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Self Evident Remedy? George I. Sanchez, Segregation, and Enduring Dilemmas in Bilingual Education

by Steven L. Schlossman - 1983

The views of George I. Sanchez are examined to determine what an earlier generation of Hispanic-American educators thought about bilingual education. Sanchez stressed integrating Spanish-speaking children into Anglo classrooms and downplayed the need for a new pedagogy, such as bilingual instruction. (Source: ERIC)


The heyday of the modern bilingual education movement in America appears to be over.1 It lasted from the time Congress voted to subsidize bilingual education experimentation in 1967, to the summer of 1980, when Secretary of Education Shirley Hufstedler attempted (abortively) to institutionalize bilingual education by partially incorporating the Lau Remedies of 1975 as Department of Education regulations. The movement was spearheaded in different parts of the country by Hispanic-Americans of several nationalities: Mexican-Americans in the Southwest; Cubans in Florida; Puerto Ricans in the Northeast; both Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans in the Midwest; and Mexican-Americans-aided by Asians in Northern California and the Northwest. For what seems in retrospect an impressively lengthy time period, these groups presented a relatively united front to lawmakers and the media. Moreover, they demonstrated the potential power of an urban population about which-Cesar Chavez notwithstanding-few Americans outside the Southwest, Southern Florida, New York City, and Chicago were previously more than dimly aware. Not for a century-since the German immigrants campaigned successfully for German-language instruction in the public schools of the Midwest-had anything like the bilingual education movement appeared on the American political scene.2


Spokesmen for bilingual education tended to portray it not merely as a preferred, but as a self-evident remedy for the sundry difficulties and disproportionate failure Hispanic children experience in school.3 Consensus on this basic belief helped sustain the movement’s momentum despite disagreement among Hispanics on the relative advantages of “transitional” versus “maintenance” objectives in vernacular instruction. The Lau Remedies and Hufstedler’s proposed regulations perfectly embodied the premise of bilingual education as self-evident remedy. Both placed recalcitrant school boards on the defensive by forcing them to explain how they dared ignore this seemingly commonsensical solution to minority-language children’s learning problem.4


The bilingual education movement also placed English-as-a-second language (ESL) instructors on the defensive. Indeed, in many school systems there were bitter turf rivalries between ESL and bilingual education teachers. Not too long ago, ESL methods were widely viewed as pioneering efforts in language education.5 In the rhetoric of the most ardent bilingual education proponents, however, ESL’s methods and goals were portrayed as unnatural, insulting, anachronistic, and even subversive of minority children’s fragile bicultural identities. By contrast, bilingual education was alleged to offer a virtual panacea for myriad student, family, and community needs.


The obviousness-of-it-all tone was conspicuous, as, for example, in a curriculum guide published by the Chicago Board of Education:


Bilingual education is a realistic approach to the educational needs of thousands of boys and girls who must acquire positive self-concepts and communication skills in order to compete educationally, socially and economically as first-class citizens and full participants in today’s society. For the child who comes from a non-English speaking background, bilingual education can also help maintain family loyalty. Programs that recognize a child’s language and culture help to foster positive self-concepts in a youngster. Rather than becoming alienated from the cultural ties of his family, he will learn to enjoy and value diversity. The child who remains loyal to his family is more likely to develop allegiance to his family, to his school and country.6


Whatever the pedagogical format, most advocates strongly believed that bilingual education represented a godsend infinitely superior to any previous method of teaching most Spanish-speaking children.


Given the euphoria that suffused the bilingual education movement, it seems reasonable to ask why earlier generations of educators ignored, failed to recognize, or disapproved of this purported pedagogical miracle-worker. Why did a seemingly self-evident remedy take so long to discover? Some proponents of bilingual education have advanced a general answer. Most Americans, they (facetiously?) suggest, suffer a chronic intellectual ailment they term “babelophobia.”7 The charge does in fact raise serious questions about Americans’ complacency toward “foreign” language skills.8 But this explanation does little to explain the negative attitudes toward bilingualism of language education specialists in the past, who certainly could not be termed “babelophiles.” Nor does a convincing explanation lie in the newness of, or at least educators’ recent discovery of, special difficulties faced by Hispanic children in public schools. Educators have in fact been debating why Spanish-speaking students perform less well than their “Anglo” counterparts for more than half a century (as I shall demonstrate).


Probably the best single explanation is that educators of Hispanic origin have only recently emerged as a sizable and powerful enough group to influence educational policy. This explanation assumes, of course, that Hispanic educators are more sensitive than non-Hispanics to their fellow ethnics’ educational needs; moreover, it assumes that support of bilingual education is the hallmark of their special sensitivity. While these assumptions may be debatable, there is surely much truth here. It also raises an interesting historical question: What did an earlier generation of Hispanic-American educators think about bilingual education as a solution to the difficulties faced by Spanish-speaking youngsters in school? Did they view bilingual education as the ideal, preferable, or sole potential remedy? And if not, why not?


This article suggests a partial answer to this series of questions by examining the views of George I. Sanchez (1906-1972). Most historians of American education know nothing about Sanchez, just as they are largely ignorant of the entire educational history of the Southwest. But Sanchez’s place in Hispanic history is as secure as that of Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois in black educational history.9


Sanchez spent most of his career puzzling over the effects of “language handicap” on Hispanic children and on school policies in the Southwest. His intellectual struggles shed important light on a number of vital, ongoing policy debates concerning the future of American education, especially in areas concerning uneven allocation of educational resources to language-minority children; the uses and misuses of standardized intelligence tests for such children; and, most central to this article, bilingual education and segregation of Spanish-speaking children in public schools. Sanchez’s career reminds us just how long these concerns have been salient in the minds of Hispanic-American scholars and parents, however seemingly unprecedented and due to recent influxes in immigration the larger public may perceive them to be.


The significance of Sanchez’s work can best be assessed against the backdrop of educational experience for Hispanics in the early decades of the twentieth century, and in the context of contemporary debate on the pedagogy of language instruction for Spanish-speaking people. These subjects, to say the least, have received little previous attention from historians. By understanding early twentieth-century language educators’ reasons for rejecting vernacular instruction, the profound revolution in pedagogical thought that the bilingual education movement attempted to nurture and solidify becomes clearer. Hispanic-American educators in the 1960s and 1970s not only rejected the pedagogical philosophy and methods of the Anglo establishment, they also argued implicitly against the mature wisdom of their most distinguished intellectual predecessor, George Sanchez.




Before examining the nature of debate on language education in the pre-World War II era, and Sanchez’s contribution to that debate, let us begin by outlining his fascinating career trajectory.10


Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1906, Jorge Isadero Sanchez y Sanchez was a direct descendant of early Spanish explorers to the New World, the earliest of whom ventured into what is now Northern New Mexico around the turn of the seventeenth century. Matters of ethnic and racial heritage were of major importance in Sanchez’s intellectual development. In his earliest scholarship, Sanchez revealed the influence of conventional racial prejudices (held by both Hispanics and non-Hispanics) in denying the imputation that “inferior” Indian blood coursed through the veins of Northern New Mexicans who, like himself, claimed direct descent from Spanish explorers.11 In his mature scholarship, however, Sanchez paid biological inheritance no heed in explaining the cultural and intellectual characteristics of different Hispanic peoples. Indeed he gradually assumed a cosmopolitan, even a joyous attitude toward the mixed racial and ethnic backgrounds of Hispanics in the United States.


Sanchez grew up in Albuquerque and in Jerome, Arizona, where his father was a mine laborer. Unfortunately we know very little about Sanchez’s early home and school experiences. Obviously, he encountered few long-term difficulties in negotiating the transition from his entirely Spanish-speaking home and neighborhood to the English-language curriculum and culture of the local public schools, where he performed quite well.


Sanchez graduated from Albuquerque High School at age seventeen, after which, for financial reasons, he went directly to work as a teacher in a one-room, eight-grade rural school. At age nineteen he became teacher/principal of the nearby Griegas-Candelarias School in Bernalillo County, a position he held for five years. During his seven years as a schoolteacher and principal, Sanchez attended college during summers at the University of New Mexico (UNM). He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1930, with major fields in education and Spanish. Sanchez’s excellent academic record under less than ideal study conditions earned him the admiration of UNM President James Zimmerman, through whose intervention Sanchez received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation’s General Education Board to pursue graduate work at the University of Texas, under the direction of Herschel Manuel, who had recently published the major book The Education of Mexican and Spanish-Speaking Children in Texas. Sanchez completed an M.A. in educational psychology and Spanish in one year, utilizing for his thesis data he had’ collected as a teacher/principal to challenge scholars who-reflecting the hereditarian assumptions of the day12 attributed low intelligence test scores by Spanish-speaking students to racial inferiority.


After completing the M.A., Sanchez accepted a post-which the Rockefeller Foundation created and funded especially for him-as director of the newly formed Division of Information and Statistics in New Mexico’s Department of Education. For a young man, Sanchez had already accumulated a remarkably broad experience in the field of education: as teacher, administrator, and researcher. His growing interest and pride in his Hispanic heritage, firsthand knowledge of New Mexico educational institutions, and personal commitment to improving educational opportunities for poor, Spanish-speaking youngsters prompted him to accept the post instead of continuing full-time toward a doctorate. But, showing the imagination and tenacity that marked his entire career, Sanchez decided to pursue a doctorate too. He enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, and satisfied residency requirements during consecutive summers of study and a two-semester leave of absence from his New Mexico post. Sanchez completed the doctorate in educational administration in less than three years, utilizing for his dissertation-entitled “The Education of Bilinguals in a State School System”-data he had collected on the job. Thus in 1934, at age twenty-eight, Sanchez had accomplished much indeed. His native ability, energy, and commitment to the betterment of Hispanic Americans explained much of his success, but he was also aided substantially by financial and emotional support from well-placed representatives of the Anglo educational and philanthropic communities.


