What is justice? Justice is not the purpose of big government. Justice is the passion of a big God. Justice is not a political term to be exploited but a prophetic term to be lived out.
What is justice? Justice does not result in pathetic attempts of expediency but in prophetic postures of activism. For justice will at times march, at times it will protest, at times it will sing but justice will always speak on behalf of those that cannot speak for themselves.
The Hispanic population in the U.S. is expanding more quickly than any other. But children born to Hispanic mothers are more likely to live under the poverty line than children of any other ethnicity. The heart of God is moved by the plight of the immigrant and suffering, so He is surely concerned with the Hispanic children in America. So it is righteous that Christians reach out with compassion to clothe and feed the needy. But justice will not be served until we equip those who cannot speak for themselves now to do so in the future.
Justice flows from high for the purpose of lifting up the low, and the most direct path for Christians to raise these families out of poverty is through improving their educational achievement. Poor academic preparation for college is the primary barrier preventing students from earning a college degree, the most likely path to a family sustaining income. Students from the poorest families in the U.S. who achieve a four-year college degree are 80 percent less likely to live in the depths of poverty. Yet, only 29 percent of children from the lowest income quartile will enter college, and only 9 percent will finish. Currently Hispanic adults are less educated than any other ethnic group and the number of jobs that need a degree are only increasing. We cannot ignore what this means for the future of the growing Hispanic population.
Raising academic standards in our schools is an issue of biblical justice with the potential to positively impact the future of Hispanic children more than any other ethnic group. Raising expectations for student literacy and math skills will enable more children to graduate from high school with the skills needed to compete in college and the workplace. The Common Core State Standards, adopted by 45 states, set clear consistent guidelines for what students should be able to do at each grade level in math and English Language Arts.
For years many states have set expectations too low for all our students, but particularly those from low-income schools, where many Hispanic children are educated. The home-school and Christian school parents have long recognized the lax standards in public schools and insisted on higher standards for their children. But rigorous standards must be available to all children, especially those in poverty who need clear signals of what skills they need to succeed in college or a career. And the good news is that with the Common Core Standards, teachers—in schools that have taken the challenge to raise standards—will have increased flexibility to use the curricula or methods of their choice to best meet the needs of their student population.
Hispanic children need higher academic achievement not only for their future as members of the workforce, but as members of the church of Jesus Christ. To truly be set free by the spirit of the Lord, our people need the guidance and wisdom that can only be found through deep analysis of Bible passages. A study produced in partnership with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) showed 92 percent of Latinos in the U.S. are biblically illiterate. Higher expectations can only help our children understand scripture and communicate biblical truth more clearly in a society in desperate need of clear teaching of the Word of God. The Common Core State Standards, along with a biblical literacy campaign which the NHCLC and the American Bible Society kicked off this month, are complementary efforts to increase the role of Scripture in our communities.
I wholeheartedly endorse and support the Common Core State Standards as a critical antidote addressing the poverty crisis in the Hispanic community. Without question, our children—especially minority and immigrant students—must participate in an educational system that equips them with the necessary acumen and skills to compete. Yet the system must also provide the flexibility to meet the unique needs of students, such as English Language Learners. With the establishment of rigorous standards in both math and literature, Common Core State Standards empower all students with the foundational tools for success.
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and the Hispanic Evangelical Association.