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Esther J. Cepeda

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CEPEDA: The business of black America

It’s time to flip the script. We need to stop seeing the African-American community strictly as one in need of recuperative social services and begin to understand that it could reach its full potential if we invested in its inherent ability to be enterprising.

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CEPEDA: Where dehumanization leads us

If we really are finding ourselves in some sort of period in our human or societal development in which it turns out that something deeper than racism is feeding the mass failure of our black kids and encouraging the so-called school-to-prison pipeline, we need to acknowledge it before buying into the idea that universal preschool and other educational interventions will be a magical elixir for young men of color.

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CEPEDA: An evaluation for the teacher

Under the old standards of evaluation systems, 99 percent of teachers were routinely deemed to be “effective,” regardless of student achievement.

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CEPEDA: College aid as a family affair

CHICAGO -- February was Freak Out Month, errr, I mean, FAFSA Month. But, hey, same thing. And March is hardly better.. If the mere mention of FAFSA -- the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which most colleges and universities use as the universal form for determining financial aid eligibility

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CEPEDA: Chasing diversity in education

Back when I was oblivious about what went on in underperforming public schools, I had fanciful notions that the key to encouraging social mobility was college access.

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CEPEDA: Waiting for some good news

CHICAGO -- Judging by news coverage of the nation's fastest growing ethnic minority, you'd think that "the Hispanic condition" was a pathology. With the exception of growing power in the voting booth, the news makes it seem as though we're all poor, sick and generally unable to cope with life

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CEPEDA: Still at odds over immigration

Still no middle ground in immigration war. CHICAGO -- To some, the handful of calls for amnesty for illegal immigrants in the days after Republicans were rebuked at the voting booth momentarily made it seem as though a bipartisan immigration reform was but a mere formality. The GOP, the notion

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CEPEDA: Perils of the princesses

CHICAGOAn intelligently written -- and roundly criticized -- column by Hannah Weinberger caught my attention the other day.. Posted on CNN.com, "Where are all the millennial feminists?" delved into the question of why so many women -- even ones outside the author's stated age range of 18-29 -- cringe

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CEPEDA: Overselling Latino vote power

CHICAGO -- With but a few weeks until Election Day, now is as good a time as any to review some recent headlines about the Latino vote.. In early September, Emmy Award-winning actress America Ferrera gave attendees at a Democratic National Convention forum a hard-core reality check.. "It

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CEPEDA: Liberate Big Bird and PBS

CHICAGO -- I love Big Bird.. We go way back, as far into my childhood as I can remember. Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, and the crew at Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood were among the first who ever spoke to me in English.. Oh, there were others: Tennessee Tuxedo and Chumley

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CEPEDA: Wired, but not for learning

CHICAGO -- As America moves toward closing the digital divide by helping equip even the most impoverished schools with laptops, PCs, tablet computers and iPods, let us ponder the dawning of a new kind of gulf that's not based on lack of technology but the inability to use it meaningfully

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CEPEDA: Immigration-reform chump change

CHICAGO -- If you believe the headlines, President Barack Obama has gotten back into the good graces of Latino voters by deferring the deportation of tens of thousands of young people.

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CEPEDA: Looks can deceive

CHICAGO -- I recently ran across a delightful campaign-style button that read: "I could be illegal." And it's true -- I could be.

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CEPEDA: A college reality check

CHICAGO -- It's commencement speech season, the time of year when sage elders pass on bits of wisdom to graduating college students ready to rip their mortar boards off and go change the world. But I'll tell you who really needs the wisdom to tackle post-college life: high school juniors.

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CEPEDA: Be bolder, Mayor Bloomberg

CHICAGO -- I'll infuriate all the nanny-state haters out there, but I must say that I love it that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has suggested banning giant sugary drinks. Too bad the idea is a complete loser.

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CEPEDA: Pizza with culture war topping, por favor

CHICAGO -- There are two kinds of people in the world: those who get inspired by a challenge and those who interpret it as an insult.

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ESTHER CEPEDA: Step up, Gov. Romney, and stand up to far-right immigration ire

CHICAGO -- Mitt Romney passed up a golden opportunity last week to take a meaningful step toward making inroads with the Latino community by proving he's not harshly anti-immigrant. He blew it.

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CEPEDA: Education's revolving door

CHICAGO -- When you live in a school district where 64 percent of the students come from low-income homes and budgets have been squeezed to death, every official school communication has the potential to ruin your day. So it went when I read a letter from my youngest son's school informing us we're getting a new principal next year.

