|| OPENING THE DISCUSSION
By Arturo Madrid
The findings of this study need to be put in the context of some larger developments regarding the Latino population in this country. There are four factors that I would like to touch upon to open the frame of this discussion.
1. Growth. There are extraordinary implications regarding the growth of the Latino population, which is now over 12% of the population of the United States. And because it is such a young population, it makes up a very high percentage of the potential college-bound population, especially in states such as California, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Illinois, and New York. Another area of change is the percentage of Latinos who are American-born. At the beginning of the 1980s, over 70% of the Latinos in this country were born here. Now that percentage is dropping, so that today, perhaps only about half of Latinos were born in this country, with a much larger percentage of recent immigrants.
2. Residential segregation. Despite our efforts in the middle decades of the last century, Latinos are again highly segregated residentially. Latinos often live in poor neighborhoods, with poor school districts. Furthermore, there is a cultural segregation. Despite many successful efforts to change social attitudes toward Latinos, certain cultural perceptions about them are still widespread. Attitudes such as "you do not vote" or "you do not do well in school" remain prevalent. What is at issue here are the difficulties caused by certain cultural attitudes, coupled with a retreat from the effort to find public policy resolutions for addressing issues, such as residential segregation, that contribute to inferior educational development.
3. Retreat from ethnic and cultural programming. In the period from the 1960s through the 1980s, the programs that moved young Latino (and black) students through high school and on to college were essentially ethnic-based or culturally based national programs. Students were provided support and programming based on their ethnicity, and these approaches had many successes. Today, however, there are restrictions to implementing racial-ethnic programming, as we have seen in Texas and California, as well as complications to sustaining them at their current levels. So far, we have not found other ways to accomplish the same goals.
4. Reaching out. As this report indicates, we have been remarkably successful in reaching one group of Latino middle-class students, so that today they are not really any different from other middle-class students. As important as this accomplishment has been, it should not obscure the difficulty of reaching out to the next group. These are the students who might have the potential but who do not know how to translate that potential into performance. Here again, we need to find new techniques and approaches.
What we have, in other words, is a Latino population that is growing both in size and importance, but many of the approaches that we have depended on to recruit and retain Latino students are no longer adequate. All of this calls for new research and new creative thinking, and I hope this report will provide a stimulus to take additional steps.
Arturo Madrid is the Norine R. and T. Frank Murchison Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Trinity University. He has served as founding president of the Tomás Rivera Center; director of the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) in the U.S. Department of Education; director of the Ford Foundation's Graduate Fellowship Program for Mexican Americans, Native Americans, and Puerto Ricans; and founder and president of the National Chicano Council for Higher Education. He has also held academic and administrative appointments at Dartmouth College, the University of California at San Diego, and the University of Minnesota. Madrid has a Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles.