Thursday, January 11, 2007

Five Hundred Year Siesta

These are the responses to my January10, article, "Badillo Says Hispanics Don't Value Education Due to 500-Year Siesta" Thanks to all, please continue to provide us with your feedback.


  1. Anonymous10:23 AM

    Gender attractions and modifications ~ the keys to upward mobility

    With reference to the 'achievement disparity' and motivation issue, Latin communities have come from 'relaxed' communities, hot weather, loose clothing, no strain from the exigencies of cold and needed shelter. This 'ease' had had an effect--or a cascade of them, chief of which is frankly a vibrant manana mentality that decreed making do, then loving one's close friends and kin, enjoying life's bounty, and trusting in Dios. Education and deferment of enjoyments did not and does not play a large role in the cultural matrix. Changing that matrix is a matter of decades and decades, not a series in the Post or a documentary in PBS. If women respond to men who do not offer much in the way of hard security and cash revenue, then men will not push for impressive credentials. If women (i.e., sex partners and marriage/cohab mates) turn up their noses at such men, the men will button down extremely quickly.

    Jewish women, in my quondam experience, ignore men who do not offer long-term stability credentials--men who extol live, laugh and be happy are no more than jokes around the campus. But a woman is instantaneously and seriously interested in deferred-earnings magicians, men who can keep an apartment, a job, and treat a woman to the emoluments of a stratum in life they have been led to expect of their male compatriots. Such men are accorded respect and children. The jokes in this respect bear a striking resemblance to group mores. If a man failed to secure his place on a ladder in the recent past, he was subject to unexpected pogroms, prejudice, downsizing and far, far worse. This seared itself into the jungian subconscious of all Jews everywhere. None is more than two generations from forced moves from countries they had 'always' been 'securely attached to.' The luxury of casualness is not an option to Jews. We are too tenuous and the footing is uncertain, even in the great PX of the US.

    For their part, Chinese/Asian women, highly motivated and career-driven, from communistic reforms and mindsets forcing men and women to earn as a social means to improvement and equality of opportunity, expect their men to offer long-term interest and earning power. They must retire at 50 (women) or 55 (men) because of crushing population competition. They have few children (mainland PRC) to care for them when they 'retire.'

    Note the strata in black cultural subcommunities where the polity has risen and still shines: Jamaican people are found in every level of service, all having learned from the long-ago forebears that inhabited their lands, Great Britain, the industrious, achievement- and education-wedded northern crowd who had to feed and clothe themselves in the dank and dreary and fog-festooned fastnesses of a competitive island.

    In fine: Teach a culture's women to shine, and to ignore/extinguish the traits in their men that were past indices of acceptable, and the men will come around to learning, respecting their vitae, golden parachutes, Xmas bonuses and real earning power.

  2. Anonymous10:24 AM

    My father once told me: you either produce results or you produce excuses. As you can surmise, the moment he had this advice ready for me happened to be one of failure and embarrassment. I soon realized that it was, in fact, an empowering suggestion. With my own children, I try to impart this advice by example rather than by words.

    “Today's elected officials, primarily Bronx Democrats, assert that any differences in performance between groups result from inadequate teachers, dilapidated buildings, overcrowded classes, and social and economic discrimination.”

    Badillo hit the nail on the head. Stop the excuses. It’s embarrassing.

  3. Anonymous10:25 AM

    What a wonderful piece. Herman Badillo is certainly correct in his views. Maybe we ought to bring in private school teachers to help solve the problem. Eliminating the segregating prone ESL programs would be a start.


  4. Anonymous10:25 AM

    He is right,

  5. Anonymous10:27 AM

    I haven't read Mr. Badillo's book yet, but I can say that I am a perfect example of his thesis. My parents of Cuban-PuertoRican descent placed much of their attention on learning English, speaking English in the house, and giving my siblings and I the best education possible. I am college educated, I make a decent salary, I read and write English well, and I have never been discriminated for being "Hispanic" but rather for being "white".


  6. Anonymous10:28 AM

    Badillo is absolutely correct and has the courage to tell the truth which his ethnic group does not want to hear. Blaming another for one's problems failure gives the individual and the group an excuse but no future and nothing will change. Do the examples, the Chinese and the Jews, decry the successful members of their community? No, they praise them and try to emulate them. If a group calls it's most successful and honest members "blanquito" then what do they inadvertently praise, the failure, the school dropout, the low wage laborer. Why move to this country if what they admire is the behavior and mindset they left their native, dysfunctional countries to escape. We can go back to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar for the appropriate quote " The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are the underlings. Act I, Scene 2. And yes, the play is in English.

