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Professor Manuel Hernández
Essays Collection

Address: : 2012 Ernest St. Kissimmee, Florida 34741

Manuel Hernandez was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York in 1963. He completed undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus and finished a Master�s in Education from Herbert H. Lehman College (CUNY) in the Bronx in 1994. He has coordinated symposiums, produced and coordinated television interviews on the literature written by Puerto Rican and Latino/a writers from the Diaspora. He has done numerous presentations, workshops and seminars on how to integrate latino/a literature in the English classroom. In 2014, he participated in a TedxTalk (Connections) at Southern New Hampshire University. He is the author of three books, , Latino/a Literature in the English Classroom (Editorial Plaza Mayor, 2003), The Birth of a Rican (Imprenta Sifre. 2008) and Living the Kingdom with purpose (Imprenta Sifre, 2013). He is a Language Arts teacher at Osceola School District in Florida.

Latinos and Educational Reform in the United States (Part I)

by Manuel Hernández

Although educational task forces have been confronted with
ignorance, prejudice and disilussionment, Latinos have learned from past
experiences and are walking forward to a present and future with
educational empowerment. The educational outcomes of the contemporary
American educational system has been to create critical thinkers who
become pro-active participants in society. As a result, Latinos have
become aware that the educational development of their community is
intrinscally related to their struggles to achieve economic, social and
political justice in the United States of America.
For many Latinos, the educational system has been a hurdle to
high to jump and a revolving door for many as well. The poverty rate of
Latino children born into poverty rate is higher than 70%, and the
unemployment rate is close to 14%. The status of education for Latinos
in New York City is in a state of crisis. The United States Census
Bureau expects the number of Latinos to double in the next 27 years.
There is a need for educational reform, but we ourselves must begin to
change our mentality and attitudes towards education. In Sandra Maria
Esteves’ “It is Raining Today”, the speaker examines history, identity
and education:
Bring back truth
Return the remnants of my identity
Bathe me in self-discovered knowledge...(Latino/a Literature in the
English Classroom p.269)
But how de we change attitudes and mentalities that have been deeply
rooted and ingrained in our minds and hearts? First, we need to see
ourselves as one people and one culture. A 40 million plus Latino
population divided into Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans and
so forth. The Supernatural Forces that govern the universe are Three,
but They act as One. The human body has many cells, but they function as
one to keep the body working harmoniously. The 2003 World Series
Champions played as one to beat the lords of baseball.We cannot afford
to lose any more games on education.
Second, we must redefine our values. In Tato Laviera’s “Boricua”
poem, the poet makes a statement on values that we all should consider:
We must respect
Each other’s values,
But guess what,
We’re not the only ones
An we offer what your
love has taught us,
and what you’re worth
in our self-respect,...Latino/a Literature in the English
Classroom, p.202) The Latino family was founded on values of love,
honesty, integrity, sincerity and respect. Let us not change what has
defined us as a nation, a people and a country.
We have reached “la cima” in music , entertainment and sports, but we
cannot disregard the value of education. The greatest teacher of all
time said, “Go ye therefore teach all nations...Teaching them to observe
all things whatsoever I have commanded you...” (Matthew 28: 19-20). In
America’s war on terror, unity is its strongest ally. In a world of many
distractions, it is time to focus our attention on our one and only
true salvation: education. The new Presidential Immigrant Reform needs
close attention and careful consideration, but our number one priority
is education.
How can our children compete in a new found world with higher academic
standards? How can our children be part of a society when they feel a
lack of personal involvement in schools? How will we as the leaders of
our children see it that they receive a better education? We must reform,
but it will only occur from within ourselves first.
Looking within will help us to see ourselves in a mirror to assess,
reflect and implement the strategies and initiatives necessary to
transform. We are all tired of the statistics; they are a reality, but
the truth is in our minds and hearts. As a parent of a handsome young
fifteen year old adolescent, I want the best for him, but I cannot
ignore his generation. Unity and values are the first stage in any
educational reform, and these are the cornerstone of our present and
future generations.