Since his division was supported by philanthropic rather than government funds, Sanchez enjoyed unusual freedom and independence. As New Mexico’s most powerfully placed educational researcher, he felt obliged to utilize his authority to campaign for a variety of “progressive” educational causes. The data his department collected vastly extended and made more precise the available knowledge on the state of education in New Mexico. The data underscored two key points: first, that New Mexico schools were far behind the rest of the country on such indicators of progressive policy as consolidation, compulsory attendance, salaries, and equitable distribution of state school revenues; second, that the schools adapted poorly if at all to the presence of Spanish-speaking students. To drum home these points and spur change, Sanchez made effective use of the media. In state educational periodicals, newspapers, and press releases, he hammered home the deficiencies of the public schools, and pleaded against reduction of school expenditures despite Depression financial difficulties. He boldly challenged the ability, wisdom, and authority of state school officials with whose policies he disagreed, particularly those of the state school auditor, whose legislative mandate gave him tremendous power through control of disbursement of all school funds.


Small wonder, then, that Sanchez’s four years in office were turbulent, or that his opponents called him an “educational politico.” Sanchez never hid his moral commitment to the well-being of his own people, nor his intent to use statistical data for purposes of criticism and advocacy. To Sanchez, educational measurement provided a tool for bringing state school policies in line with children’s learning needs and with the most progressive educational thinking of the time. Eventually his arguments, effective use of the media, and general reputation exerted significant influence on state policies concerning distribution of school funds to isolated, rural, Hispanic-dominated areas like the one in which he had grown up and taught.


The Rockefeller Foundation’s “seed money” support for Sanchez’s division ran out in 1935. When the state, claiming financial ills, chose not to sustain it, Sanchez was out of a job. Given the dismal state of higher education in the Depression and the political controversies he had stirred while in office, Sanchez’s prospects for suitable employment were meager. Again, however, prominent philanthropists with an interest in developing talented minority-group intellectuals-although heretofore almost exclusively blacks-came to his aid. The Julius Rosenwald Fund of Chicago employed Sanchez to conduct a one-year survey of rural education in Mexico, and then, after determining that Sanchez had no other job possibilities, rehired him to spend a second year surveying rural and black education in the South. Aside from his year of study in Texas and nine months at Berkeley, Sanchez was now, for the first time, free of administrative responsibilities to devote himself entirely to research. He used the opportunity well, both by publishing the results of his research (including his first book, Mexico: A Revolution by Education), and by expanding the range of his knowledge of minority-group education and the histories of Spanish-speaking peoples. Sanchez broadened his education still further the following year, when the government of Venezuela hired him as a consultant to promote reform of their educational system along lines he had earlier recommended for Mexico.


Sanchez’s early professional career was thus varied and full. While his later reputation was mainly as an academic, he remained devoted to public education affairs and to political action in support of progressive education, at home and abroad. To Sanchez, educational research was a means not merely to advance knowledge but to further democratic causes, particularly to equalize educational opportunity for impoverished minority populations- blacks and Indians as well as Hispanics. While he expressed allegiance to scientific method in education, it was because of a basic faith that science, properly used, would invariably further social reform and never reinforce popular prejudice.


In 1937 Sanchez did finally get the university position he had been hoping for, as associate professor of education at the University of New Mexico. True to course, he immediately became embroiled in a major controversy by charging that the state had misused educational statistics to rationalize inequitable distribution of school funds -a charge that later investigation proved correct. At the university, Sanchez continued to enjoy generous patronage for his research, first from the National Youth Administration for a survey of New Mexico youth, and then from the Carnegie Corporation of New York for a survey of Taos County, New Mexico. The latter project resulted in his most famous book, Forgotten People (1940), a work distinguished for its incisive analysis of political, economic, and educational affairs, and for its harsh criticism of federal and state policies that, in Sanchez’s view, were principally to blame for the social and cultural impoverishment of New Mexico’s Spanish-speaking population.


Inasmuch as Forgotten People drew on and generalized from empirical studies Sanchez had conducted over the previous decade, this provides an appropriate point to examine the intellectual context in which his systematic thinking on the schooling of Hispanic children emerged.




It was not until the 1920s, at the height of pre-World War II immigration from Mexico, that professional educators began to pay systematic attention to the special school problems of Spanish-speaking children on the mainland (the needs of Puerto Rican children had perplexed federal government officials ever since the United States acquired the island from Spain).13 The first general account of the experience of Hispanic schoolchildren appeared in 1925, as part of a multivolume report by the Texas Educational Survey Commission on education in the Lone Star state. The problem of teaching children who did not speak English was statewide, the commission emphasized, yet each school district was attempting to resolve it independently, without knowledge of significant pedagogical advances made in such progressive communities as El Paso and San Antonio. “The State should undertake the pre-service training of teachers for this specialized field of service not only for the benefit of the smaller places,” the commission argued, “but because it has no right to expect San Antonio, El Paso, and other places to conduct such training at local expense.”14


On the basis of intelligence tests administered to Hispanics and non-Hispanics throughout the state, the commission sought to correct the popular view “that there is little gained by giving school opportunities to the Mexican.” Evidence regarding Hispanic children’s mental ability and personal inclinations indicated greater variation than was commonly recognized; hence, the commission concluded, school districts ought no longer to rationalize unequal provision of educational facilities to them on grounds of alleged racial inferiority. Nonetheless, the commission endorsed segregation of students who spoke Spanish for pedagogical reasons, especially in the early grades, even though it recognized that school districts often practiced segregation for reasons having nothing to do with pedagogy.


It is wise to segregate, if it is done on educational grounds, and results in distinct efforts to provide the non-English speaking pupils with specially trained teachers and the necessary special training resources. . . . This advice is offered with reluctance as there is danger that it will be misunderstood by some. By others it may be seized upon as a means of justifying the practices now obtaining in some communities. In some instances segregation has been used for the purpose of giving the Mexican children a shorter school year, inferior buildings and equipment, and poorly paid teachers. The Survey Staff believes this to be both unwise and unjustified. . . . No community through selfishness or nationality prejudice should be permitted to make discriminations against the Mexican children, as is now being done in many communities of the State.15


The commission’s final judgment was guardedly optimistic. Texans would eventually resolve the “Mexican problem,” they predicted, if the most successful educational programs were disseminated statewide, and if additional pedagogical experimentation were encouraged. The main danger lay “in letting each community meet the problem as it pleases. Some are acting with high ideals of service and a liberal financial attitude, others are exploiting the Mexican and pursuing a niggardly financial policy toward him in school affairs.” Only a deliberate, concerted school language policy fostered by state education authorities, in the commission’s view, promised to protect Spanish-speaking children from the vicissitudes of local popular prejudice, and to integrate them into mainstream English-speaking American society.16 Herschel Manuel’s The Education of Mexican and Spanish-Speaking Children in Texas (1930) confirmed, elaborated, and analyzed more critically much of what the survey commission had reported. Manuel was careful to acknowledge that he was a newcomer to the subject (as well as to indicate that he was non-Hispanic, despite his Spanish-appearing surname).17 “My interest in the Mexican problem is that of the observer,” he wrote in the preface to his book. “While I hope it may be apparent that my interest is a sympathetic one, I cannot claim the advantage of a long association with the group about whom I am writing. My early life was spent far from the Mexican border, and until recent years I have had little contact with Spanish-speaking people.”l8


Manuel’s tone was that of an impartial yet engaged interpreter of a people about whom Americans outside the Southwest knew little. Above all, Manuel stressed how little objective information existed on the educational capacities of Spanish-speaking children; how much misinformation and stereotyping beclouded fair understanding and appraisal of them; and how much diversity existed among Hispanics in Texas-diversity that rendered all generalizations suspect. “We must carefully avoid visualizing any individual as the Mexican,” he pointedly admonished.19


Nonetheless, Manuel rarely lost the forest for the trees. Granting that Texas Hispanics’ socioeconomic status ranged from the extraordinarily wealthy to the indescribably poor and all gradations in between, he stressed that the majority were unskilled laborers who lived in separate sub-communities. Granting that large recent increases in Mexican immigration placed new strains on the state’s school system, Manuel pointed out that, contrary to popular opinion, perhaps half of the Spanish-speaking adult population, and the overwhelming majority of their children, were native-born U.S. citizens. Nor was Manuel’s writing without critical edge. He rejected all labels of opprobrium that derived from ignorance or concealed social and racial prejudice. He scrutinized with special care all scientific evidence that buttressed stereotypic popular views. In no area was Manuel more adamant about distinguishing fact from fancy than in assessing the “personality of the Mexican child.”


Much that has been written on the characteristics of the Mexican is inaccurate and misleading. . . . Characteristics which are apparent in a limited group are spoken of as if they were traits of the “typical” Mexican. . . . A great deal that passes for racial psychology is more nearly fiction than scientific fact. . . . If there is one dominant note which should run through descriptions of a group so heterogeneous, it is this recognition of significant differences.20


Manuel’s sharpest criticisms were aimed at the segregation of Hispanic from other white children in public schools. He went considerably beyond the survey commission in gathering graphic evidence of systematic illegal segregation throughout the state. In Trans-Pecos County, for example, Manuel compared side-by-side two photographs of schools from a single district. One pictured the Hispanic school, a dilapidated one-room shack housing grades one through seven; the other, only a hundred yards away, showed the spacious modern schoolhouse for the Anglo youth. Not only did the facilities differ, the school year for Hispanics was one-third shorter. This was the usual pattern, Manuel emphasized. Segregation was the beginning of a system of discrimination that shaped the entire school experience: from the length of the school year, to the training of teachers, to the availability of textbooks, writing slates, and recreational facilities. In practice-though Manuel was careful to point up exceptions- segregated schooling generally meant grossly inferior schooling.


However strongly Manuel condemned the actual practice of segregation, he did not wholly oppose it. Like the survey commission, he believed that, in some cases, pedagogical need and the opportunity for innovative pedagogical experimentation required it. But Manuel also felt that segregation, if deemed pedagogically beneficial, should be minimal and temporary, and that in many cases segregation was not at all necessary to achieve desired educational ends. He would not condone recourse to segregation as easily as the survey commission had done. “It must be confessed,” he concluded, “that the reason for maintaining a separate Mexican school is sometimes neither a consideration of the needs of the Mexican child nor a matter of difficulty of access to some other school. . . . Public sentiment rather than pedagogical wisdom seems often to be the factor back of segregation.”21


Manuel would countenance segregation of Spanish-speaking children only to help them eradicate their language handicap with greater dispatch than might otherwise be possible. He used the term handicap liberally and, on quick or partial reading of his work, it is easy to confuse his viewpoint with those of scholarly and popular writers of the time who viewed Hispanics as harboring a congenital, largely ineradicable language disease.22 In fact, Manuel carefully circumscribed what he meant by language handicap.


