Latin America? Where's that?
Influential education guru William Daggett likes to ask his audiences: Why do so many of our kids learn to speak French instead of Chinese when China is a rising global powerhouse? Answer: Because we have so many French teachers. His point: Schools can be grossly detached from reality.
ENLACE Florida (Engaging Latino Communities for Education) raises a similar question in a just-released report. Florida's ties to Latin America go back centuries; our K-12 students are about 25 percent Hispanic; and 60 percent of our exports go to Latin America and the Caribbean. And yet how many of our 2.7 million students take courses on Latin America and the Caribbean? A whopping 0.6 percent.
"The first question educators should ask when developing a curriculum designed to prepare students to compete in the global economy should be: who are we trading with?" said Dr. Paul, executive director for ENLACE Florida, which is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and based at the University of South Florida.
It's no secret why ENLACE is making this point now: The Department of Education is in the process of revising Florida's social studies standards, which currently cover Latin America and the Caribbean about as well as the old science standards covered evolution.
"The history of our neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean receives no more than a cursory examination in World History," the report notes. And "students completing the sequence of U.S. and World History will have a strong foundation on which to build their studies, but they could leave our high schools knowing little about Brazil or the Cuban Revolution, not to mention the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)."
- Ron Matus, state education reporter