Lifestyle by Blaze Media

© 2024 Blaze Media LLC. All rights reserved.
Jaime Escalante: Teacher who expected the best of the worst
Getty Images/David Butow

Jaime Escalante: Teacher who expected the best of the worst

America's broken education system needs fewer credentialed experts and more teachers with high standards.

DEI, as everyone knows, stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion. But lately those who notice its corrosive effects on the people it purports to help have come up with a second, more brutally honest meaning: didn't earn it.

This might equally apply to the "experts" who have enriched themselves from DEI's application. Take Jo Boaler, a mathematics education professor at Stanford, who's come up with a novel way to help students (often poor and black or Latino) falling behind their peers in eighth-grade algebra.

Simply remove it from the curriculum altogether.

Besides punishing those students who excel at math, this solution allows teachers to give up on those who struggle while still taking credit for their charges' illusory success. Talk about DEI.

As someone tasked with educating some of the “worst” students in California, Jaime Escalante was a man who understood the tyranny of low expectations. “If we expect kids to be losers, they will be losers; if we expect them to be winners, they will be winners. They rise, or fall, to the level of the expectations of those around them, especially their parents and their teachers.”

After excelling as a math and physics teacher in his native Bolivia, political unrest compelled Escalante to emigrate with his wife and two sons to Los Angeles, where he worked odd jobs, got another college degree, and taught himself English.

In 1974, he took a position at Garfield High School, which served one of the poorest areas of the city. Escalante immediately clashed with the administration and his fellow teachers, who considered it a waste of time to do anything beyond babysitting their charges.

Escalante disagreed and in a few years was teaching Advanced Placement Calculus. By 1987, thanks to Escalante's dedication, theatrical classroom style, and infectious passion for learning, Garfield had the fifth highest number of students taking and passing the AP Calculus exam in the country.

Escalante retired and moved back to Bolivia in 1998. His success as a teacher had brought him nationwide acclaim, with Edward James Olmos portraying him in a 1988 movie. But at the end of his life (he died of cancer in 2010), he made it clear that the students had mattered the most: “I had many opportunities in this country, but the best I found in East LA.”

Want to leave a tip?

We answer to you. Help keep our content free of advertisers and big tech censorship by leaving a tip today.
Want to join the conversation?
Already a subscriber?
Matt Himes

Matt Himes

Managing Editor, Align

Matt Himes is the managing editor for Align.
@matthimes →