It is submitted that so long as the ability to understand and use English is below the ability to understand and use Spanish, there is probably a language handicap in school work. It is not claimed, of course, that this difference in ability in the two languages is an indication of a handicap in every school task or even that it is a measure of the handicap that exists on the whole. Rather, it is simply a weakness that will limit performance in the particular tasks in which greater familiarity with language would be an asset.23


Furthermore, Manuel contended, even if Hispanics learned to read English and Spanish equally well after several years of schooling, they might still be performing far below their intellectual potential. “Rather than to say that the language handicap has disappeared, it might be better to say that the language handicap is a ‘dual’ one.”24 Thus, it seems clear that Manuel confined his notion of language handicap to English-language-related school tasks. In explaining why Spanish-speaking children’s school performance was well below that of non-Hispanics, and why they dropped out of school at the earliest opportunity, Manuel directed attention away from the child’s language, cultural, and socioeconomic background per se. Instead he emphasized, on the one hand, inadequate school pedagogy and programs and, on the other, the broader societal context of prejudice and disinterest as the key causal factors. Unfortunately, Manuel had little to say about effecting change in either area. About improving the societal context, Manuel offered nothing more than a plea for human brotherhood and greater recognition of individual differences among Hispanics as among all ethnic or racial groups.


As to changing school policies, aside from his strictures on segregation, Manuel was largely evasive. To be sure, he appeared less enthusiastic than the survey commission about the potential of existing scattered pedagogical experiments to serve as exemplars for all Texas communities, evidently thinking that there was insufficient empirical data to assess their efforts. The only solid indication that Manuel considered these “promising” efforts inadequate, however, lay in “two interesting questions” he posed regarding school language policies. After pointing up the anomaly of teaching a Spanish-speaking child to read in a foreign language (i.e., English) instead of his native tongue, Manuel asked: “(1) Should we carry on instruction in Spanish in the early grades, and (2) Should we start instruction in oral English much earlier than we do-say in compulsory part-time primary schools, as early as four years of age?”25 Unfortunately, Manuel ventured no answers to these questions; his own preferences for reforming the pedagogical status quo remain in doubt. All that is certain is that Manuel was ready to consider a wider range of pedagogical alternatives, including vernacular instruction and compulsory early schooling for Hispanics only, than were the bulk of educational practitioners in Texas in the 1920s.


The 1930s saw a tremendous increase in scholarly and practitioner interest in improving instruction of Spanish-speaking children. Very few commentators, however, joined Manuel in suggesting experimentation with vernacular instruction in the early grades. Rather, a consensus soon emerged among the growing numbers of language education specialists that militated against vernacular instruction on both pedagogical and sociopolitical grounds. The substance of that consensus is a good deal more complex than I can relate here. The outline can, however, be sketched with sufficient clarity to highlight the intellectual milieu in which George Sanchez’s views on the educational needs of Spanish-speaking children matured. Language educators in the 1930s spent little time elaborating sociopolitical arguments against vernacular instruction; their main professional concern was pedagogy in all its dimensions, not politics. Yet two key sociopolitical assumptions were in fact nearly always present, explicitly or implicitly, in their commentaries on pedagogy: first, that English-only instruction in the schools was necessary to guarantee “national unity,” and second, that English-only instruction was essential to foster “the consolidation of our national culture.”26 Language educators generally advanced these points as the common sense of the matter rather than as debatable issues or, in the style of many anti-immigrationists of the 1910s and 1920s, as polemical scare tactics.27 To support English-only instruction in the schools was to express one’s commitment to a unified polity and a common culture: This is about as far as professional educators explored the sociopolitical dimensions of language in society.


In advancing the pedagogical case against vernacular instruction in the public schools, the leading language educators attempted to convey a spirit of consensus, of intellectual accord among scientific authorities. In retrospect, that consensus appears to have been rather fragile. Not only was there embarrassingly little pedagogical research to sustain a scientific consensus, there was also significant conceptual disagreement in the field over method (the disagreement centered on how to structure English instruction for Spanish speakers: Should they be formally prepared for “reading readiness,” or should they be taught English “incidentally” through their social activities?).28


Furthermore, to the extent that there was consensus, it was a consensus among American language educators only. I have not examined the range of worldwide pedagogical debate on the subject in the 1930s. It does seem clear, however, that non-Americans were much more supportive of using vernacular instruction in the early grades to educate language-minority children and gradually introduce them into the majority language. “It is an open question whether the system of instructing in English from the beginning is the correct one to employ,” acknowledged a prominent New Mexican language educator. “Educators in foreign countries are very emphatic in feeling that we are on the wrong track. They believe that instruction should be in the mother tongue at first with a gradual introduction of a second language.”29 Suffice it to say that the leading American educational authorities considered foreign opinion on these matters largely irrelevant. They did not so much argue the point systematically as defiantly assume it to be self-evident; our problems were unique by definition, and we would fumble along, alone, to resolve them.


The American pedagogical consensus against vernacular instruction contained four key elements. Two raised general educational issues, whereas the other two raised special considerations regarding Hispanic children. One major concern was the motivation of language-minority children: Might they have no desire to learn English if they could obtain information and read skillfully in their native tongue? Language educators, to be sure, had no concrete evidence that this was the case, but they were sufficiently fearful to recommend against encouraging the possiblity. A second concern derived from ongoing research on the pedagogy of reading: The more experts inquired into the nature of reading skills, the more convinced they became of how complex a mental activity it was, and how difficult it was to develop appropriate teaching aids to facilitate instruction. Hence, they reasoned, it was unwise to place any additional mental “obstacles” in the path of children who needed to learn to read English. “It does not seem reasonable to expect more of the Spanish-speaking beginner in his vernacular, particularly when we consider the paucity in Spanish of adequate primary reading materials of a type appropriate to the development of reading-readiness and reading skill in that language,” observed Algernon Coleman in his definitive survey of the field, English Teaching in the Southwest (1940). “Even the English-speaking child without the general handicaps concerned with the Spanish-speaking background, etc., frequently makes very slow progress in learning to read his vernacular.”30


The latter two arguments against vernacular instruction highlighted important differences that were alleged to exist in Hispanic parents’ use of language at home, and in their educational aspirations for their children. By and large, the language specialists contended, Spanish in the Southwest offered a severely limited form of communication, as Hispanics rarely used their vernacular in reading or writing. The Spanish child entered school without sufficient experiential or conceptual background on which to build easily the desire or skill to read. Consequently, the experts reasoned, “the efficacy of teaching him to read in a language which, even though his vernacular, is of limited linguistic or conceptual significance to him in school, is open to question.“31 Finally, argued the language educators, the fact that Hispanic parents withdrew their children from school in order to work at the first legal opportunity-however low the children’s grade-level advancement-made English-only instruction all the more imperative. “To say that instruction in reading in English should be postponed until the child has mastered the mechanics of reading in the vernacular may be tantamount to removing from the Spanish-speaking child’s school career any contact with written English,” admonished Coleman.32


The consensus against vernacular instruction reached by language educators of the 1930s did not preclude experimentation of the kind Manuel suggested, but it did discourage school districts, state education agencies, and foundations from venturing very boldly in that direction. The most adventuresome use of the vernacular in the 1930s lay in a few scattered, little-publicized efforts to introduce Spanish as a subject of instruction for one class period per day in the upper elementary grades, after the children had already proved themselves capable in English. 33 Coleman might be willing to grant that “we know little of the degrees to which skill in reading one language transfers to reading another, particularly at the primary stage,” but he was too committed to the highly structured and direct reading-readiness approach to English-language education to express much interest in finding out.34 In sum, the climate of educational opinion in which George Sanchez came of age as a scholar leaned very heavily against vernacular instruction on both sociopolitical and pedagogical grounds. It remains now to examine the extent to which that mind set shaped and delimited Sanchez’s own contributions to the field of language education.




In the tradition pioneered by his Texas mentor, Herschel Manuel, Sanchez called attention to false assumptions, inappropriate methodologies, and dubious conclusions that permeated psychological research on Spanish-speaking children and their education. His early work focused particularly on research that purported to show a clear-cut, causal link between bilingualism and low IQ, and that interpreted bilingualism itself as an inherent, severe intellectual handicap for Spanish-speaking (and other native non-English-speaking) children. These conclusions had no empirical validity, Sanchez insisted. The true problem lay in inadequate techniques of educational measurement; this problem was unfortunately compounded by professional educators who viewed intelligence tests as ends in themselves instead of as diagnostic instruments.


