Vale La Pena – Mayor Julian Castro's Pre K for SA and Education for Latinos

When it comes to education and the Latino community, there is so much to say and so much work still ahead of us, all of us.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro described an education plan that focuses on full day instruction for children entering preschool.  As described on the site

Pending voter approval on November 6, 2012, the Pre-K 4 SA Initiative would utilize revenue generated by a 1/8-cent sales tax and other state and federal dollars to provide high–quality, full-day Pre-K for eligible four-year-olds in San Antonio. Early voting will begin Monday, October 22, 2012 and conclude on Friday, November 2, 2012.

Julian Castro explained that it is important for the Latino community to get started on education as early as possible because it will raise the likelihood that students will graduate from college, and one way to do this is to get smarter about dedicating resources to education.

Why is this valuable? Because, quite simply, education is ALWAYS valuable. I work in an elementary school and interact with students on a daily basis, including those who are in a Pre-K program. Pre-K allows them to be immersed early on in a structured environment prior to entering Kindergarten, and this sets the tone for expected behaviors that will help them when they reach more rigorous academic instruction. Pre-K programs give kids a chance to start building upon an amazing future of life-long learning and enlightenment which will happen in and out of the classroom.

What Julian Castro is emphasizing, however, is the importance of educating Latinos. I am inclined to agree with him by virtue of my own ethnicity and personal experiences, but I also would like to add that education for ALL students in the United States is what will have a direct effect on the destiny of the United States.

Still, I am aware that there is a specific kind of issue in education when it comes to the Latino community and that is making sure that Latino students not only receive a quality education, but that they derive great value, use, and personal satisfaction from it. Among the many reasons that exist for this already, I think we need an early and strong education that much more because it helps us find a way to fully fit in to our society. Many of us are already dealing with the innate sense that we don’t belong here in the United States (even if some of us were born here) and we must therefore be driven by an aching desire to improve our situations, our communities, and our country by acquiring the tools to do the kind of thinking that will compel us to behave with fruitful and positive action. Castro believes that our education and our numbers are directly connected to the future of our country and with that kind of information, I find it difficult to disagree.

Giving Latino children the education they deserve, the one that their families have always wanted for them, and giving them the opportunity to take part in the destiny of our country could create a new sense of belonging in a place where we have always felt divided. It’s a feeling that has lingered in the psyche of many Latinos whether they were born in the United States or moved here as children. In Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Gloria Anzaldua wrote:

The struggle is inner: Chicano, indio, American Indian, mojado, mexicano, immigrant Latino, Anglo in power, working class Anglo, Black, Asian–our psyches resemble the bordertowns and are populated by the same people. The struggle has always been inner, and is played out in outer terrains. Awareness of our situation must come before inner changes, which in turn come before changes in society. Nothing happens in the “real” world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.

Something very huge and powerful will change for our country when we allow not just Latino students, but all students who continue to feel marginalized, to have a bountiful education, one that teaches them how they can contribute to positive change and take part in the growth of a nation that begs to evolve.

It almost feels like a race against time, especially with school years being shortened, and Castro’s urgency to get kids started right away in their careers as students makes sense if it gives those kids the strongest building blocks they’ll need, and they will need them. With constant cuts in funding to education, No Child Left Behind starts to feel like a slow knife. It demands that schools show academic improvement then cuts funding if they don’t. The punishment is illogical and it’s our students who absorb the shock of the blow.

I want to adopt and follow through on Castro’s ideas on education not just for the sake of Latinos, but for every single student regardless of race or ethnicity. I believe that encouraging our students to pursue higher education can empower any community, but there must also be access to it and that means funding the very system that nurtures knowledge. It’s completely worth it, or in Spanish, vale la pena.

Watch Julian Castro’s comments here:

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