by Marcus Koontz
WHITMAN COLLEGE PIONEER
On Monday, Nov. 6, Professor Gilberto Q. Conchas of the University of California, Irvine will present the results of his career-long research into socio-cultural processes within the school context.
Latino youth make up around 30 percent of the Walla Walla school district–and number that will only grow in the coming years, as the local Latino population grows. High school success is elusive to minorities, and to Latinos in particular, in the nation’s current school model.
According to Jay P. Greene, Ph.D. of The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, the national high school graduation rate for Blacks and Latinos is around 50 percent, whereas it is around 75 percent for White students. This abysmal disparity raises the question: Do we want our schools to be successful at educating only some of our children?
Professor Conchas has been studying how students of color can succeed in our school systems. His recently published book “The Color of Success: Race and High-Achieving Urban Youth” uses a mixed methodology, part case study and part quantitative, to determine why some students of color succeed in school.
A recent book review by Grace Chiu in the UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies said, “Conchas goes beyond conventional accounts of school failure and the lone superstar teacher and provides fresh insight into the cultural processes and structural forces that contribute to the high achievement of Black, Latino and Vietnamese high school students.”
Associate Director of Academic Resources Carole Hsiao was instrumental in bringing Conchas to campus for this lecture. Hsiao knows Conchas from a graduate school class she took from him at Harvard.
“One of the reasons a visit by Professor Conchas seemed apt is that the Latino population in Walla Walla is growing,” said Hsiao. “I thought that some of his messages about minority students’ success would be inspiring for those in the community.”
Hsiao says that Conchas’ message is different in “that he focuses on the positive side of the situation [and that is] important to [this] field.” Hsiao thinks that Conchas is unusual because “he is a proponent of allowing the student voice to be heard [and] he gives examples across racial lines to demonstrate his findings.”
When asked to comment on how this lecture might affect the recent debate about the ‘blackface’ incident, Hsiao said, “It was planned before recent campus events. I see that it will reinforce the idea that all sorts of people can succeed in the educational realm. [Conchas’] background dispels some of the misconceptions people can have about certain groups.”
When asked about how this lecture might affect recent debates about race, diversity and admissions here at Whitman, Hsiao said, “There is the potential for this talk to focus our attention on the ways that minorities can benefit an institution in an intellectual sense. The common misnomer can be that minorities are admitted to an institution for their affirmative action value rather than their intellectual contribution. There are many reasons that this talk and other work like it can give an institution like ours a sense of hope and understanding.”
The lecture will be held Monday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. in Maxey Auditorium.