Love of learning
By Michael Berland
Published December 14, 2009
Q: A recent series in The Post painted a bleak picture of the prospects for millions of U.S.-born children of Hispanic immigrants, who will play an outsized role in the future of the American workforce but are dropping out of high school in greater numbers than other any other U.S.-born racial or ethnic group. What needs to be done to help more of these young people succeed in school and get college degrees?
In this excellent series on the U.S.-born kids of Hispanic immigrants, a recurring theme in several of the articles is that parenthood often forces these teens and young adults into taking their own lives seriously for the first time.
On the one hand, it’s good that parenthood can make young people of any background suddenly want to make a success of themselves. And parents in their teens and twenties are holding onto their dreams of graduating from high-school or even college some day.
On the other hand, it’s tragic the sudden desire for betterment, as reported here, often happens after many mistakes that can have lifelong consequences, including years of poor scholarship and, in the case of several of the young men profiled in the series, criminal activity.
I was most alarmed by the article “Young, Latina and Already a Mom” about teen sisters Angela and Edelmira who deliberately had babies so that their parents would stop trying to separate them from their boyfriends. Their story made me realize the importance of a truly comprehensive and culturally relevant sex education that addresses why it’s self-defeating to use pregnancy and parenthood as strategies to manipulate situations and people.
More generally, the key for all young people is to ignite early on a love for learning; a sense of fulfillment; a curiosity about and an ability to understand and communicate with a world outside the world they know. That’s something that immigrant parents who don’t speak English can teach.
When you love learning, it becomes the carrot you end up following and that leads you to make the choices to lead your best life. When the carrot works, you don’t need a stick.