EDUCATION ON THE BORDER: The myths and realities of teaching on "La nueva frontera"
Alice Quiocho, Maria Luiza Dantas, Dennis Masur, Lorri J. Halcón, y Carlos von Son.
Everyone has Access to a Quality Education
One of the primary issues facing both countries is how to educate a large population that is below the poverty line on both sides of the border, what is a reasonable expectation for incorporating students' culture, and how is parental involvement structured for success?
Education plays a critical role in democratic societies, especially when addressing issues of social justice and equity. One of the most cherished democratic ideals in modern societies is to provide access to a quality education for all its members regardless of social status, ethnic background, national origin, and levels of language proficiency. Although there are differences in systems and structures, often due to the vast disparity in funding and economic resources, the U.S. and Mexico share a strong belief that education is (or can be) "the great equalizer" in a diverse society.
However, for many marginalized and poor members of democratic societies, this ideal actually becomes a grotesque and perverse myth, for reality is vastly incongruent with the promise of access to a quality education-promises broken by politics, socio-economic status, lack of funding, and insufficient schools and resources. As participants shared,
There is much inequality in schools in the U.S. as well as in México.
Hay una gran dificultad para llevar muchas de las cuestiones teóricas a la práctica. No hay dinero suficiente para dar una educación equitativa y particular para cada grupo étnico de E.U.
(It is very difficult to take move theory to practice. There is not enough money to provide an equitable education for all ethnic groups in the U.S.)
In Savage Inequalities, Kozol (1992) discusses the serious inequities in U.S. public education between wealthy and poor communities, often related to inadequate funding in low-income communities due to a lower tax base. The importance of adequate resources-including instructional practices, buildings, materials, funding, and professional development-for providing a quality education for all students cannot be ignored. For example, in Tijuana where resources are scarce for teachers who work with Chinanteco, Zapoteco or Mixteco speaking students, there is only one educator who speaks Zapoteco, none for the other indigenous languages.
In contrast, there are more resources available in the U.S. to address the educational needs of children who are not English speakers. However, there still remain issues of teacher and administrator attitude, lack of acceptance of a workable knowledge base, and out-dated instructional practices that hinder success in many schools. And, strong sentiments against immigrants in California's schools have complicated the development of appropriate curriculum and instructional practices for these students. Indeed, one conference participant from Mexico shared that:
…in recent events in the U.S. the schools have become highly politicized with passing of Propositions 187 and 227 and the system is racist and the teachers, at times, uncaring. Teachers reflect the feelings of the rest of society.