Why los pobrecitos stay poor

The pobrecitos phenomenon dooms low-income Hispanic students to school failure, writes Tina Griego in the Rocky Mountain News.

Pobrecito means “poor thing.” And the phenomenon, explains Stephanie Robinson, a principal partner at the Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.- based nonprofit, goes something like this:

A student comes into the school. He is poor, a minority, his family struggles. Maybe the teacher feels sorry for him. This is human. Maybe he feels sorry for himself. Expectations are not high. (If the student happens to be a she, maybe mom and dad are telling her she doesn’t need more education, a husband and children await.) He is given low-level assignments. He is tested. He tests below grade-level. He is given more below-grade-level work. He believes or is led to believe he is doing what he can, is, in fact, incapable of doing better. He never progresses. A cycle begins.

Low expectations lead to lower achievement, Robinson says.

“Kids can go to the very same school and get totally unequal educations because of the expectation, because of the level of work given. You can’t learn what you are not given to learn.”

I’ve never heard the term, but I’ve seen the results of low expectations. I once interviewed a Mexican-American father who told me his three sons had “done well in high school,” though none had graduated. I asked what subjects they’d done well in. He said “basketball.” The father was proud his sons hadn’t joined a gang or been arrested, and were working to support themselves and their children. He saw them as successes.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Mike in Texas says:

    “If the student happens to be a she, maybe mom and dad are telling her she doesn’t need more education, a husband and children await”

    ” I once interviewed a Mexican-American father who told me his three sons had “done well in high school,” though none had graduated. I asked what subjects they’d done well in. He said “basketball.” The father was proud his sons hadn’t joined a gang or been arrested, and were working to support themselves and their children.”

    And this is the school’s fault how?

  2. The point is that low expectations may come from the family, as well as from the school. It’s a vicious circle.

  3. And we won’t get into the pregnancy rate among Hispanic girls, either. It is high, at least here in Houston. I’ve asked several different girls about parental reaction to their pregnancies, and almost always get the same response from the Hispanic girls — “My mama is so happy that there will be another baby in the house!” Never mind that 15 year old Rosa is knocked up by a 23 year-old gang-banner with no job.

  4. Tim from Texas says:

    They are just “Mijoded and Mijaded” way too much. It’s a cute and endearing thing but it’s way over done. The Anglos do the same by buying their teenagers new cars and stuffing their pockets with money and the like.

    At least, one can say the Latinos are out front with it. Their out-with-it-all manner is one of the things Anglos hate most about Latinos, not to mention, the-way-out-there-in-front-of-you manner of the Blacks. Anglo teenage pregnancies happen relatively too much and are just “swept under the rug” We like to keep our problems hidden. It helps us feel superior.

  5. Hold on gang, this isn’t an Hispanic problem. This is a problem. One that afflicts Hispanics and Blacks, and much to my personal consternation Hawaiians.

    It’s sad, and brings into stark contrast the opposite that happens with other groups.

    Kal

Trackbacks

  1. No Illusions says:

    The pobrecitos phenomenon—more soft bigotry of low expectations

    In the 2000 Presidential debates, George Bush put a name on a concept that needed one. The "soft bigotry of low expectations" existed long before the debates. In education it refers to the belief that certain groups are innately incapable of …