is as good as the education white students get. One caveat is that the Hispanic parents and family members who were likeliest to say this also reported not having attended school in the United States, but it's still remarkable.
Considering how many reports there have been of immigrant and minority students who have been harassed and bullied in the wake of President Trump's election, these surveys, which were conducted in early March, are nothing if not a testament to the resilience and sense of hope that Latino families have about their kids' well-being at school.
As was the case last year, Latino parents reported a thirst for high-performing teachers, rigorous curriculums, and high standards and expectations for their students. In fact, even more Latino parents said that they wanted higher standards for their kids than last year.
And they want to see the proof: Just like last year, Latino families ranked "less reliance on standardized testing" dead last on their list of characteristics of a good school, with slightly fewer parents calling for less testing than in 2016.
These numbers highlight the fact that Hispanics want much the same things that other families want for their children: good teachers, decent curriculums and high expectations.
And they do show notable cultural differences compared to what observers of the education system are likely to say matters most — in other words, Hispanic families aren't as worried about diversity, class size or disciplinary issues as education wonks might think.
Lastly, the attitudes this survey describes illustrate that Hispanic students and their families should not — as they are typically portrayed in education reporting — be seen as victims of public schooling.
On the contrary, Hispanic families are knowledgeable about what's going on in their kids' schools, have well-formed views about what level of rigor and discipline can help their kids succeed in the world, and are generally positive about their potential in the existing system.
The question is: Will policymakers tune into these strengths or continue to rely on a misguided belief that Latino families aren't as engaged in their kids' education as others?
Esther Cepeda's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group
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