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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.

The Teaching of English and Latinos in America:
Where do we go from here?
By Manuel Hernandez-Carmona copyright@2006

The teaching of English and Latinos in the United States is
without a doubt interrelated to the historical, cultural, political
and socio-economic relations that exist between the American Latino
community and the United States of America. Abraham Lincoln’s
hardest experience in life was not becoming President but enduring
the hardships of a one hundred-mile journey from Knob Creek to Little
Pigeon Creek, Indiana. The hardest experience for the teaching of
English for Latinos has been the constant twists and turns of the
educational policies that have governed it during the last one
hundred plus years. Because these elements co-exist, a constructive
view of the teaching of English is needed to recognize and set forth
a vision, which includes four basic stages:
1. An in-depth acknowledgement of the historical, cultural,
social and socio-economic reality,
2. A nation-wide public dialogue with teachers, students,
administrators and parents,
3. A consolidation plan in reaction to the first two,
4. And a clear, concise and constructive view of the teaching of
English for Latinos as the final stage in the ladder of success.
Of the five definitions stated for vision in Webster’s New World
Dictionary, the one closest to its denotative meaning is the fourth
one: “the ability to foresee something as through mental acuteness.”
In plain and simple words, vision is the process, which delineates
our mental framework and sets goals in motion. In a society where
appearances play a role in determining who we are as a people, a
vision is unequivocally needed to establish the founding principles
of an educational policy that will benefit present and future Latino
As a student and observer of educational empowerment, the
essential element in an educational reform is a conceptual vision
that will set the wheels in motion towards the attainment of goals
and objectives. Recognizing the historical elements that have
influenced the teaching of English is the first step to set the
vision in motion. Latinos are culturally unique and distinct from all
other American immigrants. Therefore, a specific plan for this
incoming and growing student population is a must. Because Spanish
has become “culturally popular” in entertainment sectors in America,
the mother language of Latinos has become more and more of an
acceptable social symbol.
As a result, a great minority has decided to hold on to that
which maintains them Latino. Unlike the first great waves of
immigrants in the beginning of the 20th century that immediately
dived into the melting pot, Latinos have come to America to stay
Latino. That is extraordinary because it presents a non-measurable
barrier to the teaching of English: a sociological phenomenon that is
far beyond the reach of scholars and academics alike.
The constructive view of the teaching of English for Latinos is
receptive of the current English standards of the Department of
Education but refocuses strategies to adjust and meet the academic
goals and expectations of the greatest minority in America. The
vision is attainable, but it must be intertwined within the
historical, social, cultural and socio-economic elements that paved
the way for the teaching of the English language in the United
States. Because Latino students have been deprived of their cultural
and historical identity, there is a profound sense of loss and
disinterest which psychologically reflects in the resistance of the
teaching of English as a second language.
As an English teacher in the public schools in the United States
and Puerto Rico for the past twenty years, I can personally testify
to the daily struggles experienced in the classroom. It takes
encouragement, creativity and innovative ideas to provoke students to
answer “What’s your name?” and “Where do you live?” I will never
forget Laura Rivera (fictional name but true event). She had lived in
New York City for twenty-three years and was a syndicated
construction worker, but she failed to get pass English as a second
language level one courses at the Adult School where I taught; she
owned a house and lived in a middle-class neighborhood in the “city
that never sleeps”. For her, English was simply not necessary. She
had reached the so-called historical American Dream without it.
History is like a revolving door. At the middle of the 20th
century, Latinos united to pursue common goals and interests. Social,
political, cultural and educational organizations were created to
empower the Latino people to set forth a vision to benefit the
people. Intellectuals and politicians buried petty differences and
created a new educational reform (The Bilingual Act), but that is
part of the past now. Forty years later, Latinos find themselves at a
crossroads. Bilingual programs have dismantled, and a new educational
strategy has still yet to surface. But this time around, the results
of the educational mishaps are bluntly stated in charts, statistics
and numbers. We read them, see them and many times look the other
way. A vision demands human attention and more so, divines
intervention, which translates into one word: love.
A constructive view receives ideas but reaches consensus,
establishes priorities, creates programs, designs pertinent proposals
and demands accountability. Decisions must be reached, delivered and
implemented. It is not a monumental task, but it will take a
monumental effort. The English academic standards need to be enhanced
with vision and knowledge on how to identify, tackle and improve our
children's interest in English, Spanish and in all subject areas. It
is time to design a vision that will meet the expectations of all
those involved in the educational community. There are just too many
Latino children without the proper academic attention. Where do we go
from here?