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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.

Who speaks and Who speaks not?

by Manuel Hernández

To speak or not to speak English or Spanish that is the
question. Latinos have once again brought up the dilemma of who speaks
and who speaks not English or Spanish. As the language debate continues
into heights yet unknown, truth is that the education of Latinos is in a
state of national crisis. According to US Census numbers, approximately
one in eight Americans is Latino. The Latino population augments every
second while the education boom diminishes by the hour. We Latinos
should shift gears and understand that the language issue is a reality,
but its impact must be placed in its macro-context: education.
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Education reveal a
gruesome discovery. Twenty-five percent of Latinos do not finish high
school, compared to 15% of the national average. According to a
preliminary interim study released by scholars, Latino teens are 20%
likely to graduate from high school and that less than half will
register in college. As the Latino population continues to grow to 16
percent of the total population by 2020, the end results for Latinos and
America may be catastrophic. The U.S. Census Bureau expects the number
of Latinos to almost double from 35 million to 63 million by 2030.
Latinos will make up 25 % of the kindergarten–12th grade population by
2025. The economic consequences of poorly educated students are
disastrous for the country as a whole. As a predominantly Spanish-speaking
culture, we can only look forward to the integrity of language when we
Latinos focus on the educational issues that enhance our rights to speak
our cherished tongue.
Education should be a Latino priority. In a boxing match,
opponents study each other’s weakness. When that is discovered, one
takes advantage while the other loses the fight in a step-by-step
process. Muhammad Ali spent eight rounds educating himself about George
Foreman’s weakness. We all know what happened after that. Our weakness
has been examined, revealed and exposed. Will we rise to the time or
lose the fight by knockout In Francois Grosjean’s Life with Two
Languages, he defines code switching as “the alternate use of two or
more languages in the same utterance or conversation”(145). If linguists
and academics have recognized the use of two languages as a practice
with a high degree of competence, does it really matter if we speak more
Spanish than English and vice-versa? Let us use the same reason and
passion to sustain our positions in education.
Both major American political parties have shown interest in
immigration, health care, homeownership and tax benefits. How about
education? Let us be specific in ways to improve academic standards for
Latinos. Are we going to design a proposal that will meet the demands of
our teen population? Will we support bilingual education or limited
English proficiency programs? Will we educators agree on how to
consolidate academic standards? Will we Latino parents leave the comfort
of our homes and get involved in parent’s associations in schools? The
answer to these questions and other educational issues of utmost
importance are more than just a language matter. The educational issues
are many but with a vision to win, we consolidate our children today,
disciple them in the process and send them as leaders for our up and
coming generations tomorrow.
The supernatural growth of the United States Latino population
brings forth more interesting yet unanswered questions. What specific
projects and proposals will be created to empower American Latinos to
face critical social, economic and political issues? In crime, teenage
pregnancy, domestic violence, drugs and other areas, Latinos have high
scores. The turn around and restoration must come within the Latino
community. The alternatives must come from we Latino educators, parents,
administrators, academics and students.For Latinos to have an active
role in the world of cyber-space, high-tech and academics, the American
educational system must produce critical thinkers who can become pro-active
participants. However, for too many Latinos, our educational system is
a hurdle to high for them to jump. With the upgrading of SAT’s and high
school state exams, we Latino leaders must revise our priorities and
prepare our children for the present and future. While music and
entertainment take center stage in our living rooms, our children fall
behind in school. We are the largest minority in population, but the
smallest minority in higher education. Who speaks and who speaks not?
English or Spanish? Spanish or English? Is that the question? Education
is the key, and language is the vehicle. Without the key, we will not
ride the vehicle.