For example, Sanchez criticized the widespread use of the Stanford-Binet IQ test for native Spanish-speaking children at the end of the first grade. Those who administered and evaluated the test results, he argued, failed to acknowledge how little English vocabulary these children had on entering school, the gap between the English vocabulary teachers nominally taught and what children actually learned, and-most important-the gap between words and concepts that the test implicitly assumed students knew in order to follow directions. In fact, many Spanish-speaking children had never been taught these words and concepts, some of which were alien to their language and culture. “In addition to the fact that many of the words are ‘unknown,’ there is the added difficulty of homonyms and of word usage,” Sanchez contended. “Such words as ‘like,’ ‘right, ’ ‘kind,’ ‘get,’ and ‘look’ used in the tests and commonly used with at least two different meanings, present serious difficulties to the child just acquiring a new vocabulary.” An additional difficulty, Sanchez continued, was “the more nebulous, and consequently more trying, problem of the equivalence of concepts and of organized ideas. For instance, ‘picture’ connotes ‘retrato’ (portrait) to the Spanish-speaking child and, in most cases, it is far-fetched to call a drawing such as those used in the Binet Tests a ‘retrato.’”35


Sanchez considered his criticisms of intelligence tests restrained. Most needed, he argued, was additional research on such basic issues as what concepts bilingual children possessed, in any language, on entering school; the relation between concepts the schools taught and those children already possessed; the relation between language taught in school and language pre-requisities demanded by standardized tests; and so on. Nonetheless, Sanchez felt that the deficiencies of the tests were already sufficiently clear to require schools to teach children the precise meaning of all test-related vocabulary and concepts before daring to draw from test results momentous conclusions about their potential to benefit from public schooling. As Sanchez saw it, the schools’ responsibilities were large indeed. They were not only to teach vocabulary and concepts in the abstract, but also to provide necessary “experiences which the school should make as common to him as they were to the children upon whom the norms of the measures were based.” This goal should be achieved, moreover, not by removing children from their regular first-grade class, which would result in unnecessary segregation and “retardation,” but rather by offering Spanish-speaking youngsters preschool instruction in English-language schools. Obviously building on Manuel’s call for early schooling of Spanish-speaking children, and in anticipation of the Head Start idea some three decades later, Sanchez concluded: “The promise which the kindergarten holds for the ‘average’ American child is charged with even greater possibilities and value in the education of the non-English speaking pupil.”36


Sanchez voiced more pointed criticism of scholars whose uncritical acceptance of test scores reinforced derogatory popular prejudices, and who ignored the way in which disparities in environment and culture influenced test results. The work of W. H. Sheld came in for specific censure. In “The Intelligence of the Mexican School Child,” Sheld incorrectly assumed, according to Sanchez, that by merely “translating” standard IQ tests into Spanish it became possible to draw scientific comparisons of the mental abilities of Spanish-speaking versus English-speaking children. Similarly, Sanchez challenged other psychologists who concluded that, on the basis of IQ scores, Spanish-speaking children were little above the “moron” level in intellectual potential. These conclusions were “indefensible,” if predictable, given the inadequacies of contemporary testing instruments. “Who would champion the thesis that half or more of the Spanish-speaking, or any other such, group is dull, borderline, and feeble-minded when it is generally accepted that only seven percent of ‘normal’ groups may be so classified? However, such a champion would find test results to support his cause.”37 Sanchez’s criticisms were balanced by genuine appreciation of the potential value of intelligence tests in educational diagnoses. It was less mental tests per se than insensitive test interpreters that drew his ire. Sanchez distinguished carefully between true giants in the field of educational measurements like Lewis Terman and Rudolph Pintner, who understood the limitations of test results when disparities in native language and culture intruded, and the mass of overenthusiastic young psychologists who viewed IQ scores as holy writ. Sanchez called not for the abandonment of tests but simply for greater caution and sense of purpose in their diagnostic use: “Mental tests are professional instruments which must be supplemented by intelligent and professional application and evaluation for the best interests of the child or group concerned.”38


Ultimately, Sanchez concluded, the potential educational benefits of intelligence tests for bilingual children outweighed the dangers. The key was to recognize that tests were “tools that should be used for what they are worth”: no more, but, also, no less. While the notion of IQ was, in Sanchez’s view, largely worthless in the abstract, it was potentially invaluable insofar as it pushed educators to respond innovatively to the learning difficulties of bilingual children. “It is only when [IQ] is used critically in promoting the best educational interests of the children that it has any worthwhile significance to the educator,” he reasoned. “This means that an IQ of 70 is valuable only in relation to the hereditary, cultural, social, and educational background of the child and the way in which that past history can be utilized and improved in making the child the best possible person he is capable of being.”39


Sanchez himself had so utilized intelligence scores to pedagogical advantage while completing his doctoral thesis. Initially he administered an IQ test to bilingual children in a second-grade rural classroom in New Mexico. Their median IQ score was 72. The key, Sanchez believed, was how one interpreted the test results. He interpreted the findings dynamically rather than statically, as an opportunity for pedagogical creativity and extra effort by school authorities. Sanchez therefore provided two years of remedial English instruction for the children, whose median IQ afterward was 100 or normal. “Thus the tests served a very useful purpose as tools-though their value as yardsticks of ‘intelligence’ was questionable throughout the entire procedure,” Sanchez concluded. “If initial test results had been accepted at face value, a large percentage of the children would have been classified as belonging in special classes for the dull and some even as belonging in institutions for the feeble-minded!”40


Ultimately, Sanchez felt, the real enemy was not science, however poorly applied, but rank prejudice. Even the most carefully designed scientific instruments were too often subverted by educators’ biased “attitudes and emotions.” “How such attitudes can go hand-in-hand with scientific instruments is incomprehensible,” Sanchez lamented after reading a U.S. Office of Education report that demonstrated how school districts in Los Angeles and the entire state of Texas used various subterfuges to segregate Hispanic students. “The frequent prostitution of democratic ideals to the cause of expediency, politics, vested interests, ignorance, class and ‘race’ prejudice, and to indifference and inefficiency is a sad commentary on the intelligence and justice of a society that makes claims to those very progressive ideals,” he affirmed. “The dual system of education presented in ‘Mexican’ and ‘white’ schools, the family system of contract labor, social and economic discrimination, educational negligence on the part of local and state authorities, ‘homogeneous groupings’ to mask professional inefficiency-all point to the need for greater insight into a problem which is inherent in a ‘melting pot’ society.”41


Sanchez, in short, viewed reform of discriminatory school policies as a test of America’s democratic values. However restrained his criticisms of misapplied educational science, he had no patience for prejudice and no hesitation to label it exactly what it was. In tone and substance, his strictures against the treatment of Spanish-speaking children in school were easily the harshest of any commentator in the 1930s. However, his criticisms and research were not aimed at challenging the consensus among language educators against vernacular instruction.




By the time he published Forgotten People, Sanchez had moved far beyond his professional beginnings as an educational administrator and psychologist, and had become, by virtue of his research and travel in Mexico, South America, and the American South, a seasoned commentator on social, economic, political, and historical matters. While the subject was again his beloved New Mexico, he brought to it a new breadth of perspective that provided a rich context for examining educational issues.


At the heart of Forgotten People lay a historically grounded moral judgment: The U.S. government had failed miserably in responding to the needs of the people it conquered in the Mexican-American War. The federal authorities, contended Sanchez, “failed to take note of the fact that those people were, in effect, subject peoples of a culture and of a way of life radically different from that into which they were suddenly and unwittingly thrust.” No wonder, then, “that they have been unable to span completely the cultural and economic gap between their traditional way of life and modern America.” The U.S. government had unfortunately assumed, as it did not after conquering the Indian tribes, the Filipinos, or the Puerto Ricans, that New Mexicans could be incorporated into the body politic without recognizing “the special nature of [their] problems.” Sanchez’s judgment was firm: “The generally inferior status held by the native New Mexican today is, in large measure, a result of the failure of the United States to recognize the special character of the social responsibility it assumed when it brought these people forcibly into the American society. . . . The progress that has been made serves but to suggest the levels that might have been attained had a neglectful parent been more considerate of her children-stepchildren that the nation adopted through treaty.”42


The natural, inevitable result of government abandonment, Sanchez claimed, was cultural degradation. With none of the condescension that attaches to the same terms today, Sanchez described the culture of the people he loved as handicapped, inadequate, deteriorated, bewildered, pathetic, and so forth. Analytically, what Sanchez did was to apply a popular sociological concept-William Ogburn’s notion of “cultural lag”-to New Mexico history, and to blame governmental indifference and shortsighted policy for the “lag. ” “The New Mexican often carries on inferior and obsolete practices and beliefs,” Sanchez explained, “because he has been permitted, and forced, to remain in isolation. . . from the normal social contacts which would tend to improve his condition,” and “highly inaccessible, physically and culturally, to the public agencies of incorporation.” New Mexicans remained “society’s stepchildren-forgotten people on the ‘other side of the railroad tracks.’”43


Given his deep knowledge and regard for the culture of his ancestors, his strong commitment to American democratic ideology, his condemnation of governmental neglect of Hispanic citizens, and his personal history of early mastery of English, Sanchez’s reflections on bilingualism, biculturalism, and the possible uses of vernacular instruction remain of special interest. Sanchez examined language and cultural issues in a broad context, and in accord with the political aspirations he held out for his people. His main concern was not language or cultural maintenance, but the lack of economic and social success of Hispanics relative to other ethnic groups in early twentieth-century America. Despite momentous changes in the world around them, Spanish-speaking New Mexicans maintained habits of thought and behavior that their Spanish and Indian ancestors had carried centuries ago to New Mexico, Sanchez observed. In language and custom as in agricultural practices, they remained devoted to the past-less out of reverence than from physical and cultural isolation, he believed, and “in lieu of adequate instruction” from their American conquerors. In voicing these criticisms, Sanchez neither denigrated Hispanic culture nor chided New Mexicans for attempting to sustain it. Far from it: Sanchez cherished the richness of the Hispanic heritage in the New World, and was consequently distressed by its diminished vitality in the Southwest. “No fault can be found with a society because it seeks to perpetuate worthy elements of its culture,” Sanchez observed. He regretted only that admirable efforts at cultural maintenance had “not been accompanied by suitable adaptations.”44


The state of the Spanish language in New Mexico, Sanchez argued, embodied the larger cultural predicament. In serving the needs of a parochial people, the language’s vitality had been sapped by limited usage; in turn, isolation had eliminated incentives to learn English. In this situation, what was most critical-because most remediable, in light of the experiences of other ethnic groups that were assimilating more rapidly-was that the public schools had done little to help Spanish-speaking students master a new language and gain access to a new culture. Sanchez never confused his own ability and good fortune in mastering English with the predicament faced by his people as a whole. “The rural New Mexican has had the least contact with English and with the culture represented by the language,” he observed.45 The failure of Spanish-speaking people to learn English quickly had nothing to do with mental inability, active cultural resistance, or inherent contradictions between Hispanic and English language and culture, Sanchez insisted. It derived overwhelmingly from the unwillingness of public schools to adapt to and serve native Spanish-speaking children.


