Reflecting on What Latinx Culture Brings to Public Education

By Rosie Santana
September 2018
National Hispanic Heritage Month

As we honor Latinx contributions to our country during National Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s also important to reflect on what Latinx culture brings—and can bring—to our kids’ education.

For instance, you can think about the ways schools celebrate Latinx culture (often with food and music) that build understanding and help make students of various backgrounds feel welcome.

On another level, many of today’s best school priorities, from instilling social belonging to building relationships to striving for group success, are hallmarks of Latinx culture.

Collectivism, a trait we value highly, is not exclusive to Latinx culture (and there are many Latinx cultures), but it is a somewhat new concept in U.S. schools, which have long focused on students’ individual success.

The way that I grew up wasn’t just about hitting the books but also about seeking out collective wisdom, and it’s something I bring with me to my current work as a technical assistance provider at schools; the way I like to approach a problem is to talk about it with colleagues and stakeholders, gather as many ideas as I can and then consult the research literature.

Along those lines, it often seems like our tendency is to identify a problem and then jump into the research for a solution. But when it comes to school improvement efforts, if you don’t prioritize collective wisdom, you risk not fully understanding what the problem is and finding a solution that doesn’t work for everybody.

To this day, I always have my dad’s voice in the back of my head. When I was growing up in Idaho and Colorado, he showed me how he wanted our family to interact with others. For example, he was a big fan of welcoming people by offering them food.

This is how he was with family and friends, as well as new people who became our family and friends. Our group was always expanding to include more people who genuinely cared about one another.

This, to me, is something important that schools can learn from my culture during Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond: We are stronger and more engaged when we come together as family and friends than we can ever be as individuals.