Dr. Paul Dosal of the University of South Florida is not impressed with the way most high school students learn about Latin American history.
"Latin American history pops up only when America goes to war," Dosal says. Dosal believes an advanced placement course in the subject will change that. He's the executive director of ENLACE Florida, a statewide network funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, designed to increase the number of underrepresented college graduates by creating programs and partnerships between local school districts and universities statewide. In Florida ENLACE stands for ENgaging Latino, African-American and other Communities for Education.
ENLACE Florida presented its proposal in May at the Preparate: Educating Latinos for the Future of America Conference organized by the College Board in Chicago. The proposed Advanced Placement Latin American History course and exam would cover the history of Latin American Republics from 1492 to the present, including art history, literature, music and language.
Dosal used Sunshine State statistics as a foundation for the course's relevance. Hispanics represent 20 percent of the state's population. That's expected to increase to 25 percent by 2030. U.S. Department of Commerce data show 60 percent of Florida's exports are destined for Latin America and the Caribbean. While Florida numbers are the backbone of ENLACE's pitch, Dosal says students in every state can benefit from this course.
"We're helping students to prepare to enter the global economy," Dosal says. "It's important for them to know a language if they want to go into business and trade with a region ... and even better if they know the culture and history."
"I thought it was a great presentation," says Dr. Luis Martinez-Fernandez, a professor of history at the University of Central Florida and member of the Academic Advisory Committee for History at the College Board. "I think the interdisciplinary nature of what they presented was very appealing and something appealing to teachers and students."
According to the College Board, in 2007 over 300,000 Hispanic students took at least one AP exam, the last year for which data is available. In the past five years, the number of Hispanic students who earned scores of 3 or higher on an AP exam increased by 53 percent, from 62,262 in 2002 to 95,116 in 2007.
Hispanics made up 14.6 percent of the high school student population nationwide, but 13.6 percent of AP students in 2007. However, Hispanic students made up 55 percent of students in AP Spanish, but were underrepresented in most AP courses. …