Sanchez minced few words on a subject he knew intimately as teacher, administrator, and researcher: “The educational policy followed in New Mexico is startling in its ineptitude.” Educational practices were irrelevant and ineffectual because they were patterned on schools in other parts of the country where it could be assumed that students came from English-speaking homes and had internalized American cultural norms. Pedagogical blunders were compounded by gross inequities in school financing. Sanchez’s data revealed that wherever Spanish-speaking children were concentrated, school terms were shorter, teachers had less preparation and lower salaries, and facilities and teaching materials were inferior. “It seems almost unbelievable that, insisting as we do that the American of Spanish descent learn English, we give him less opportunity to learn that language than is given to any other group in the state.”46


Sanchez utilized a case study of Taos County to demonstrate general points in finer detail. While the county had made notable educational progress in the recent past, due entirely to the residents ’ “determination to forge ahead in education,” governmental indifference and inequitable distribution of resources severely retarded advance. Taos had been shortchanged of fully half its rightful educational income, Sanchez calculated. In regard to pedagogy, Sanchez charged that Taos school districts were blithely ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of their students were native Spanish-speaking children. Ultimately, however, it was less the schools than the state that was to blame. Teacher-training programs failed to adapt “to the bicultural situation.” “ Bilingualism and its problems, as a significant challenge and as an opportunity in education, is largely a closed book to teachers,” Sanchez lamented-and this, remarkably enough, despite the fact that many of the teachers were taoseños proficient from childhood in both Spanish and English. State teacher-training programs left teachers “unprepared to improvise educational devices and procedures suited to their communities,” and “unaware of the incongruity of traditional courses and methods in the Taos setting.”47


Sanchez was obviously sensitive to the frustrations Hispanic children faced in public schools. These children, he insisted, were “just as capable of normal achievement in schools as. . . any other unselected group of children.“48 Yet alienation incident to language and culture shock effectively forced them out of school.


Imagine the Spanish-speaking child’s introduction to American education! He comes to school, not only without a word of English but without the environmental experience upon which school life is based. He cannot speak to the teacher and is unable to understand what goes on about him in the classroom. He finally submits to rote learning, parroting words and processes in self-defense. To him, school life is artificial. He submits to it during class hours, only partially digesting the information which the teacher has tried to impart. Of course he learns English and the school subjects imperfectly!49


Interestingly, however, Sanchez was most cautious in suggesting specific remedies to adapt school policies to linguistic differences. Only once did he suggest, rather vaguely, that vernacular instruction might be an appropriate adaptation. After bemoaning that native Spanish-speaking children often left school before mastering any language and before acquiring basic knowledge essential to employment and meaningful citizenship, he observed: “The one language (Spanish) that is comprehensible to these children is completely ignored. Their limited proficiency in that language is not used as the base for the new language or for the development of proficiency which, otherwise, they will not learn because they do not learn English sufficiently well in school.”50 There were two key, if undeveloped, arguments here: first, that the children’s prior knowledge of Spanish might consciously be exploited to facilitate acquisition of English; and second, that their Spanish might be used to make sure they acquired employment skills before leaving school. However pregnant with pedagogical implication these themes were, Sanchez did not return to them again in Forgotten People. Like Manuel a decade earlier, he seriously raised the possibility of some form of vernacular instruction only to drop the subject entirely. Neither Sanchez nor Manuel, it would appear, was ready to challenge very strongly the consensus among their peers against vernacular instruction.


Given Sanchez’s sharp criticism of insensitive educational policies for Hispanic children, his evident readiness to consider use of Spanish in some uncertain way in the classroom, and his well-demonstrated willingness to contravene accepted authority, it is of considerable interest in retrospect that he did not argue forcefully for vernacular instruction. I believe there were two main reasons: first, Sanchez thought that educators had already placed too much stress on language deficiencies per se to explain Hispanic children’s inferior school performance; and second, he viewed language training as merely incidental to the public school’s major task, which was to modernize Hispanic-Americans’ culture and bring it within the American cultural mainstream. In advancing both arguments, Sanchez developed a unique point of view on the schooling of Hispanic-Americans that distinguished him from other language educators, while leaving the consensus against vernacular instruction fundamentally intact.


Sanchez disagreed vehemently with scholars-to some extent, perhaps even with Manuel-who explained the economic and cultural backwardness of Spanish-speaking New Mexicans primarily as a function of bilingualism. To label the situation a “bilingual problem” was to oversimplify both cause and remedy. “It is much more than that,” he insisted. “The problem is one of cultural contacts and conflicts-one wherein traditional cultural and geographic isolation accentuate the normal problems presented by incorporation and aggravate the deficiencies of an undeveloped economy and of a frontier social structure.“51


Sanchez’s views on the social functions of public schooling also steered his attention away from the issue of vernacular instruction. Like many educational reformers of his time, Sanchez was strongly influenced by George Counts’s famous call to action before the Progressive Education Association in 1932: “Dare the Schools Build a New Social Order?“52 Sanchez’s answer was an enthusiastic yes. With other “social reconstructionist” educators, he portrayed the public school as the key to solving all social problems. The schools, he argued, should introduce whole communities to modern ideas and habits of living in such basic areas as health and agricultural practice. “Educational goals are what the schools make them,” he observed, “schools must fit [the taoseño] to master his environment in all its aspects. . . . The responsibility of education in Taos is not only that of educating for a changing society but that of changing Taos society.” In this grand reform enterprise, teachers played the role of modernizers extraordinaire. They were nothing less than “the advance agent[s] of a new social order” who were to “orient childhood along new paths and to relate school instruction to community life, giving unselfish leadership to their own people and serving as examples of the worth of education in the cultural adjustments which they seek to promote.”53 Sanchez’s overriding goal was obviously to hasten the future, not to preserve the past.


It was thus not surprising that Sanchez devoted so little attention to the potential uses of Spanish in educating Hispanic children for a different and better future. He was convinced that the social functions of public schooling-that is, the integration of Hispanic children into the social, economic, and cultural mainstream-could be realized only in the context of new incentive structures provided by more regular contact with the English-speaking world, and by local economic revitalization and modernization. Within this framework, vernacular instruction could conceivably be of some use in helping Spanish-speaking children adjust to and benefit more from schooling. Apart from these other, more fundamental changes in the purposes of public schooling, however, Sanchez believed that Spanish-speaking children would have little reason to stay in school, whatever the language of instruction.




Despite Sanchez’s rising academic reputation, the University of New Mexico refused to grant his request for tenure after an initial three-year appointment, in part, apparently, due to his many personal and political enemies. Sanchez therefore gladly accepted a more distinguished, tenured post at the University of Texas in 1940, as professor of Latin American education, where he worked alongside his former mentor, Herschel Manuel. Texas provided Sanchez with a more congenial, secure, and influential academic power base from which to advance his views. He exploited the position fully, with little regard, as always, for the enemies he made along the way. As Sanchez later recalled, he remained to the end of his career the lowest paid full professor on the Texas faculty.


Sanchez learned rather quickly that discrimination against Hispanics was considerably more blatant and severe in Texas than in his native New Mexico, where Spanish-speaking people formed a larger portion of the total population and where the Spanish heritage was more highly regarded in local culture. The growing anger evident in his publications reflected his new experiences and observations in Texas.


In 1943, for example, one of the most popular and sensational newspaper stories throughout the nation concerned the so-called zoot-suit riots in Los Angeles. Public officials blamed this “crime wave” on Mexican-American youth whose behavior, they alleged, revealed the “blood lust” of their “Aztec forebears.” Sanchez labeled this explanation pure “claptrap,” a classic example of blaming the victim. The origins of the current disturbances lay not in Hispanic racial inheritance but in “unintelligent educational measures . . . discriminatory social and economic practices . . . provincial smugness and self-assigned ‘racial’ superiority. Today we reap the whirlwind in youth whose greatest crime was to be born into an environment which, through various kinds and degrees of social ostracism and prejudicial economic subjugation, made them a caste apart, fair prey to the cancer of gangsterism.”54


To substantiate his claims, Sanchez drew primarily on firsthand observations in Texas where, he believed, the situation was similar to that in Southern California. Citing example after painful example, Sanchez demonstrated pervasive prejudice against Hispanic Americans, even against soldiers in uniform. Segregation was the norm in theaters, parks, buses, hotels, pools, and so forth, but its effects were most pernicious, he argued, in public schools. One of Sanchez’s many personal correspondents observed that in his town, not only were schools segregated, but to cope with a recent teacher shortage the school board had chosen to cut the Mexican children’s school day in half, while Anglo students continued to attend full time. Throughout Texas, Sanchez asserted, it was common for school boards to compel all children of Hispanic surname to attend separate schools, even though-as was the case with blacks-no legal mandate required such separate schools. Local and state educational authorities already possessed sufficient power to overturn these practices, Sanchez insisted, but it was evident that they preferred not to do so. None of this information was entirely new, of course, but Sanchez documented the practice and described its intricacies in greater depth than had any previous commentator.


Sanchez remained especially annoyed by professional educators who rationalized popular prejudice in the name of science. In Texas as elsewhere, he argued, the so-called language handicap provided school officials with a glib “pedagogical excuse” to segregate on the basis of Hispanic surname alone. Ostensible pedagogical reasons were nothing more than “thinly veiled excuses which do not conform with either the science of education or the facts in the case. Judging from current practice, these pseudo-pedagogical reasons call for short school terms, ramshackle school buildings, poorly paid and untrained teachers, and all varieties of prejudicial discrimination.”55 Adding further complexity to the situation, Sanchez contended that segregation of Hispanic children in Texas on the basis of surname was misguided because many knew more English than their impoverished non-Hispanic schoolmates. Some even came from homes where English had been the dominant language for generations and consequently knew little Spanish. Segregation of Hispanic children in schools, he concluded, had little to do with language handicap and attested mainly to the evasion of responsibility by professional educators.


