David Martinez, studying Cognitive Studies in Education, is a LatPro Scholarship Finalist

[I]n my early education, I suffered through what George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of low-expectations.” I managed to overcome this but I realized early on that I was part of the lucky few. Knowing this left me with no other choice but to help those that are less fortunate.

When I began school, I was automatically enrolled in the bilingual program. At first I did well, achieving high grades and being recommended for the gifted and talented program. But as I progressed in the program and more of the day was taught in English, my grades began to falter. In third grade, I was warned that retention was a possibility. At the end of the year I was shuffled along to the next grade and as I became more fluent in English, my grades increased. 

This may seem like an exemplar for this brand of bilingual education but it is not. I was fortunate to have parents that immigrated at a time when workers were needed. My father acquired a unionized job with benefits and made enough money that my mother was able to stay at home and raise five kids. While my life was not perfect, it was better than many others in the community and I was able to put a larger proportion of my time and effort into school and escape bilingual education prior to middle school.

Of my friends who remained in bilingual education none attended college. In fact, of my immediate family, I am the only one to go on to higher education. I attribute this to the same factor: I, being the youngest of five and hearing so much english conversation between my brothers, escaped bilingual education earlier.

Why would remaining in this program be such a deterrent to higher education? Because of the paradoxically salient and overlooked use of tracking. Once a student is labeled bilingual, she goes on to take classes with other bilingual students who have been struggling with the concurrent responsibility of mastering English and subject matter and as a result are likely disillusioned. It is difficult even for the most motivated student to escape this trajectory. 

If only these students would have been given extra support or teachers would have been given better training. Why wasn’t this done? Because, when low-income minorities fail it is a problem with them, their parents, and the community. This deficit thinking leads to lowered expectations and therefore effort on the part of teachers, administration, and the government. 

I became a teacher with the goal of being a “quiet leader” and demonstrating what is possible. I achieved much success in this regard, but now I hear a different calling. I am now a PhD student at Teachers College with the hope of becoming a professor in the education department of a research school. I want to contribute to research that will change policies and have a hand in the training of future teachers who will maintain high-expectations.’s scholarship program is proud to announce David Martinez as one of the finalists for its December 2012 application deadline. Vote for his essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), click the ‘star’ just above comments section below, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.

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  • David is a talented and giving person. I am so glad to hear that he has made it this far in the selection process and I hope that he is selected to receive this scholarship. I am proud to see all that David has accomplished and I know he has the potential to complete all goals he sets for himself. This scholarship will mean a lot to him and his family as it will provide David with the opportunity to continue to pursue this academic goal he has set for himself. He is an inspiration to his family and a great role model to the Latino community. David is commited and dedicated to serving others and I know he will continue to impact the lives of many individuals in his future career. I truly wish David the best of luck in this process. He is a great person and friend and is deserving of this award.

  • Great insight, in particular about the importance of teacher training and high expectations. Thank you for your commitment to improving the education of our future generations!

  • As David’s cohort at Columbia, I can attest to the passion, intelligence and ambition David commits to his pursuit of raising the academic bar of expectations in our children’s capacity for academic and intellectual success. He is a great candidate for this scholarship, and is deserving of LatPro’s award for those who wish to empower communities and individuals to actualize their potential.

  • Mr. Martinez is an awesome role model to the Latino community. He greatly influenced my twins during his time at KIPP 3D academy. He is an amazing teacher/role model and deserving of this award.

  • Mr.Martinez is an example of the type of teachers we have at KIPP. Teachers that love what they do,devoted to making a difference and being a positive role model. I’m a proud parent of two KIPP students and blessed to have known Mr. Martinez. Good luck and you deserve this scholarship.

  • Your goal to become a professor is admirable and would help give back to the community. This is a very fitting career for you, you definitely deserve this scholarship.

  • David is an inspiration to a lot of us that went to high school with him; I know he is to me. He took risks and left home to become wiser and experience things that he already uses and will continue to use, in order to give back to others, especially our youth. This man deserves this financial support toward his academic endeavors. I truly believe that making an investment in the education of David, means you are making an investment in the many lives that he will reach through his career as an educator. Why wouldn’t you want to make an investment that will provide you with such a great return in investment?

  • It sounds like you have a lot of passion and insight to give to this field. The world needs more passionate critical thinkers. I wish you the very best in your future work.

  • As a fellow KIPP teacher in Los Angeles, I know first hand that our educational system needs more passionate, educated, men of color! David’s passion to work hard is to create change is wonderful! I am in total support for this young scholar to get his PhD at Teachers College! Go David!

