I have been told by some that many times Latinos aspire to the lowest common denominator, and when one examines statistics about our educational attainment, wealth building, teen pregnancy and incarceration rates, one might be led to believe that assertion on its face without considering other factors. However, the Latino education crisis is certainly a serious issue that needs to be addressed within our community because it has implications for our well being and more broadly, the country’s advancement. So when I read this quote by Congressman Ortiz (D-TX) in this piece about how one in every 20 members of congress does not have a college degree, I was a bit disappointed:
“One of them, Representative Solomon Ortiz, Democrat of Texas, is quoted by the news service as saying that he sees no difference between himself, a high school dropout who joined the Army to help his mother support his family, and his more credentialed colleagues. “They put their pants on the same way I put my pants on,” the article quotes him as saying.”
Obviously, we don’t want to confuse education for intellect, and yes, we can always say that former President George W. Bush held degrees from Yale and Harvard and did not prove to be the brightest bulb in the box, but higher education is truly transformative in that provides opportunities for those of us who don’t aspire to win popularity contests and is requisite to enter many professions. Furthermore, education enables one to analyze situations within historical and philosophical contexts. I’m saddened that Solomon Ortiz, one of the leaders in our community, would make such a crass statement about academic credentials and then reach for the lowest common denominator of putting on pants. Sure, we all put on pants and have similar bodily functions, but there certainly is a difference in how lives are led, decisions are made and problems solved when one examines those who have made education a priority versus those who have not. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be formal education either, but it certainly helps in our credential driven world.