Sanchez focused so heavily on school segregation because he, like the small group of black educators who formed the vanguard of the modern civil rights movement, felt that discriminatory school policies laid the foundation for widespread societal prejudice. If public officials worked actively to eliminate “un-American practices,” the “common people” would eventually follow, he optimistically predicted. “The Spanish-speaking people of the United States need to be incorporated into, and made fully participating members of, the American way of life,” Sanchez observed. For Hispanics as for other American ethnic groups, the school was the key to assimilation and success. If, however, current segregatory practices continued, crime waves comparable to those in Los Angeles in 1943 would spread throughout the Southwest. “One generation’s sins of ‘racial’ oppression . . . are indeed visited upon its progeny, many fold,” Sanchez concluded. “The fruits of ‘racial’ discrimination are boomerangs-seeds which breed, in the majority group, fascism and tolerance of the concentration camp for ‘inferior races.’ The vicious practices. . . do harm to the ‘Mexican,’ yes. However, infinitely more harm is done to the group which perpetuates and tolerates the practices.”56


Throughout the 1940s, Sanchez was among a handful of scholars whose empirical research helped undermine-several years before the more celebrated court decisions against segregation of blacks-illegal segregation of Hispanic students in the Southwestern states.57 Perhaps most influential was Sanchez’s analysis of ten school systems in Texas to assess educational opportunities for Hispanic-American students. Eight of the ten systems segregated Hispanics on the grounds of language handicap, although the methods of segregation varied from the subtle to the obvious. Sanchez also investigated a number of other rationales used by school boards to justify segregation, for example, the claim that segregation facilitated individual instruction for non-English speakers, that Anglo schools were already overcrowded, and that Hispanic students attended school less regularly and so disrupted classroom continuity. Sanchez’s data revealed, however, that Hispanic students’ rates of attendance were average, that their schools were significantly more overcrowded, and that the promise of individualized instruction was wholly unkept. In fact, in the Hispanic schools facilities and materials were cheaper, and teachers were less qualified and received lower salaries. Furthermore, surname alone, not individually assessed language handicap, determined which children were sent to the segregated schools. The segregation of Hispanic students contrary to law, Sanchez emphasized, represented disguised prejudice, not proven pedagogical necessity.58 Sanchez’s personal involvement in the anti-segregation cause expanded after 1947, when the first successful constitutional challenge to segregation of Spanish-speaking students, Mendez v. Westminster, was decided in California. While minority-group spokesmen throughout the nation understandably championed the ruling, Sanchez was less sure. As he read the decision, the court had decided on such narrow legal and constitutional grounds that it basically left the “separate but equal” doctrine unchallenged. Clear answers to three additional questions were essential. First, was there illegal segregation when no specific policy statement, law, regulation, or guideline mandated it (as segregation was legally mandated for blacks in the South)? Second, to what extent could schools group Spanish-speaking children in separate classes, whatever the rationale? And third, to what extent were state school officials responsible for segregation practiced under their jurisdiction?


Determined to use the momentum from Mendez to obtain answers to these questions, Sanchez intensified his reformist efforts in Texas. He testified strongly, in his capacity as a professional educator, against pedagogical justification for segregation before the Texas State Board of Education. He also played a key role in bringing the seminal Delgado case before the U.S. District Court in Texas in 1948. Sanchez’s arguments against segregation in the late 1940s merit detailed attention, for they further illuminate his views on special language assistance programs as remedies for the educational needs of Spanish-speaking students.59


In testifying before the State Board of Education, Sanchez drew heavily on his own research. In practice, he demonstrated, segregation contradicted the claim that it facilitated superior, individual, remedial instruction, for segregated schools were consistently inferior schools. But the intellectual rationales for segregated schooling, more than the empirical realities, drew Sanchez’s sharpest fire. The central proposition of the segregationists-that Spanish-speaking students required separate instruction because they did not understand English-was dubious on several grounds, he argued. First, it falsely assumed that the entire curriculum revolved around proficiency in English, whereas, in actuality, much of the school day did not, especially in the lower grades (art, music, playground, arithmetic, auditorium, and lunchroom). Second, it was axiomatic among language teachers that children learned language most effectively by interaction with those who spoke it. If school officials truly wanted to teach English to native Spanish-speaking children, segregating them more than residential patterns already segregated them was counterproductive. Third, segregating students by surname only made a mockery of educational measurement. While there was little authoritative evidence, the existing data, Sanchez thought, indicated that many bilingual Hispanics actually required minimal remedial instruction in English, whereas Anglo children from poor communities throughout Texas required intensive remedial work before they could participate effectively in school. Finally-a point Sanchez had made from his earliest research as a graduate student-educators too often confused form and substance in assessing the capabilities of Hispanics. When native-born Spanish-speaking children lacked labels to describe certain ideas and experiences, the problem was generally less a language than a conceptual or experiential deficiency due to limited and/or different cultural background. Like any other group of children, Sanchez emphasized, Hispanics varied considerably from one another in range of experience, conceptual ability, and articulateness. This was the key pedagogical fact on which to base instructional practice, and the one homogeneous groupings on the basis of language handicap most egregiously ignored.


In the Delgado decision, the District Court in Texas essentially accepted Sanchez’s basic arguments (he had submitted an amicus curiae brief based on his state school board testimony). Going well beyond Mendez v. Westminster in holding all forms of school segregation illegal, the court severely limited homogeneous groupings to accord with scientific criteria instead of surname alone. Homogeneous grouping was permissible, the court decreed, only in the first grade, only on the basis of properly administered scientific tests, and only if remedial instruction was in fact provided. Finally, the court held that the state superintendent of public instruction was legally responsible for segregation practiced under his jurisdiction. The state was obliged to find out what forms of segregation were being practiced within school districts and within individual schools as well. Where in conflict, local tradition would have to give way to constitutional principle.60


As a professional educator, Sanchez, like his mentor Manuel, was more than a doctrinaire opponent of segregation. He was equally interested in encouraging development of effective pedagogical methods that would, in the long run, better integrate Hispanic Americans into the political, cultural, and economic mainstream. Well aware that native Spanish-speaking children had special educational needs, he was nonetheless intent on addressing them in non-segregated settings that did not accept the prejudicial premises underlying homogeneous groupings. His specific suggestions for language assistance programs reveal ingenuity in realizing both objectives, even though he remained largely indifferent to the pedagogical uses of vernacular instruction in Spanish.


To begin with, Sanchez proposed to group all students randomly into home rooms. Then and only then, he advised, should schools assess children’s language and conceptual abilities, and their command of subject matter. Sanchez assumed that some students would prove deficient in English, but this group, he emphasized, would in most instances not be limited to those who spoke Spanish. To determine’ English deficiency, Sanchez proposed a narrowly devised test limited to words and concepts essential to realize specific, class-appropriate learning objectives-not, as previous tests had done, to determine general English proficiency. He insisted, moreover, that students’ test performance be evaluated according to norms of that particular school, not to national student norms. Only children who deviated substantially from their fellow students would be grouped together for remedial instruction.


Even here, though, Sanchez did what he could to avoid segregating English-deficient children for worthy pedagogical purposes. First, he insisted that homogeneous grouping be limited solely to those subjects where students proved deficient. For all other subjects and activities, they should be grouped together. Second, if at all possible, Sanchez wanted homogeneous grouping for remedial purposes to be carried out in the same classroom. While the “normal” students worked on projects requiring minimal supervision, the teacher could attend to children with individual language deficiencies. Here as elsewhere, the keynote was on commonality of experience within public schools. Sanchez argued that the subject matter of remedial lessons should be consistent with those of the larger class so that language-deficient students would not feel isolated. While he did propose special in-service training to sensitize teachers to Hispanic-cultural norms, and the introduction of teacher aids for ESL instruction, he emphasized that teaching English to Spanish-speaking children did not require wholly different instructional methods or wholly new personnel. Hispanic youngsters needed more good teachers, rather than a new pedagogy, to achieve their educational goals, Sanchez believed. With these minimal special provisions, the public school would serve them, as it had other ethnic groups, as a potent agency of cultural assimilation and social advancement.




Throughout the 1950s Sanchez continued to stress the benefits Hispanic children would derive from thoroughly integrated school settings, and to downplay their alleged language handicap and the need for dramatically new pedagogical or structural innovations to deal with it. He paid almost no attention to the pedagogical uses of vernacular instruction. His prime commitment remained the destruction of the tradition of segregated schooling, and the principle of homogeneous grouping underlying it, as the key to a better future for his people. Since language handicap had provided a pseudoscientific pretext for segregationists, he was cautious to a fault in advocating any instructional method that might unwittingly reinforce their position and reify popular cultural stereotypes of Hispanics.


Thus, in an article that elaborated and refined Herschel Manuel’s notion of “dual language handicap,” Sanchez highlighted the existence of significant differences among native Spanish-speaking children whom educational segregationists carelessly lumped together. There were three main gradations. Least problematic were children whose experience enabled them to order their lives symbolically in Spanish, but who lacked appropriate labels in English. Of greater concern were those whose background experiences were sufficiently varied but who, for whatever reasons, lacked appropriate concepts and labels in Spanish or English. Most problematic, in Sanchez’s view-and the only children for whom the label “dual language handicap” rightly applied-were those whose preschool experiences were too meager to serve as a base for the symbolic organization of experience in any language. For these children, schools would have to provide basic experiences from which concepts and labels necessary to higher educational achievement could be generated. This required both special language instruction and planned cultural enrichment, and, in Sanchez’s view (as earlier in Manuel’s), the sooner the better.


Even for experientially deprived children, however, Sanchez argued that remedial efforts should occur in integrated classrooms. As always, he downplayed alleged benefits of special instructional methods, and emphasized the need to mainstream native Spanish-speaking children and place them under the guidance of unusually gifted teachers. Nothing seemed more important to Sanchez than the teacher who, in addition to technical proficiency in language instruction, tried to realize the classic “progressive” goal of educating “the whole child.” So Sanchez envisioned an ideal firstgrade classroom for a child from a home where Spanish was the dominant language, or which was impoverished, or some combination of the two. The child


should not be isolated from his fellows. In that normally constituted classroom I would place a superior teacher, or teacher who knows what language development is and who can assess that development in each of her pupils. That assessment would involve not only measurement of the child but also measurement of the family, of the community, of the culture. In her professional repertorie that teacher would have techniques and procedures to meet the various needs which her evaluation reveals. That teacher’s concern would be less with “teaching English” than with helping children learn how to think-helping them to acquire the tools for thought and to utilize those tools in the construction of ideas, in the solution of problems, in communication. In brief, she would be concerned with the education of the child rather than with English-and the two are not synonymous! Properly done, the learning of English will be the natural consequence of that education.61


By the time Sanchez published his last major piece on the education of Hispanic children in 1966, much had changed since he first began considering the subject over thirty years earlier. For one, Sanchez had witnessed-and was universally recognized as a major contributor to-the emergence of the modern-day Chicano movement and its unabashed assertion of ethnic pride. Indeed, his essay formed part of a premier volume heralding the appearance of Chicanismo, Julian Samora’s La Raza: Forgotten Americans (the subtitle was, of course, a variation of Sanchez’s 1940 classic).@ While Sanchez was personally uncomfortable with abrasive assertions of ethnic pride by young Chicano scholars, his essay did in fact reveal an unusually militant spirit, even for him.