  • I received a great response from someone on Facebook about this essay. The post was regarding the efficacy of bilingual education. I’ll get to that, in my meandering style of writing.

    First, let me say that when I have a child I will make sure that s/he is fluent in English AND Spanish. Ideally, I would be able to place my child in a dual language program and if not that, then a bilingual program, and then of course if that is not possible then the typical all english classroom. I can be fairly certain that no matter what program my child is in, s/he will successfully learn both languages and achieve academically. This is because my child will be lucky enough to be born to a person with a lot of capital. Not only monetary capital, but social, cultural, physical, and other unnamed capital.

    That is really the point of this article: some people are born into privileges they may not be aware of, they take advantage of their luck, succeed because of it, and then admonish the less fortunate for not “working as hard” as they did.

    Sometime over my winter break, I was watching some news channel and saw one of Warren Buffet’s sons on TV. He stated that his father wanted his children to work hard and reap only what they sowed. So he ONLY left them a million dollars each. Let us unpack this a bit: first, only a million dollars? Really? At 50,000 a year it would take me 20 years to make a million dollars! Oh the things I could (or could not) do with 1×10^6 dollars. Second, I am pretty sure that Mr. Buffet ensured that his children were getting great educations in and out of school. Even if he wasn’t putting a concerted effort in raising his children, just by virtue of being Mr. Buffet’s child, you would attain a wealth of social and cultural capital. Finally, there has to be something said about the mindset one attains when one’s family is successful. The world becomes your oyster, not something to fear, survive, or escape.

    To quote Barack Obama: “You didn’t build that.”

    I was lucky. Others are not. Schools, in order to be the great equalizers that we believe them to be, must disproportionately support the less fortunate. This is a radical thing to say but it is what I believe. Those students that were not as fortunate as I to have a stay-at-home mom, food in the pantry, and four older brothers needed extra support at school.

    Ever teacher that taught me and every teacher that I have known and worked with, works hard but they are not super human and we cannot expect them to be. As a society we need to devote more resources towards education and support teachers. To tie this back into the catalyst for this response, bilingual education, at least in the school I attended, was not being supported.

    It is also my understanding that it was not really being fully supported in most schools in California. At least that is what I remember a professor telling me during my preservice training. This lack of support came in the form of limited TA’s, professional development, qualified teachers, and also support from the public.

    This last point is significant and once again ties back into the original prompt. Bilingual education is great…in theory. The resources were not devoted to ensure that bilingual education would maximally succeed because as stated above, many people are blind to their own privileges and believe others are simply being lazy (which I hinted at in my essay) and do not deserve special treatment. Also because in California, as in other places, when there are problems, it is the “outsiders” that are blamed.

    This is complex, and already taking up way too much space, but i’ll try to make it short and out of necessity, somewhat incomplete. In 1994, Californians passed Prop 187 which among other things, banned public services to illegal immigrants and required law enforcement to check the status of anybody suspected of being an illegal immigrant. Furthermore, by 1996, schools were to check the citizenship of its children and their parents, meaning that services would be denied to them. This was supposed to alleviate California’s economic woes.

    It was struck down by the supreme court.

    Then, in 1998 Prop 227 was passed which effectively eliminated bilingual education. I’m not sure what the rational was for this, but I believe what it states on Wikipedia, which is, “The methods of education enacted by the proposition reflect the electorate’s support of assimilation over multiculturalism.”

    Language acquisition is facilitated by respect, as posited by Stephen Krashen’s Monitor Model and the Affective Filter component.

    As a child growing up in this milieu, I remember feeling fear for my family and feeling as though I had to hide my identity. I even went through the, “I’m not Mexican, I’m Spanish,” phase.

    So, sure, bilingual education can be successful for some and maybe even all that go through it, but if this is to be so, it is because of the support that it is receiving at home, in the community, in the state, and in the nation.

  • David is a former student of mine. He was a very inquisitive young man in my French class. I can see, by reading his essay, that has not changed. By becoming a teacher, he has already contributed his talents to others and yet, he wants to do more. Yes, I agree with David. Our policies regarding education need change. Our students have fallen behind compared to other developed countries around the world. Our country needs more people like David to help us make those greatly needed changes. Thank you and congratulations, David. Bonne chance!

  • The world needs more teachers as driven and caring as you.Your hunger for success is fueled by your passion and that makes you not only an amazing educator but a wonderful human being. Do not stop pushing and fighting for this enlightenment the educational system desperately needs. I believe in you. Best of luck David! You’re making South Gate shine.