  7. Anonymous10:29 AM

    This is one of my all-too-frequent "present at the
    creation" stories.
    In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the government of
    Puerto Rico had the good sense to worry about how
    emigrants to NYC fare. One of its major initiatives
    was to dramatically improve the teaching of English
    in the lower grades in Puerto Rico itself. A couple
    we knew well were hired as consultants to the
    Department of Education in Puerto Rican and lived
    and worked in San Juan for several years in that
    capacity. Their work was along the lines of the
    original bi-lingual program in NYC.

    But they faced some of the same problems we did
    here--the teachers of English mostly could not read
    or speak English well. My friends early on were told
    to speak ONLY Spanish in dealing with teachers of
    English and program supervisors. That is, the
    program was captured and converted into a "jobs for
    the boys" scam. As I recall, Herman Badillo was the
    first well-known person to go public on this.

    At CUNY (before Herman's position on the CUNY
    Board), a rule that CUNY students were supposedly
    required to show proficiency in English in their
    first two years, before going on, was not enforced.

  8. Anonymous10:30 AM

    According to national data, Connecticut has the worst achievement gap in the country. The problem is not confined to a certain subset of communities or school districts: we see the same phenomenon in every town across our state, no matter how wealthy the community or well funded the school system. National data produces the same result: a superficial review would suggest that in America today, "demographics is destiny".

    However, when the data is examined at the level of individual schools, we find a handful of exceptions. These schools seem to consistently inspire successful academic performance from almost every child, irrespective of family income, race, or incoming students' English language skills. Some of these schools operate in our state's poorest communities with all minority student bodies, but they are performing at academic levels found in wealthy white communities.

    Paul Trout recently wrote an excellent cover article for the NYT Magazine that describes this phenomenon. In particular, he found a consistent level of excellence in the public charter schools launched by three non-profit organizations, Achievement First (creator of Amistad Academy), KIPP Academy, and Uncommon Schools. In his words:

    "The methods these educators use seem to work: students at their schools consistently score well on statewide standardized tests. At North Star this year [an almost all-black high-poverty public charter school located in Newark, NJ and managed by Uncommon Schools], 93 percent of eighth-grade students were proficient in language arts, compared with 83 percent of students in New Jersey as a whole; in math, 77 percent were proficient, compared with 71 percent of students in the state as a whole. At Amistad, proficiency scores for the sixth grade over the last few years range between the mid-30s and mid-40s, only a bit better than the averages for New Haven; by the eighth grade, they are in the 60s, 70s and 80s — in every case exceeding Connecticut’s average (itself one of the highest in the country). At KIPP’s Bronx academy, the sixth, seventh and eighth grades had proficiency rates at least 12 percentage points above the state average on this year’s statewide tests. And when the scores are compared with the scores of the specific high-poverty cities or neighborhoods where the schools are located — in Newark, New Haven or the Bronx — it isn’t even close: 86 percent of eighth-grade students at KIPP Academy scored at grade level in math this year, compared with 16 percent of students in the South Bronx."

    Why do most low-income minority students attending these schools succeed while most fail at "traditional" public schools? What are the methods that result in high levels of students achievement? And why don't all public schools, or at least all public schools operating in low-income communities, adopt these methods?

    What it takes to create a great inner city school is well understood. There is quite a bit of literature describing "high-performing high-poverty" schools. The critical factors include maintaining focus on the progress of individual students; clearly defining the curriculum; frequent measurement of student achievement against goals and a prompt response to the results; a collaborative, civil, respectful community within the school; good teamwork that brings together the entire staff and administration (and often the students and parents) to solve problems and drive continuous improvement; clearly defined and communicated long-term goals for the students (e.g., a college education); regular positive reinforcement of good conduct, and prompt, clear but measured response to misconduct; plenty of academic time on task, and opportunities for struggling students to get even more time for their studies; outreach to parents and honest communications; regular, in some cases, daily coaching for teachers in classroom management and pedagogy provided by master teachers; objective evaluation of teachers and administrators, including 360-degree reviews; a commitment to recruiting, training and retaining the best people, and weeding out the occasional non-performer. Central to the culture of great schools is the belief that each and every child is valuable, and (virtually) every child can succeed in their studies and demonstrate good character if the adults in the school apply sufficient skill and energy to the task.