Sanchez was clearly not mellowing with age. The longer he lived in Texas, the more he believed that it was the worst place a Hispanic American could live. The problems of Hispanics in Texas derived, he argued, from more pervasive racial prejudice and more discriminatory public policies than had ever existed in New Mexico. Aware that the victory in the Delgado case had been as pyrrhic as that in Brown v. Board of Education, Sanchez was more ready in 1966 to entertain proposals for dramatic pedagogical innovation, including vernacular instruction, than he had previously thought desirable in order to advance Hispanics’ position in American society.


Another major change Sanchez had witnessed was the sharply increased migration of legal and illegal Mexican workers across American borders. Sanchez had strong opinions on this subject. Essentially, he felt that the assimilation of Hispanics in American society was impossible if cheap transient labor could be easily imported by unscrupulous business interests who showed no concern for the laborers’ children, much less for efforts by Hispanic Americans to become more widely accepted. In his early publications Sanchez had expressed little concern about this problem, principally because it was then less salient. In the 1930s the combined effects of a Depression economy and a deportation and repatriation agreement negotiated with the Mexican government reversed the large-scale Mexican immigration of the 1920s.63 After World War II, however, unregulated immigration increased sharply and, in Sanchez’s view, undercut the substantial progress Hispanic Americans were making toward acculturation. “Just as we have been on the verge of cutting our bicultural problems to manageable proportions, uncontrolled mass migrations from Mexico have erased the gains and accentuated the cultural indigestion,” he contended. “The control of Mexican immigration is most necessary. It would be shortsighted and tragic indeed if the two governments were to deviate from this sound path toward acculturation.“64 As growing numbers of children began appearing in public schools with little or no familiarity with English, Sanchez could no longer claim with certainty, as he had in, the 1930s and 1940s, that Hispanic children were generally more capable in English than educators recognized. This realization contributed to his readiness in the 1960s to give more serious consideration to vernacular instruction.


Another development that influenced Sanchez’s thinking was pioneering research in the field of linguistics that challenged traditional scholarship concerning the effects of bilingualism on minority-language children’s intellectual potential. Sanchez, to be sure, had never accepted the conventional scholarly wisdom in this area. But in the 1930s and 1940s his viewpoint was controversial and in the minority. Not until the studies in the late 1950s of Elizabeth Peal and Wallace Lambert with French/English speakers in Montreal-which turned the conventional wisdom on its head by suggesting that bilingual ability might actually enhance overall intellectual development-did significant numbers of educators come to share Sanchez’s view that bilingualism per se did not severely limit the educational potential of native-born persons who spoke Spanish. 65 Sanchez doubtless felt vindicated by Peal and Lambert’s research, but he was too aware of the uncertainties of educational measurement-not to mention glaring differences between Hispanics in the Southwest and native French-speaking children in Quebecto jump on the bilingual education bandwagon that began to emerge among linguists shortly after the Canadian research findings were published. On the other hand, the work of Peal and Lambert compelled Sanchez to consider potential benefits of vernacular instruction to enhance children’s cognitive development in ways his own research had never suggested.


Sanchez’s views in the 1960s were also influenced, finally, by a remarkable doctoral dissertation completed by his student Sam Frank Cheavens.66 Cheavens’s work was primarily a historical study (reaching as far back into the past as ancient Babylonia) of the uses of vernacular languages in education. Cheavens demonstrated how, over and over throughout history, vernacular languages had been successfully used to educate and acculturate minority groups in multicultural settings (created most often as a result of military conquest). Sanchez quoted Cheavens at length to show how important vernacular instruction was, especially in children’s early years, in building basic intellectual capacities; to demonstrate that vernacular instruction did not necessarily hinder learning a second language; and to suggest, most controversially, that the pedagogical use of vernaculars among minority groups actually sped up the process of acculturation, whereas suppression of vernaculars invariably aggravated conflicts between majority and minority language groups.


Sanchez’s strong endorsement of Cheavens’s work, combined with the other recent changes previously described, might reasonably lead one to predict that Sanchez now strongly endorsed vernacular instruction. Yet, when all was said and done, it was clear that to the end of his distinguished career, Sanchez regarded the use of Spanish in the classroom as, at best, an unfortunate necessity; moreover, that his advocacy of vernacular instruction remained subordinate to other educational goals that, he believed, better furthered the needs of Hispanic Americans. If Sanchez in 1966 gave somewhat more concrete support to mother-tongue education than ever before, it was hardly because he, like many young Chicano scholars, saw it as a self-evident remedy for Hispanic children’s educational failures. Appearing in print just a year before the Bilingual Education Act would make his position seem conservative and anachronistic, Sanchez’s final thoughts on the subject are of special interest.


As he had maintained throughout his career, Sanchez argued that the Spanish language had survived in the Southwest mainly due to neglect by the federal government of its moral commitment to a conquered people-what he called a “default of the institutions of social incorporation”67 Sanchez was, as always, careful to demonstrate his pride in all things Hispanic, and to insist that Spanish language and culture had already made signal, if largely unrecognized, contributions to mainstream American culture. Yet however much he prized his heritage, he emphasized that the preservation of Hispanic culture, especially the Spanish language, resulted less from concerted voluntary effort or ethnic pride than from indifferent Americanization policies. The federal government simply did not care as much about integrating Hispanics into the American republic as it had about other ethnic groups, Sanchez affirmed. The best one could say about government policy was that it was an ill wind that blew some good.


At times Sanchez appeared to be leading toward a full-fledged endorsement of vernacular instruction. To ignore the implications of Cheavens’s research, he observed, was to ignore “the lessons of history.” Spanish language and culture, he emphasized, were central to American life in the Southwest: “We in Texas do not consider the problem of foreign home-language as remote, or of narrow significance in educational psychology, in curriculum, and in the teaching process. Foreign home-language is real to us, and the prospects are just as real.” Sanchez consistently extolled the virtues of Spanish and decried government efforts to eliminate its use in the public schools. “In the Southwest,” he wrote, “one of the world’s great languages is suppressed. It does not make sense!”68


But for two reasons he had voiced throughout his career, Sanchez stopped considerably short of advocating radical reform of traditional language education policies. First, he considered it dangerous for a minority group often stigmatized and segregated for language handicap to endorse pedagogical reforms that might rationalize the beliefs and actions of its enemies. It was essential forever to “puncture the balloon that has been blown up with the hot air of ‘language handicap,’ the perils of bilingualism and all the other cliches with which educators cover the lack of preparation and understanding.” Second, very much related, and equally important, Sanchez considered the public school key to the acculturation of Hispanic Americans, just as it had been for previous ethnic groups. The main problem in the past was the half-hearted application of common school ideology in the Southwest. Public schools had failed “to do the kind of teaching job with [native Spanish-speakers] that the American school has done with hundreds of thousands of other children who were similarly situated,”69 he affirmed. To admit otherwise was to capitulate to racial stereotypes and pedagogical pseudoscience.


These reservations notwithstanding, Sanchez gave more systematic attention than ever before to vernacular pedagogy. He elaborated his thoughts in five separate stages.


Granting the existence of legitimate disagreement about when a second language should be introduced in school, and how far it should supplant a native tongue, Sanchez nonetheless found the conclusion irresistible that “the home-language should be the springboard for the proper development of the second language,” and that native Spanish-speaking children should begin their education in Spanish. No sooner did he articulate this position, however, than he began backing away from its pedagogical and social implications. Recalling the consensus among language educators in the 1930s, Sanchez argued that while vernacular instruction may have demonstrated its pedagogical value in other countries, it was inappropriate in America because it required a degree of segregation “not only objectionable but intolerable under our philosophy of the ‘unitary’ school and our denial of the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine.” Compromises and alternatives to bilingual education were therefore essential, he averred; a fundamental “incompatibility” existed between “our way of life with what might be pedagogically ideal.” Within the space of one paragraph, Sanchez thus appeared to endorse vernacular instruction, only then to reject it as incompatible with American democratic ideals.70


The first “compromise” Sanchez proposed similarly opened the door to mother-tongue education, only to close it as quickly, at least in the short run. Rather than using the mother tongue for the entire curriculum, which would invite self-imposed segregation, Sanchez suggested that it be used occasionally in integrated classrooms as the language of subject-matter instruction, or in informal conversation between teachers and pupils. Infrequent but regular use of Spanish in the classroom, Sanchez suggested, would not only aid native Spanish-speakers but would also provide incentives and opportunities for native English-speakers to master a “foreign” tongue. Yet Sanchez immediately withdrew this proposal as impractical, for there were then too few trained bilingual teachers to implement it. Only after more Hispanic high school graduates were encouraged and enabled to become teachers could he recommend this innovation in good conscience and with fair hope for success. What, then, could be done in the present to increase educational opportunity for Spanish-speaking students? Sanchez offered a mild proposal that drew on his work in the 1940s and 1950s in the intercultural education and Pan American movements, and on a book he had written to help non-Hispanics pronounce Spanish correctly.7l The keynote was on mutual respect as a boon to children’s self-esteem: By learning to pronounce Hispanic names correctly, teachers could improve the children’s general attitudes toward schooling. Even so minor a gesture, Sanchez felt, would give the Hispanic child “a sense of satisfaction and belonging in his accomplishment in the Spanish language and the culture it represents,” and would also enhance his image in the eyes of his non-Hispanic classmates. Sanchez was well aware that he was not asking for much, yet it was indicative of how little sensitivity educators had shown Hispanic children that he felt obliged to argue the point so tactfully. All that was needed to improve the situation was minimal “professional sophistication” and an admission “that the schools are dismal failures in the education of Spanish-speaking children.”72


