08/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Are Some Children More Valuable Than Others? Colorblindness Necessary to Fix Education

Let us, for just a moment, remember back to oh, let's say, the year 1980.

The U.S. boycotted the summer Olympics, Jimmy Carter bailed out Chrysler, Mt. St. Helens erupted in Washington state, and Bruce Springsteen's latest hit "Hungry Heart" was playing on seemingly every radio across the country.

Some might remember these as "the good old days" when things were as easy as, well, black and white.

Yes, back then the number of people who identified themselves as Hispanic to the U.S. Census was 14.5 million, about 6.5% of the population as compared to African-Americans who in that same year numbered 26.5 million and were 11.7% of the U.S. population.

That would have been a more appropriate time for the National Center for Education Statistics' new report, "Achievement Gaps: How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress."

By 1988, however, Hispanics had multiplied by more than one-third since the 1980 census, growing nearly five times faster than the rest of the population, clocking in at about 19.4 million Americans of Hispanic background, representing 8.1% of the population.

The most recent numbers show the U.S. African American population at 14% and Hispanic at 15%.

My point?

It is the year 2009, folks, there is absolutely no reason why the National Center for Education Statistics should be releasing a report about a Black/White achievement gap for U.S. school children to the exclusion of Hispanic students, not to mention Asian and many other ethnicities.

And no reason why newspapers and television and radio stations across the country should be reporting on this admittedly sad state of affairs (see Illinois numbers here) while excluding the context of every other struggling kid in the U.S. - be they poor and white, from a foreign country, or Latino.

I could point out that it has been widely reported for about two years now that by 2050 Hispanics will be 30% of the U.S. population and African Americans 15% and argue for a special report highlighting Hispanics.

But that would be silly - you can already easily find such reports (Google it). But just try getting the mainstream media to put those in the headlines and I'll personally bake you a dozen chocolate chip cookies.

There is no need to harp on the fact that, despite the very real challenges and biases African American students face in our abominable school system every day, there are now approximately 10 million Hispanic students in the nation's public kindergartens and its elementary and high schools, making up about one-in-five public school students in the United States.

Rather, it is high time to put the race and ethnicity issue - as it relates to student success in this country - in a coffin and bury it forever.

Any intelligent argument about success factors for U.S. children must center around familial wealth (lack thereof, actually) and kids' access to decent schools, learning materials, and teachers - regardless of skin color.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released a statement Tuesday in which he said: "This report makes clear that ... when schools serving children of color are primarily staffed by less experienced, less effective teachers, the effects are tragic."

He is wrong because the part about less effective teachers is a true statement for every child, even poor white or Asian ones.

And that's how we need to look at this problem if we have any hope of fixing it. Enough of trying to overhaul our education system while looking at the issue through the prism of a black/brown/white/blue-eyed/brown-eyed divide.

We are almost a full decade into the new millennium. No one child is more valuable than any other and, certainly, none of them deserve to be more or less valued in the academic research we'll need for building a first-class educational system for the next thousand years of this nation's history.

Esther J. Cepeda is an opinion journalist and expert on the issues of U.S. Hispanics/Latinos. She writes about education and much, much more on