English Learners

Criticism From Badillo Riles Some Hispanics

By Mary Ann Zehr — February 20, 2007 1 min read
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A book by the former New York congressman and longtime Hispanic activist Herman Badillo has stirred a lot of talk since being published at the end of last year.

In One Nation, One Standard: An Ex-Liberal on How Hispanics Can Succeed Just Like Other Immigrant Groups,Mr. Badillo, who was the nation’s first Puerto Rico-born U.S. representative, admonishes Hispanics for not, in his view, placing enough importance on education. He urges them to look to the example of people of Asian heritage for guidance.

“The whole Hispanic community needs a total attitude adjustment regarding the importance of education,” he writes. “It needs a new mantra: Educating our community is too important to leave to the educators.”

Some Hispanics have been offended by Mr. Badillo’s message.

“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. Mr. Arroyo called Mr. Badillo’s book “his official resignation from Hispanic leadership and a petition for a pension from the establishment that prefers made-to-order Puerto Ricans.”

According to Mr. Badillo’s account of his life experiences, he often has taken a path different from those around him.

Besides serving terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971 to 1979, he was Bronx borough president and, as a Democrat, unsuccessfully ran for city comptroller on a 1993 “fusion ticket” with Republican Rudoph W. Giuliani, who was running for mayor of New York. Mr. Badillo has since become a Republican.

While Mr. Badillo was in Congress, he succeeded in getting the first substantive provision for bilingual education into federal law.

But he writes in his book that he now views bilingual education as a failure. Schools haven’t put enough emphasis on instruction in English, and many students have gotten stuck in such programs for years, he says.

A version of this article appeared in the February 21, 2007 edition of Education Week

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