Debut author Glick and Jourdane (The Struggle for the Health and Legal Protection of Farm Workers, 2015, etc.) recount their crusade to prevent language-based discrimination in California’s public schools.
In a prologue, the authors introduce readers to Arturo Velázquez, a boy from Soledad, California, who first entered school at age 10 in 1968. As the child of migrant farmworkers from Mexico, Arturo spoke no English, and his teachers spoke no Spanish: “Arturo had never learned grammar or spelling, not even in Spanish….He never raised his hand nor spoke up, even when he thought he knew the answer to a question. His teacher simply ignored him, as well as the other children of Mexican American farmworkers.” Due to the use of English-language IQ tests, Arturo and many other children in similar situations were classified as “Educable Mentally Retarded” and placed in special classes where they were denied learning opportunities that the rest of the student body received. The policy disproportionately affected black and brown students and created a permanent underclass in the California school system that activists like Glick and Jourdane worked hard to help. This book is an account of that struggle, profiling the students, parents, teachers, and lawyers who challenged the unjust status quo. The narrative culminates in two landmark cases—Diana v. State Board of Education and Larry P. v. Riles—that changed education in America forever. Glick and Jourdane write in a clear, measured prose style, enlivening scenes with dialogue, as when psychologist Víctor Ramírez of California’s Grossmont Union High School District says, “If you tell a little girl she’s mentally retarded…and treat her as retarded, the young lady will view herself and present as one of lower than normal capacity.” The issues at stake are so fundamental and affecting that the authors easily maintain a sense of narrative momentum, and some of the specifics will have readers seething. Overall, this book is an engaging account of a watershed moment in Chicano—and American—history.
A well-told and little-known story of education reform.