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ESTHER CEPEDA: Cory Booker's epiphany

CHICAGO -- This far outside the Beltway, it's easy to see why regular people are so put off by politics -- our endless 24/7 stream of dysfunctional statecraft has become so toxic that it is even making politicians sick.

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CEPEDA: Educating people to be parents

CHICAGO -- If there's any societal group today responsible for the future well-being of our nation that isn't being held accountable enough, it's parents.

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CEPEDA: Why DREAM is still a nightmare

The jobs situation is no better than when the DREAM Act failed.

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ESTHER CEPEDA: A lifestyle, not a food, choice

CHICAGO -- Are you the least bit surprised that simply irrigating the nation's so-called "food deserts" with more fresh fruits and vegetables doesn't result in healthier communities?

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CEPEDA: For young illegals, return to homeland might be better option

CHICAGO -- A few weeks ago, a senior at one of the local high schools asked me: What should I do? Scrape by and go to college here only to hit a brick wall once I'm looking for a real job, or just start working under the table now? With kindness and sincerity, I told the Mexican native: Go south, young woman.

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CEPEDA: Misreading the Hispanic voter

CHICAGO -- Will Latinos actually have an impact on the 2012 elections? And will the Republican Party's hard line on illegal immigration drive Latino voters into the waiting arms of the incumbent deporter in chief? I'm beyond tired of seeing these questions all over the news. They're the wrong questions.

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ESTHER CEPEDA: Closing young Americans' minds

CHICAGO -- Let me apologize for the language I'm about to employ in this column. It's not every day that I feel so strongly about something that I have to use so many controversial words with the potential to offend. Here goes: dinosaurs, pepperoni and, steel yourself -- birthday!

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CEPEDA: The language of assimilation

CHICAGO -- Back in the mid-1700s, German immigrants were the bane of my favorite founding father, Benjamin Franklin, who believed they'd never assimilate into the predominant culture of the time.

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ESTHER CEPEDA: Where is the political inspiration?

CHICAGO -- Folks, I hate to break it to you, but even though it seems to have been grinding on for years already, this presidential election is on pace to drag on forever. Why? One word: enthusiasm -- a serious lack of it.

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CEPEDA: The reluctant Syrian activist

CHICAGO -- Hadia Zarzour's mental outlook has steadily deteriorated from excited hopefulness about her future into an anxiety-fueled countdown over her pending return to her Syrian homeland.

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CEPEDA: Deported, and now childless

CHICAGO -- Wasteful, senseless and cruel. How better to describe the ridiculous battle that Felipe Montes is waging to be reunited with his three U.S.-born children?

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CEPEDA: When a film can be a bridge

Everyone has a guilty pleasure and mine is Will Ferrell. Ferrell is starring in a Spanish-language American comedy called "Casa de Mi Padre" -- "House of My Father" -- opening nationwide this week.

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CEPEDA: In classrooms, quality counts

CHICAGO -- Every few months, a handful of education reform advocates push the idea that the public education system's woes could be fixed if only there were more black or Hispanic teachers in classrooms.

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CEPEDA: Changing tactics, not their dreams

Immigrant youth activists are ceasing to highlight only the very best and brightest -- straight-A student emblems of perfection -- in relation to the DREAM Act.

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CEPEDA: Just show us respect

Just show us respect. Time magazine's March 5 edition is barrier-breaking, according to Richard Stengel, the managing editor. In his "Editor's Desk" letter to readers he wrote, "For the first time in our history, we have a Spanish sentence as our cover line: Yo decido. I decide.". Ugh.

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CEPEDA: The year I became a 'minority'

Is the sky falling for minority students because the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case seeking an end to using race as a preferential college admissions factor? Not necessarily.

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CEPEDA: A false story about Latinos

CHICAGO—Let's get something straight: Latinos are not anti-Israel, despite what you may have heard on the Internet or in emailed newsletters.

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CEPEDA: When I chose life

CHICAGO — Here I am less than a week from my annual memorial to the daughter I lost at birth and I can't help but defend Rick Santorum's recent statements about prenatal testing being a gateway to abortion. Though I'm pro-choice, Santorum is not so off the mark.

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ESTHER CEPEDA: Not a fan of the new 'lady' Legos.

CHICAGO — My sons are aghast at what we call the new "Lady Legos." So am I.

