The Underlying Issue

Hispanic Outlook Magazine recently featured an initiative by the National Latino Education Research Agenda Project (NLERAP) which attempts to increase the cultural competency of teachers.

The issue of culturally competent or “culturally intelligent” teachers is not isolated to K-12 schools; it permeates to colleges and universities. According to Excelencia in Education, Latinos represent approximately 4% of faculty (instruction and research) and 3% of instruction and research assistants. Throughout my college years, I had a handful of Latino instructors at best – this while I attended a college which is currently in the top five for graduating Latinos! While Latino and minority faculty representation has certainly improved, it has not kept pace with the great diversification among students on campus. Why is this important? Students’ perspectives and beliefs are a byproduct of their cultural experiences.

I’ll give you a personal account. My dissertation work focused on the leadership characteristics of Latinos. It’s an area of study that is of vital importance to businesses given the increasing numbers of Latinos entering the workforce. However, only a small number of scholars have examined the topic, mostly Latinos, and zero faculty in my doctoral program. This is not meant to disparage my program; it’s an unfortunate reality on most campuses and in the leadership literature. How my final study might have differed – I’m not sure. But it would have been different having someone who genuinely understood, for example, the meaning of familialismo, and how it impacts Latino leaders.

The initiative of developing culturally sensitive teachers is a good one. But just as important, if not more, is the vital necessity to reassess the issue of effective recruitment and development of Latinos and other minorities in academia.

Photo: Ryan Wick