Should Latino Studies Exist?: No

It is not surprising that some Latino professors at Harvard have publicly questioned Harvard President Lawrence Summers’s commitment to diversity, simply because he did not immediately agree to create a “Center for Latino Studies,” on a campus with the Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.

Over the past few decades, we have increasingly become a society of aggrieved special interest groups. So it is unfortunate that, last week, Dr. Summers appeared to be caving in: places like the proposed center, in the name of “scholarship,” have the potential to do real harm to the interests of Hispanics.

My parents and I immigrated to our country from Cuba in 1961, and though we’re proud of our heritage, we have always understood that success in this country is inextricably tied to a command of English. As a school principal in Chelsea, I witnessed the disastrous consequences of appeasing Latino advocacy groups. In their haste not to anger powerful Latino groups, our legislators and urban educators have maintained a bilingual education policy that has done a gross disservice to generations of Hispanic children.

Because of bilingual education, too many Hispanic children have been academically segregated, with too little focus on teaching them English. This has contributed mightily to their abysmal educational results: the lowest MCAS scores and the highest drop-out rates of all major groups. This is why I left Chelsea, to campaign to change bilingual education.

I suspect that the proposed center would be nothing but a pseudo-academic front for more Latino political advocacy: defending long-discredited programs such as bilingual education – all in the name of respect for Hispanic culture.

It is not becoming of a university president to lose focus on the big picture while providing fast comfort to any group of squeaky wheels. As Americans, we are hyphenating ourselves into splinters. Some Latino professors at Harvard, as well as other Latino activists, help to accelerate the separation.

Lincoln J. Tamayo Chairman of English for the Children of Massachusetts, the group advocating the repeal of the state’s transitional bilingual education laws.

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