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Bill Cosby of the Hispanic Community?

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I write in this week's edition of Education Week about how some people are still talking about Herman Badillo's book, One Nation, One Standard: An Ex-Liberal on How Hispanics Can Succeed Just Like Other Immigrant Groups, though it was published at the end of last year.

In the book Mr. Badillo, who was the nation's first Puerto Rico-born U.S. Representative, admonishes Hispanics for not placing enough importance on education and urges them to look to the example of people of Asian heritage for guidance. Mr. Badillo delivered the same message to a room full of people with cloth napkins sitting on their laps at a luncheon put on by the Manhattan Institute in New York City on January 9. I listened to the speech a couple of weeks later via a C-Span broadcast. In the speech, he said Hispanics need to pay more attention to education "to make sure this community is able to become assimilated and to move ahead."

Some Hispanics have been offended by his message, saying he's overlooked the Hispanics who have become educated and successful. "Who is he to tell us that we are failures?" said Antonio Stevens Arroyo, a professor of Puerto Rican studies at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, writing as a guest columnist in the Feb. 5 edition of Hispanic Link Weekly Report, a newsletter. On Jan. 18, National Public Radio broadcast a segment about Mr. Badillo and drew parallels to how his message has evoked reactions from Hispanics similar to some of the reactions that Bill Cosby drew from African-Americans when he said African-Americans need to take more responsibility for some of the problems of black youths.

Mr. Badillo has a particular message in his book that is relevant for educators of English-language learners. He believes that bilingual education is a failure. As a U.S. Representative in the 1970s, he fought successfully to get the first substantive provision for bilingual education into federal law. But he contends the programs didn't carry out their original purpose. The purpose, he says in his book, was for children to receive instruction in their native languages in some subjects so they wouldn't fall behind while learning English. Instead, he believes schools haven't put enough emphasis on instruction in English, and many students got stuck in such programs for years.

It's an argument that others have made, but it's interesting that it comes from someone who helped to bring bilingual education to the nation's schools.

2 Comments

"Hispanics" Don't Value Education?
Ok I don’t have the time to really get into this right now but I need to say something right now. I was listening to Herman Badillo speak on C-Span earlier and though he mentioned many substantially sound things, he also said something that I couldn’t believe. He had the nerve to say that Hispanics generally don’t value education. There are any number of problems with this statement but because it’s late, I’m sleepy and I’m supposed to run 8 miles in six and half hours I’ll just mention one.

The term Hispanic covers all Latin American countries and their descendants. Off the top of my head I don’t know how many countries and various cultures that entails but I know that it’s too many to generalize in this unprofessional and non-academic way. There’s nothing that one could say that all Hispanics generally do besides speak a variation of Spanish and come from a Latin labeled country. This type (that “they” don’t value education) of generalization is ridiculous. This doesn’t account for different countries with different values, different social class levels which have different values, and the plethora of circumstances that influence ones percieved value of education.

I was honestly floored when I heard this fabrication come out of dudes mouth. He was touted as some champion of Hispanic rights and educational mobility; what a joke. The Latin American immigrants that come here are coming from a system that often is completely different than ours so they view the road to economic mobility (education in the US) different than we do. This doesn’t mean that they don’t value education. In the system that they were socialized in, economic mobility came primarily through family ties and human capital; they also aren’t as individualistic as we are; and they aren’t driven by money and the acquisition of things like we are.

Latin American descendants that are 2nd generation or more are often disengaged from the US educational institution because of various reasons, many of which have to do with the same reason other people of color are. I have written on these issues somewhat extensively in this category, Latinos in Education (on my blog: matthewross35.wordpress.com). Please refer to these discussions. To say that Hispanics don’t value education is a complete oversimplification of the issue and is either naive or disingenuous.


I agree with Mr. Cosby's attack on the ethnic language that indicates an inability to speak in sentences with verbs. I battle this all of the time in the classroom. Bless you for putting your ideas into words!

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