Recently, the Orange County Register ran a story on a local charity. Eighteen year old Erika Sanchez was quoted as saying:
Nothing is going to hold Erika Sanchez back.
The 18-year-old wants more than the path taken by many of her peers.
"I look at my cousins and my close friends from when I was younger and they're living a life where they're basically going to be at the same place," said Sanchez, who grew up in Santa Ana. "Their husbands are still going to be working the same job and they're going to be home with their kids and that's just always going to be their life.
"It's just always been hard for me to accept that I have to stay in the same place my whole life.
The confidence and skills that Sanchez gained through Santa Ana-based KidWorks have helped her find her own way.
Obviously, all the time and money spent by KidWorks on Sanchez has paid off, she is prepared for a life of excitement and glamor and celebrity.
The article further notes:
KidWorks' Possible Dream is to provide a science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics program (STEAM Dream) within its after-school program curriculum. The nonprofit's after-school program serves 300 children in kindergarten through 12th grade. The STEAM Dream would help them learn science and math through creative activities.
When she was between second and third grade, Sanchez's mother started taking her to KidWorks to better her English. As she got older, she was introduced to the arts and writing. She learned a lot about herself.
"I remember taking art classes and falling in love with art and being like 'I may be passionate about this.'" Sanchez said. "I was involved with the newsletter program that we had and discovered that I really enjoy writing."
More than three months into her first year at Biola University, Sanchez is still a presence at KidWorks, despite no longer being a student there.
It is my estimation that about $2,000 to $3,000 per year was spent on Sanchez over ten years, amounting to about $20,000 to $30,000, if one includes "direct to student" expenditures such as staff to tutor English, writing skills, computer and software purchases for student use, overhead for rent, utilities etc in the rented space. Now, what did that money accomplish?
Not much. Perhaps a few Nikki Blonsky (from "Hairspray" and "Ugly Betty") dreams:
But there are only so many roles by openly gay writer-director-producer John Waters for very fat girls dancing. For all the money spent, it looks as if KidWorks has not produced a young woman even interested in a career in Math or Science. Instead, dreams of fame and vague desires about "passion for writing."
Self esteem is fine, based on accomplishment. I could care less if a researcher discovering a cure for cancer is fat or thin, has a fabulously glamorous lifestyle, or simply goes home to spouse and family every night (which would very likely be the case). Someone who has accomplished something difficult, worthwhile, and beneficial to society, well that person deserves every bit of their self-esteem.
Self esteem based on "you go girl" idiocy and platitudes about "nothing can hold her back" is self-defeating and a waste of resources. One would think that science and math are not learned by "creative activities" but rather the drudgery that accomplishes, say, achievement in the martial arts, or boxing, or football, or math and science for White and Asian (particularly Asian) kids. It means lots of studying, memorization, of working problems, of working to understand concepts and being able to apply them. All of which are about as fun as two-a-days in July and early August, or bag work in the gym. America understands and embraces hard work and discipline for athletic, musical, and even scientific achievement (as long as those doing so in science are Asian or White). Yet we reject out of PC/Multicultural platitudes the same hard-won knowledge, when it comes to Latino and Latina students. And yes, Black students.
A great deal, in fact most educational resources, are in effect wasted on girls like Sanchez. She is not evil or bad, simply a poor use of scarce dollars for investment in Math and Science achievement. At best, she is a failed Liberal Arts major in Chicano Studies or something, demanding more investment by society to further the dream of fame and stardom.
Unlikely given her height, weight, and appearance. At 18, she should be in the peak of her beauty, not resembling a sixty five year old matron. Her build and obesity are very common among Latina girls from Mexico. Short and stout comprise most Mexican girls. Height is limited by genes, but the lack of exercise from young girlhood and obesity inducing diet is cultural. Like most from Amerindian backgrounds, the highly processed foods and high carbohydrate content of the modern American diet, designed to feed robust men doing extremely hard physical labor (farming, mining, lumber, etc. BEFORE mechanization) have not served people like this well. Or, put more simply, the diet of Scottish and Norwegian fisherman hauling traps all day in the frigid North Sea, or their descendants cutting timber by hand, or mining by hand, is not conducive to those whose ancestors lived off limited calories in tropical or semi-tropical environments.
Nevertheless, the young woman's general obesity is very, very common among Mexican and Mexican ancestry teen girls. Any drive past a Mexican majority High School as kids are let out will confirm this in five minutes. If one wonders why so many Mexican young men fall into gangs and criminality despite the obvious drawbacks (you can get killed with one wrong step) you need look no further. A life of law-abiding nose to the grindstone gets you … Erika Sanchez. Who knows nothing can hold her back, and does not yearn for a life of being in the same place, married to the same man, taking care of the same kids. A life of criminality can offer the possibility, should one rise high, of a girl much more attractive.
Not all marketplaces trade in money, exactly. Even if they can be boiled down to the equivalent.
Are there talented young men and women even in the Barrio who deserve attention and help to succeed in Math and Science?
Yes. There are. There just are not that many of them. Inside Santa Ana Unified, there are likely no more than about 35-40 students each year who have any hope of a career in math and science, including stuff like a career in basic chemistry, or mechanical engineering, and the like. Santa Ana Unified has 58,000 students K-12. Or put it another way, about 4,461 students in High School, roughly, dividing by 13. It is 95% Latino (Mexican) and about 1.1% White. About 60% don't speak English, essentially "English learners." That runs about 0.008% of the District's Seniors being able each year to do anything in Math and Science.
That is a poor use of resources. Shooting a shotgun full of money, in effect, at Mexican kids in barrio schools in the hope of hitting a few that will add value is something that would never be tolerated in a for-profit endeavor. There are indeed kids who are worth investing in. Far better is identifying them, coaching them, training them, and investing in them alone. This is essentially what Jaime Escalante did (identifying through his network of Junior High teachers who could be fed into his Calculus Prep classes and who was not worth the time and effort).
And importantly, this is what every successful High School and College Coach does. They must and do of course, teach skills. Teamwork. Discipline. But none of that matters if the young men they coach do not have the solid athletic ability demanded on the football field or basketball court or baseball diamond. Everyone understands this. No one tolerates a "shotgun approach" of firing money at kids to make them all track or baseball or football or basketball stars. If you are not tall, no matter how talented you are, you will not be playing Basketball at the College or NBA Level. This is reality. And no one has the fantasy that simply throwing a lot of resources at ordinary kids with no height and athletic ability will produce NBA and NFL and MLB winners.
America would do a lot better by using the proven methods of coaches to create and train science and math winners.