    And let me mention that great schools typically cost no more -- and often less -- than low-performing schools in the same districts.

    The failure of most traditional public schools to employ these commonsense practices is a bit mysterious, especially since high-performing schools appear to be much happier and more rewarding (if somewhat more demanding) places to work. Based on firsthand reports, we believe that the traditional public education sector, as it is presently structured, is often prone to inconsistent board governance, heavy-handed district bureaucracy, weak school-based leadership bogged down in process, and an aggressive union element focused on contract enforcement. Authority is diffused across all of these participants, and accountability is slight -- no matter how ineffective the school might be, year after year the hapless students are herded in and the paychecks just keep rolling along. In addition, we typically see slapdash recruiting practices, poor preparation and staff development practices, and assignment based on seniority as opposed to performance. Teamwork in many cases is virtually non-existent. Objective performance measures don't exist or are ignored. Rules are sporadically enforced. Academic time on task is limited. Social promotion and "feel-good" grading is the norm -- parents are left in the dark about how far behind their children are falling. Expectations for students are low.

    In the traditional public school sector, occasionally we see a strong collaboration between an inspired principal and a cadre of dedicated teachers produce a great result. Based on accounts we've received, these arrangements often depend on the principal defending the school against district office meddling, and the teachers defending the school against the union. It lasts until the principal is reassigned or retires, then it quickly breaks down and school performance reverts to the mean.

    On the other hand, the public charter school sector seems to offer some critical advantages that can translate into a much higher incidence of high-performing schools (which is what the Connecticut data confirms). And the emergence of great public charter school brands, like the ones identified in Trout's essay in the NYT, is an important phenomenon. These brands carry the promise of high performance. The simple fact that great results predictably follow from a definable set of practices is, in and of itself, a tremendous challenge to the sad performance of the traditional sector.

    For a better understanding of charter schools and how the freedom they enjoy can translate into excellence, I would encourage all of your readers to explore Achievement First's website, It is full of interesting information about successful practices. Also, if possible, visit a school run by AF, KIPP or Uncommon Schools. In one or two hours, visitors "get it" in a way that cannot be achieved by any written text.

    The political process controls all the money in public education, and the political process is problematic. While markets tend to allow resources to flow to the highest quality providers (based on customer perception), the politicians direct money based on political considerations. Anyone familiar with the surreal battle over the public charter school cap in NY understands the political math. Widespread public education reform and the kind of dramatic improvement we need will progress at a snail's pace until a catalyst emerges sufficient to offset the power of the special interests devoted to the status quo.

    Paul Trout concluded his article with these words:

    "The evidence is now overwhelming that if you take an average low-income child and put him into an average American public school, he will almost certainly come out poorly educated. What the small but growing number of successful schools demonstrate is that the public-school system accomplishes that result because we have built it that way. We could also decide to create a different system, one that educates most (if not all) poor minority students to high levels of achievement. It is not yet entirely clear what that system might look like — it might include not only KIPP-like structures and practices but also high-quality early-childhood education, as well as incentives to bring the best teachers to the worst schools — but what is clear is that it is within reach.

    Although the failure of No Child Left Behind now seems more likely than not, it is not too late for it to succeed. We know now, in a way that we did not when the law was passed, what it would take to make it work. And if the law does, in the end, fail — if in 2014 only 20 or 30 or 40 percent of the country’s poor and minority students are proficient, then we will need to accept that its failure was not an accident and was not inevitable, but was the outcome we chose."


  9. Anonymous10:30 AM

    God bless Herman Badillo!

  10. Anonymous10:31 AM

    Jews are people of the book.

  11. Anonymous10:31 AM

    I find Badillo’s argument meritorious but the rhetoric (five century siesta) inflammatory. It’s hard to see much potential for a non-English speaker to advance very far in America today. As a footnote, however, the utter inability of almost every American to master any language other than English also demands heavy criticism.

  12. Anonymous10:32 AM

    Herman Badillo should be admired for "taking the bull by the horns and standing up for what we have now found is correct". Mr. Badillo clearly shows that he will profit by experiments and when things are wrong he will say so! He is correct and willing to admit his mistakes! The way to success in America is to learn English and be educated in English!

