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November 3, 2013

CEPEDA: Demolishing stereotypes

CHICAGO — Meditate on this routinely ignored fact: Not all minority children are disadvantaged or at risk.

Despite all the terrible statistics you hear and read about the seemingly insurmountable obstacles minority and immigrant children must overcome, these kids are not hopeless.

They deserve better than to be assumed a lost cause to poverty, discrimination and other limitations. Now there’s research to prove it.

According to a study conducted by the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), substantive indicators of success are regularly overlooked in research and discussions about minority kids and their life prospects.

In SRCD’s recently published social policy report, “Positive Development of Minority Children,” lead author Natasha J. Cabrera and the society’s Ethnic and Racial Issues Committee note:

“Although the development and well-being of ethnic and racial minority children have received sustained attention over the past few decades from policymakers, researchers, and practitioners, these efforts have contributed to a body of knowledge that, while rigorous and insightful, has often been deficit-oriented, emphasizing the negative effects of inadequate economic and social resources and an elevated rate of behavior problems, decreased social competence, and lower rates of school success among these children.

“A primary focus on adversity has had the unintended consequence of eclipsing the strengths or assets that minority families possess to raise healthy children.”

As I’ve written before, these ubiquitous pessimistic narratives of minority children create what Pedro Noguera, author of “The Trouble With Black Boys ... and Other Reflections on Race, Equity, and the Future of Public Education,” describes as “Pobrecito Syndrome.” This is when well-meaning people lower their expectations as a form of sympathy for students who are poor, minority or don’t have native English speakers at home.

Yet despite many real life challenges, minority students have unique repositories of strengths that are rarely taken into account in discussions of natural aptitudes, academic assets or adaptability.

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