Speakers on Education at LULAC Meeting--I Don’t Mean Obama or McCain

By Mary Ann Zehr — July 10, 2008 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The message of 63-year-old Joel Gomez, an associate professor of educational leadership at George Washington University, had an emotional quality to it that stood out from other presentations by Washington pundits who spoke yesterday at a session on high school reform at the annual convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens. I was there the day after the U.S. presidential contenders spoke at the meeting and the special table for the press near the registration desk had been removed. (Find Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank’s take on the candidates’ speeches here.)

Mr. Gomez relayed how when he was growing up in Brownsville, Texas, he and his peers used to ask a man, Don Eusebio, how many years he went to school. “Twelve years,” the man would answer. But when they followed up with the observation that he then must have graduated from high school, Don Eusebio answered, “No, I went to 12 years of 1st grade.”

I imagine that Don Eusebio was speaking somewhat rhetorically. But Mr. Gomez said that throughout his career as a teacher and researcher he’s continued to find that many Hispanics have not gotten much out of school. Many of his Hispanic peers didn’t graduate from high school, he said, and very few graduated from college, as he did.

After he graduated from the University of Texas and returned to Brownsville as a teacher, he recalled, “To my shock, my 6th graders couldn’t read. They couldn’t add and subtract.” He said they were smart, smooth-talking youngsters and he wondered, “How the heck did they get through six years of school and not learn anything?”

The issues that contributed to Hispanics’ spinning their wheels in school when he was young persist today, Mr. Gomez said. He urged educators to pay attention to school climate and language as keys to boosting Hispanic achievement. He’s an advocate of providing native-language instruction to students so they can keep up on school subjects with their native English-speaking peers while they are learning English.

“We will learn English. We can’t wait to learn about photosynthesis until we speak English or are fluent in English,” he said. Also, he said, schools need to create a climate where students don’t feel that in order to learn they have to be able to look and speak and gesture like the teacher.

Mr. Gomez told me after the meeting that while students who speak Spanish at home are able to learn only in English, instruction still has to be tailored in a way that takes into consideration how students use and acquire language. He reflected: “Do I want to go from being a Spanish-only speaker to an English-only speaker? No.”

He noted that while his parents and he and his siblings are bilingual, his family has always spoken Spanish at home. When he visits his parents in August, “we’re going to speak Spanish,” he said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP