Published 4:12 pm, Friday, August 4, 2017
Photo: Rudy Gutierrez /Associated Press
Re: “Catch the Next propelling Latino students to success,” Rafael Castillo, Monday:
Being involved in efforts at my medical school for the past 35 years to increase the number of Hispanic students, I fully agree a critical issue is before us — the dismal state of the Hispanic “educational pipeline” to a career as physicians.
What I have come to conclude is very troublesome: For whatever reasons, the college achievement rates of Hispanics whose country of origin is Mexico are the lowest of all ethnic groups, while the rates for other Hispanic groups, such as Cuban, Argentinian or Chilean, are about the same as white non-Hispanic rates.
One reason may be that Hispanic parents of the current college-age students were too close to one of the most corrupt educational systems in the world, so that education by default was not a priority for them or their children — in other words, they were very nihilistic about their educational future.
Catch The Next program is well intended, but I have to conclude that these efforts will have limited success until the program is expanded to target Hispanic children prekindergarten age or younger.
Until one catches would-be college students when they are still very impressionable, other programs downstream will have limited success. We must convince their parents early on that education is important and worthy of sacrifices to ensure their children’s success.
We need only look at how South Koreans validate the parents’ role. I read a recent report that parents were so successful in emphasizing education that there were too many Ph.D.’s for the available jobs.
Going back to our problem, please don’t tell me that more money is the answer. It helps, but it is not the only solution. Sixty years ago, I started high school in a very weak school — Southwest High School — but overcame it and went on to St. Mary’s University, then to the University of Texas medical school in Galveston.
One huge factor in my success was that my parents were 100 percent behind me. They sacrificed to the point that my father told me, “Your full-time job in college is grades.” He knew that in those days, we Hispanics had to have academic credentials better than white students to even be considered for an interview for a medical school position. Fortunately, I did, graduating with high honors from St. Mary’s.
Oh, another aspect — our very modest farm home had no running water and no heating except for a kerosene-burning, open-space heater, but I had a lot of parental love. So let us stop using poverty as an excuse.
Let me repeat: Poor educational expectations by parents need to be overcome before we see better educational results in students.
John A. Menchaca is a physician who lives in San Antonio.