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ESTHER CEPEDA: Gutting the DREAM Act

During one of the Republican debates in Florida, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney agreed that the only way they'd support the DREAM Act is to take out the educational component in favor of the military option. It's unfair and cruel.

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ESTHER CEPEDA: The need for a bilingual America

Does your blood boil at the idea that a candidate for political office can be denied a spot on a ballot because of the inability to speak perfect English? Or does the boiling commence when someone suggests that elected officials don't need to be proficient in the English language?

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ESTHER CEPEDA: Florida's Latino vote is up for grabs

All eyes are on Florida because it's the first primary where Latino voters can have a significant impact on the presidential contest. Expect it to offer meaningful predictions for future elections because the Latino vote in Florida is evolving quickly.Conventional wisdom says that Florida's Hispanic Republican vote is composed of

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ESTHER CEPEDA: A flattering portrait of the first lady

Forget the made-up controversy about whether Jodi Kantor's new book, "The Obamas," makes the first lady come off as an "angry black woman" -- the author's meticulously reported portrayal is a love letter to the wife-in-chief.

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ESTHER CEPEDA: A Latino identity crisis

CHICAGOThe Latino community is finding itself in a quandary about how to reconcile a tremendously diverse collection of immigrants and multigenerational U.S.-born citizens who can fall anywhere on the socioeconomic map from dirt poor to super rich.

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ESTHER CEPEDA : Education's help-seeking gap

A recent study shows surprising data: Our nation's low-income public school students don't know how to ask for help.

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ESTHER CEPEDA: When replicas become deadly

Three days after Jaime Gonzalez Jr., a 15-year-old Brownsville, Texas, resident, was killed by police in his middle-school hallway after refusing to drop what looked like a Glock semi-automatic handgun, my son and his friend had a pistol leveled at them by a classmate.

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ESTHER CEPEDA: The cartwheel imperative

CHICAGOHere it is again, National Best Intentions Week -- that's how I describe the first few days of the new year when resolutions are still exciting and every workout place in the country is bursting with people who have promised themselves a Speedo body by summer.Since it is a time

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ESTHER CEPEDA: Bad news travels fast

CHICAGOAs I look back on 2011, I'd say the most memorable headlines concerning Hispanics fell under the "made us look bad" category. As in, I saw a negative news story attached to someone with a Latino surname and thought "Why, oh why, did the perpetrator have to be 'one of

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ESTHER CEPEDA: Bah humbug? Swear by it

CHICAGO — 'Tis the season to be crabby! I'm not kidding -- this has turned out to be the grumpiest, most anxiety-ridden holiday season ever.

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ESTHER CEPEDA: Wrong way to fight a slur

Here's a perfect example of why do-gooders who crusade for the personal dignity of illegal immigrants have all but lost the war of rhetoric.In November, the American Heritage Dictionary added the term "anchor baby" to its new fifth edition. The entry read: "A child born to a noncitizen mother

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CEPEDA: Schools go overboard on 'inappropriate'

Schools go overboard on 'inappropriate'. What happens when adults live in a world drenched in sexual innuendo, double entendre and sexually provocative media images? Children are inadvertently sexualized and become objects of suspicion.. Case in point: 7-year-old Mark Curran, a Boston first-grader, was recently accused of sexual

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CEPEDA: Gingrich's tightrope walk

Gingrich's tightrope walk on the immigration issue. CHICAGOMoments after the last Republican presidential candidate debate ended, the ever-breathless blogosphere started wondering if Newt Gingrich was making a play for the Latino vote with his controversial remarks about being humane to America's 11 million illegal immigrants.Of course he was. Gingrich

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ESTHER CEPEDA: Heard any good books lately?

I read voraciously. Two local and two national newspapers cover-to-cover and dozens of websites daily, most of what my Twitter timeline feeds me, and stacks of weekly and monthly news magazines. How do I unwind?

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CEPEDA: Immigration's growing pains

Immigration's growing pains a positive. CHICAGOIf there's anything good to be said about the substance of the national debate over immigration, it's that even though policy conversations have centered almost exclusively on enforcement measures, the focus is no longer cultural.Back in 2005 when the Hispanic community went into revolt after

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CEPEDA: The ostrich factor and childhood obesity

Ostrich factor doesn't serve vs. childhood obesity issue. CHICAGOIt would be nice to say that it's shocking that a mere five days after the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommended that children between the ages of 9 and 11 get tested for high cholesterol, Congress blocked what would have

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CEPEDA: 5,100 reasons for outrage

If you are committed to the rule of law, if you expect your government to work in a cohesive and cost-effective manner, and even if you're strongly against illegal immigration -- here are 5,100 reasons to be outraged at how immigration laws are being enforced.

