Q. After the great migration of Jews to this nation, a question was posed: “How long does it take a Jew to go from being a street sweeper to becoming a corporate attorney?” The answer given was: “One generation.” Not so for Mexicans. Most Mexicans seem to recoil from education like the fictional Dracula recoils from a wooden cross. Everyone knows that Mexicans have the highest school-dropout rates in the nation. Do you think this is because of their genetic make-up, that they haven’t been made aware that education is the great equalizer and the springboard to success—or could it be for some yet-to-be-discovered reason? Cuban-Americans are the most affluent of all Hispanic groups, and most are Republicans. Mexicans are the least affluent and are mostly Democrats. Is this a factor? If not, what do you think is the problem? —Go South, Young Mexicans
A. Dear Readers: Por favor, learn from Go South—don’t allow stupidity to get in the way of a good question. To wit:
Get your stats right. Mexicans do not have the country’s highest school-dropout rate—that dishonor falls to Central Americans, according to the Department of Education’s recently released Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities (and more native-born Puerto Ricans and American Indians fail to finish high school than American-born Mexicans). Cubans aren’t the most affluent Latino group in los Estados Unidos, and Mexicans aren’t the poorest—Ecuadorians and Dominicans have the highest and lowest Latino median income levels, respectively, according to the United States Census’s The American Community—Hispanics: 2004.
And never, ever introduce genetics into a conversation about Mexicans and education. If it were that simple, Mexicans would do nothing else but build massive pyramids and extremely accurate calendars.
Now, on to what Go South was trying to get at before bigotry muddled his brain: Yes, there is an education problem among young Mexicans. The reasons are multifold: apathetic parents, terrible school conditions, students who follow the lead of the uneducated adults in their community and thus forsake college for a working-class job. These were also the pathologies identified in Italian-American high schoolers in New York during the 1980s, back when 21 percent of them were dropping out (read “Italian American Youth and Educational Achievement Levels: How Are We Doing?” by Vincenzo Milione, Ciro T. De Rosa, and Itala Pelizzoli for more details). But that figure dropped to single digits within a decade due to a concerted community effort—and if the guidos can do it, Mexicans sure as hell can, too.
Q. Why can’t the politicos in Washington, and the American people in general, give undocumented college students in the U.S. a chance to contribute to society by legalizing them, thus giving them a chance to develop to their full potential? —I Still Have a Dream
A. Dear Wab: Because they’re illegals, silly! But seriously: I understand why Know Nothings oppose amnesty for drunks, cholos, welfare cheats, Aztlanistas, and other stupid Mexicans, but for them to also bash the DREAM Act (which seeks to grant in-state tuition and amnesty to the children of undocumented immigrants—folks who have lived in this country long enough to be more American than immigrant) is loco. If anything, we should apply the DREAM Act to all college undergrads—as currently proposed, eligible students must earn good grades and advance quickly in their studies under threat of deportation. Enact the DREAM Act, and watch American graduation rates rise to chinito levels.