  13. Anonymous11:29 AM

    Certainly Herman Badillo should be commended for the unflinching expression of his opinion on the second class state of education in the Latino community and the reasons for it. I am not a sociologist and therefore cannot speak cogently to all the points he makes but I feel strongly about one thing – the attitude of enablement and of accepting no blame for one’s plight or responsibility for one’s own improvement (as an individual or as a group) holds back the advancement of this country in many areas. There is nothing wrong with trying to change the status quo or in pointing out and trying to correct inequities in our political and socio-economic systems as long as those doing so take responsibility for their own improvement and advancement at the same time.


  14. Anonymous11:42 AM

    Reasons for the "gaps":

    Like Head Start, designed as a work program rather than an educational program, bi-lingual education was not designed to help students learn
    anything but to put Hispanic teachers to work while keeping them "outside" of the existing educational structure so they couldn't and didn't compete with organized teachers. It worked first in California and moved across the country accordingly taking root in those areas where a strong and growing Hispanic population existed. Despite the overwhelming evidence of their failures, bi-lingual programs still exist because the controlled educational structure continues to protect them as they protect the establishment. Veblen said that when those working in an institution are more concerned about their own interests than the interests of those they are supposed to be serving, the institution fails. The continuation of bi-lingual education is another example of why public education as we have known it, died and stgands only because it is propped up by well-meaning politicians and citizens who keep throwing billion of good money afterbad.
    One last comment for the blog:
    Unless and until teachers are properly taught to teach our children, the public education system will never right itself..its failures will begin to multiply at an exponential rate.

  15. Allen Bortnick10:14 AM

    As usual, Herman Badillo speaks out honestly, without regard to his political future.

    It is appalling to see how so many can view his words so negatively. As someone who speaks Spanish 'of necessity' in New York, I am bothered by the fact that so few Latino residents even attempt to learn or converse in English. It is especially true of the women, who, by and large, are the ones who are left to deal with the youth of the community. There seems to be an unwritten and unspoken feeling of trying to re-make where they came to, into a replica of what they so gladly left.

    After struggling to come to America to escape the very problems they least wanted to live with in their prior homes abroad, [aside from congregating in close-knit communities, which is natural and understandable for most immigrants], Latinos seem to try to duplicate the very same life-style and problems in their new-found homes, as the ones they came here to get away from. Where is the sense in that?

    What the Latino leadership should do, rather than ''bravely'' speak out against the society they inhabit in their new lands, is do what all immigrants are expected to do, and have done in the past. The reasons people come to America are obvious. If you think it's better 'here', perhaps you should also try to assimilate. Keeping your culture and your language is never a problem. Keeping the "ways" and the poor economics you came from, is a mistake and a tragic one at best, if you copy them.

    My parents came here and had to learn not only a new language, but a whole new alphabet to write with as well. They did this while working a 10 to 12 hour day, six days a week. So did tens of millions of other immigrants. Today, it is a lot easier, especially if you can come to New York, simply by buying an airplane ticket. When I traveled, I always tried to learn a few words of that country's language in advance so that in an emergency, I could communicate. Why is it so difficult, if you come to take new roots in this country, to try to at least learn and then speak English?

    I still remember the confrontation which occurred when Hostos College in the Bronx, wanted to graduate their senior class using Spanish instead of English. If that is the best idea of the Latino community, the struggle for unity has been lost. What did they hope for, or expect? Was American business going to switch to Spanish as its language of first choice? Or, worse yet, was it because they were afraid that their parents and friends would not know what w-as going on?

    Bi-lingual education was meant to be a bridge into the community and America, not a permanent path with no exit doors. When the leadership in the Latino community finally adopts this thought and brings it to their constituency, the turn-around in relations between Latinos as a group and the Americans who host them, will achieve the radical changes that are necessary to create unity between us all.

  16. Anonymous4:14 PM

    Teach a kid math in Spanish and watch him or her fail math tests when they are given in English.

  17. Anonymous5:00 PM

    I cannot speak as an Hispanic, however I can speak as an immigrant who had many difficulties to learn to speak
    correctly. With persistence and education the educational/economic goal can be accomplished. There is NO question
    in my mind that parents, grandparents, etc. are at least 51% culpable for their children's lack of education enthusiasm.
    Blaming Badillo is like "killing the messenger" and looking forward to another "Five Hundred Year Siesta"!

  18. Anonymous5:01 PM

    Herman was interviewed on his book on C-Span. There's plenty I
    > >>don't like abvout him but I agree on English immersion. All my
    > >>teacher friends bemoan the fact that Hispanic parents by and large do not stress learning English with their kids, and do not participate in school activities the way the Jewish and Chinese parents do. It's a serious national problem covering both Hisplanics and blacks.