Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Do We Tell Enough “Good News” Stories About Latino Children?

Writer Esther J. Cepeda takes aim at an uncomfortable truth in a recent column–the often negative tone of articles written about Latino education issues.

We know the depressing headlines and statistics about Hispanics by now: high dropout rates, low test scores, high poverty rates and so on. They are all topics that have been addressed on this blog.

“Judging by news coverage of the nation’s fastest growing ethnic minority, you’d think that “the Hispanic condition” was a pathology,” Cepeda  writes. “With the exception of growing power in the voting booth, the news makes it seems as though we’re all poor, sick and generally unable to cope with life as well as others.”

Journalists often become defensive when accused of only telling “negative” stories–dwelling on failures, rather than education success stories. But instead of becoming argumentative, should reporters instead be a bit more introspective?

In Cepeda’s column, she cited the example of a recent study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, finding that Mexican-American toddlers don’t lag white children in social skills.

What popped out to her most was the follow sentence from the press release about the report: “The researchers caution teachers, pediatricians and other health care providers to ‘not assume social-emotional delays, even when language or cognitive skills lag somewhat behind.”

Cepeda goes on to write that the study shows that environmental factors such as growing up in low-income environments and a lack of reading together as a family explain why the Latino children may arrive at kindergarten academically behind their white peers. It’s not that Mexican-American children are incapable of learning at high levels.

Journalists must balance telling the hard truth with providing hope that solutions exist that do work. Don’t feel that you should shy away from reporting harsh realities. You’re not doing any favors by ignoring them.

Just keep an eye out for programs and people who are improving the academic outcomes of Latino students. They are newsworthy as well.