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CEPEDA: The overlooked voting bloc: Asian Americans

With less than a year until Election Day 2012, candidates for political office should be making sure they're not neglecting the most affluent, independent and now the fastest growing racial group of voters simply because they have routinely been overlooked in past

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CEPEDA: The White House isn't listening

CHICAGO -- Doesn't it drive you crazy when elected officials say they're going to do something and then don't? Worse is when they kinda-sorta do something to pretend they've made an impact, as if no one's going to notice that they really haven't.

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CEPEDA: Those pesky student loans

Those pesky student loans. CHICAGO -- Fundamentally, American society doesn't value a college education as the necessary prerequisite to gaining knowledge or becoming a responsible citizen. Instead, it is promoted as the guaranteed means to gainful employment.. In fact, the value of a college education is dropping so much that

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CEPEDA: Loss of confidence

Book a scary, sad look at Obama's term. CHICAGOIt's only October, but I have a nomination for the scariest book of 2011 -- maybe the saddest, too.I've rarely read a book that punched me in the gut quite like "Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President"

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CEPEDA: The fluency challenge

CHICAGO — I grew up bilingual in a city where as many as 64 languages were spoken by the public schools' diverse student body. And like everyone else in our nation of immigrants, I've navigated language-barrier challenges such as difficulty communicating with new American co-workers and taking college courses taught

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CEPEDA: Pity the children

Pre-teen beauty pageants have crossed way over the line.

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CEPEDA: Obesity's a health, not an image, problem

Half the United States will be obese by 2030 unless government interventions -- making healthy foods cheaper, junk food more expensive, and regulating the marketing of unhealthy foods -- are put in place, according to a report in the Lancet, a British medical journal.At the

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CEPEDA: Our immigration quandary: States can't act, feds won't.

Our immigration quandary: States can't act, feds won't. CHICAGO --In the most recent example of sending mixed signals about illegal immigration, a federal judge has temporarily blocked Alabama's far-ranging new immigration law, which is widely seen as tougher and more cruel than the infamous "papers, please" one that Arizona

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CEPEDA: Addressing childhood obesity

Finally, two experts had the courage to state the obvious: Parents who let their children become obese enough to suffer from serious medical complications are committing child abuse.

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CEPEDA: Addressing childhood obesity

CHICAGO — Finally, two experts had the courage to state the obvious: Parents who let their children become obese enough to suffer from serious medical complications are committing child abuse.

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CEPEDA: The fine line between purity, mass appeal

The London Evening Standard called it a triumph of nerve and talent. The Financial Times' Clement Crisp, who's seen just about everything in his near-80 years, said it was an amazing sight.

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CEPEDA: Lottery winners giving Latinos college hope

Most people fantasize about winning the lottery. And then there are those who don't hope and pray after buying their weekly round of tickets -- they plan.

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CEPEDA: A tale of two school systems' civics report

High school seniors have gotten another grim report card in civics. According to the recently released 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 64 percent of public school students who are either voting age, or close to it, have only a partial understanding of the rights and duties of citizenship in America’s constitutional democracy.

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CEPEDA: American mothers should be treated with much more respect

Hug a mother or grandmother extra tight this Sunday because no amount of pink carnations and chocolate can possibly make up for how tough moms have it in this country.

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CEPEDA: Awareness bracelet sends wrong message

"Boobs." I hate that word.

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CEPEDA: Low marks on immigration

While headlines distract us with the latest battles in various states over immigration, we should be checking in with what’s going on at the federal level. And what better time than the run-up to the 2012 presidential election?

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CEPEDA: Yearning for the mainstream

CHICAGO — In a world where everyone is considered special and believes themselves to be, like the residents of Garrison Keillor’s fictitious Lake Wobegon — strong, good-looking and above average — I’m striving for ordinary, general, and mainstream.

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CEPEDA: Rethinking education reform

Across the country, cities and states are reconsidering their traditional roles as local competitors and banding together to overcome shrinking budgets and crumbling economies. Their hope is that regional planning efforts will enable them to carve out a shared future through a new knowledge economy.

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