Edu-Wednesday: Communication Skills Key To Scholastic Success

Guest post by Efrain Nieves (@efrain_nieves ) and Victoria Cepeda (@Vicky522)

A few months back, during the Fall of 2010, the Obama administration called for a commission to help come up with methods to boost Hispanic’s college graduation rate.

As published on a WSJ article, President Barack Obama said Latino children faced “challenges of monumental proportions” in education, noting that many attended low-performing high schools and were ill-prepared for higher education. “It’s going to take all of us—public and private sector, teachers and principals, parents getting involved in their kids’ education,” he said. No kidding.

The main reasons for the call to create this commission came in the wake of the U.S. falling off from the first to twelfth spot of countries with the highest graduation level for the 25-34 age group. The U.S. now graduates 40.4% of people within the 25-34 age group. According to the article the main reason for the slip is attributed to the low graduation rate of minorities but in particular Hispanic males.

The reasons behind this disparity could be anything from an already low high school graduation rate, poverty and financial strain to, sadly, a cultural tendency to allow the streets to teach our boys ” a ser hombres”.  A train of thought that places them in a very vulnerable position when it comes to gangs, drugs and petty crimes that lead to run ins with the law. Truth is that, by the time Latino males graduate from high school, most may have already spent most of their teenage years fighting stereo types and/or the school system.

However one factor that I seldom hear being mentioned or attributed to Latino males with low college graduation rate is the the fact that boys/males, on average, lack good writing and communication skills. Biologically speaking males “have more cortical area devoted to spatial-mechanical functioning and half as much to verbal-emotive functioning. The more words a teacher uses, the greater chance a boy will quit listening, says Bill McBride in his Teaching to Gender Differences. In addition, girls often ask a teacher for help and enjoy a close relationship with a teacher. Whereas, boys may not ask for help to avoid being perceived as “sucking up” to a teacher. Add to the above factors the fact that a large number of teenage boys heading into college have had to learn English as a second language an added stress factor.

Why are these components important to a young man’s development? Well, judging by the success of Latinas, in higher education as well as social media, it is safe to infer that since women possess strong communication skills, as well as an ability to verbalize their needs without feeling ashamed, doors are opening and leading to higher education in larger numbers than experienced by our Latino men.

Let us take it even one step further. What if more boys were encouraged from early on to read, write and express themselves without their parents or friends viewing these traits as feminine in nature? Think about it for a minute. In our daily lives we communicate with each other more than in any other prior generations.  Our passport to a good job or scholarship comes via

  • (A) good cover letter
  • (B) and our ability to “sell” ourselves. Once we land an interview
  • (C), we need to verbally convey how our unique set of skills are the right fit for a company, or school, compared to the skills of other candidates.  If we are successful we will get a job offer
  • (D)). In other words, we cannot get to point (A), (B) or (C) without good writing and communications skills.

I am convinced that if we encourage young boys to express themselves it would be conducive to scholastic success. It is my experience that teachers tend to be more willing to help a student that shows interest and verbalizes his/her inability to grasp a concept. As parents we must provide our young boys with the confidence to succeed in school and understand that their talents may come in various ways. A boy that feels comfortable reading and writing will have no problems expressing his frustrations thus reducing his risk of resorting to violent outbursts when confronted.

While  schools teach us to outperform our peers in math and science they place  little emphasis on writing effectively and communicating eloquently. In my opinion, this could be one of the unspoken reasons why Latinos are trailing Latinas and other minorities in college graduation rates. Perhaps a  far fetched concept but a totally sensible correlation.



Efrain Nieves is a freelance writer, blogger, artist, poet and advocate of the Latino-American experience. Victoria Cepeda is a self-proclaimed Dominican born, Amazon by trade,  Story teller, Blogger and Financial Reporting Specialist. They write collaboratively on education and political issues on the blog.


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