So far Sanchez had advocated nothing concrete to encourage vernacular instruction; his fourth point drew attention further still from the mother tongue. The single-best remedy for educational failure among Hispanic students, and the only one attainable in the present, Sanchez contended, was the superbly trained and sensitive teacher. Whether the teacher even knew Spanish was not critical. “It would help for such a good teacher to know Spanish (to have casual conversation with the child, to talk with the parents, to appreciate the problems and virtues of bilingualism), but the important thing is that she be a good teacher and that she be given an opportunity to do her job (reasonable class size, at least average help from her superior, and the like). If the teacher does not know Spanish, she should at least understand why some of her Spanish-speaking pupils have particular difficulties.”73 Thus, Sanchez concluded, substantial provision of educational opportunity for Hispanics did not await introduction of dramatic new pedagogies, but only reassignment of the best teachers to the children who needed them most. Sanchez’s final recommendation, which updated and altered somewhat the progressive wisdom of language educators in the 1930s, was consistent with his broader social and political vision. In schools with large numbers of Spanish-speaking children, he suggested, a useful innovation for all first-grade children would be intensive reading-readiness preparation. This was not, he hastened to add, a plea to keep Hispanics in first grade longer than a year until they were ready to read-a practice that was already too common. Nor was it intended to segregate Hispanic children for special preparatory instruction. Instead, Sanchez emphasized, the goal was to extend reading readiness for both native Spanish and native English speaking children within the same classroom. This arrangement would not hurt the English-speaking child but it would help those who spoke Spanish “to get a good start in the catching up process that should be virtually complete by the end of the third grade.” Language development in the Spanish-speaking child, Sanchez argued, was “essentially the same as that of his English-speaking fellow students. But he does need extra time, before beginning to read, to acquire facility in the recognition and use of the new linguistic labels.”74 Sanchez felt it would be relatively simple to develop new standards of grade promotion that, while keeping the goals of integrated schooling foremost, enabled Hispanics to enjoy school and to advance with their non-Hispanic classmates while gradually catching up in their mastery of English,


Sanchez’s final thoughts in the 1966 article summarized a lifetime of reflection:


Stated or implied throughout this paper is the conviction that the schools of the Southwest are not faced really with a problem of language handicap, in the fact that large numbers of the pupils come to school speaking little or no English. The issues are not truly linguistic, but rather lie in the areas of social policy, of school organization and administration, of educational philosophy, and of pedagogical competence. There are many thousands of persons in the Southwest whose mother tongue was Spanish, who were socially and economically disadvantaged (that is, who were in the same environmental situation as that of the Spanish-speaking children who fail miserably in many public schools today), and who did “make the grade.” To attribute this to the suggestion that “they were different” does not accord with statistics on the distribution of intelligence. The fundamental difference between them and their unfortunate fellows was the quality of the school. Good schools-and by this we do not mean anything extraordinary, just good schools as judged the country over-take the “problem” of the Spanish-speaking child in stride. In the others we are confronted not with handicapped children but with handicapped schools.75


This conclusion was obviously not designed to ingratiate Sanchez with the growing numbers of Chicano scholars and activists who increasingly portrayed vernacular instruction as the sine qua non of equal educational opportunity, and of social, political, and economic power for the Hispanic community. Nor was it consistent with the philosophy of the Bilingual Education Act, which became law the following year. But then, Sanchez had always spoken the truth as he saw it, without fear of offending reigning authorities, whether Anglo or Hispanic.




Informed public debate is the cornerstone of the democratic decision-making process-a point Thomas Jefferson made brilliantly some two centuries ago when he singled out newspapers as the critical instrument of public education in the new republic. One of the most disturbing features of the debate on bilingual education during the past decade and a half was how often jingoism substituted for informed discussion. Proponents and opponents generally spoke right past one another, with evident disregard or incomprehension for what the other side was saying. A spirited public debate on so basic a component of human identity as language too frequently degenerated into a mere war of words.


My intent in this article has been to analyze the neglected ideas of the pioneering Mexican-American educator George Sanchez in order to inform, perhaps even to raise the level of, future public debate on bilingual education. Neither proponents nor opponents of bilingual education in the 1960s and 1970s, in my judgment, gave Sanchez’s ideas the serious attention they merited. Proponents too often ignored or rationalized the deep fears Sanchez expressed regarding the desirability of segregating Hispanic students to provide special language instruction. Opponents, for their part, sought too frequently to legitimate past practices in language education (such as “sink or swim”), and to place sole responsibility for innovation onto localities long indifferent to the special needs of Spanish-speaking children in school. Reconsideration of George Sanchez’s ideas highlights the inadequacy of these perspectives. It also exemplifies the inventiveness and courage needed to face squarely the enduring policy and pedagogical dilemmas in the field of bilingual education.




1 For overviews of the bilingual education movement, see Iris Berke, “Evaluation into Policy: Bilingual Education, 1978” (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 1980); Susan Schneider, Revolution, Reaction, or Reform: The 1974 Bilingual Education Act (New York: Las Americas Publishing Co., Inc., 1976); Noel Epstein, Language, Ethnicity, and the Schools (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Educational Leadership, The George Washington University, 1977); Theodore Andersson and Mildred Boyer, Bilingual Schooling in the United States, 2nd ed. (Austin: National Educational Laboratory Publishers, Inc., 1978); Ricardo Otheguy, “Thinking about Bilingual Education: A Critical Appraisal,” Harvard Educational Review 52 (August 1982): 301-20; Abigail Thernstrom, “E Pluribus Plura: Congressand Bilingual Education,” The Public Interest 60 (Summer 1980): 3-22; Alan Pifer, Bilingual Education and the Hispanic Challenge (New York: Carnegie Corporation, 1980); Joshua Fishman, “Bilingual Education: What and Why?” in English as a Second Language in Bilingual Education, ed. James Alatis and Kristie Twaddell (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1976), pp. 263-71; Josue Gonzales. “Bilingual Education: Ideologies of the Past Decade,” in Bilingual Education, ed. Hernan La Fontaine, Barry Persky, and Leonard Golubchick (Wayne, N.J.: Avery Publishing Group, Inc., 1978), pp. 27-32; Fred Burke, “Bilingualism/Biculturalism in American Education: An Adventure in Wonderland,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 454 (March 1981): 164-77; John Edwards, “The Context of Bilingual Education,” Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 2 (1981): 25-44; Glendon Drake, “Ethnicity, Values and Language Policy in the United States,” in Language and Ethnic Relations, ed. Howard Giles and Bernard Saint-Jacques (Elmsford, N.Y.: Pergamon Press Inc., 1979), pp. 223-30; Nathan Glazer, “Public Education and American Puralism,” in Parents, Teachers, and Children: Prospects for Choice in American Education, ed. James Coleman (San Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies, 1977), pp. 85-109; Peter Roos, “Bilingual Education: The Hispanic Response to Unequal Educational Opportunity,” Law and Contemporary Problems 42 (Autumn 1978): 111-40; and Paul Stoller, “The Language Planning Activities of the U.S. Office of Bilingual Education,” International Journal of Sociology of Language 11 (1976): 45-60.


2 On the German experience, see Steven Schlossman, “Is There an American Tradition of Bilingual Education? German in the Public Elementary Schools, 1840-1919,” American journal of Education (in press).


3 This manner of argument was explicit or implicit in the writings of nearly all leading publicists for the bilingual education movement in the 1960s and early 1970s, such as A. Bruce Gaarder, Jose Cardenas, Joe Bernal, Josue Gonzalez, Julian Nava, Alfredo Castañeda, Manuel Ramirez, and many others. The argument purported to derivedirectly from rapidly accumulating evidence of disproportionate school failure among Hispanic students, as documented in Thomas Carter’s Mexican Americans in School: A History of Educational Neglect (Princeton, N.J.: College Entrance Examination Board, 1970); and U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, The Excluded Student: Educational Practices Affecting Mexican Americans in the Southwest (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1972).


4 Many school boards rather vociferously made known their resentment of this assumption during the course of public hearings on the proposed regulations in Fall 1980. See also Patricia Gandara with Marta Samulon, Factors Influencing Implementation of Language Assistance Programs (Santa Monica: The Rand Corporation, forthcoming).


5 On the emergence of ESL as an innovation in language education, see Charles Fries, Teaching and Learning English as a Foreign Language (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1945): and Steven Darian, English as a Second Language: History, Development, and Methods of Teaching (Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972).


6 Quoted in Mark Krug, The Melting of the Ethnics: Education of the Immigrants, 1880-1914 (Bloomington, Ind.: Phi Delta Kappa, Inc., 1976). p. 81.


7 Josue Gonzalez, Towards Quality in Bilingual Education (Rosslyn, Va.: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education, 1979), p. 1.


8 See Paul Simon, The Tongue-Tied American: Confronting the Foreign Language Crisis (New York: Continuum Publishing Co., 1980).


9 The publication of the festschrift Humanidad: Essays in Honor of George I. Sanchez, ed. Americo Paredes (Los Angeles: UCLA Chicano Studies Department, 1977), attests eloquently to Sanchez’s stature in the Hispanic-American intellectual community.


10 The principal archives pertaining to Sanchez’s life and career are located at the University of Texas in Austin and the Rockefeller Archive Center in Pocantico Hills, New York. Very helpful, too, were Gladys Leff, “George I. Sanchez: Don Quixote of the Southwest” (Ph.D. diss., North Texas State University, 1976); and James Mowry, “A Study of the Educational Thought and Action of George I. Sanchez” (Ph.D. diss., University of Texas, 1977). See also Nathan Murillo, “The Works of George I. Sanchez: An Appreciation,” in Chicano Psychology, ed. J. L. Martinez Jr. (New York: Academic Press, 1978), pp. 1-13.


11 George Sanchez, “A Study of the Scores of Spanish-Speaking Children on Repeated Tests” (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1931).


12 See Hamilton Cravens, Triumph of Evolution: American Scientists and the Heredity Environment Controversy (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978).


13 For a brief review of developments in Puerto Rico, see Arnold Leibowitz, Educational Policy and Political Acceptance: The Imposition of English as the Language of Instruction in American Schools (Washington, D.C.: Center for Applied Linguistics, 1971). pp. 81-105: and International Institute of Teachers College, Columbia University, A Survey of the Public Educational System of Porto Rico (1926). For more recent developments on this unique history, see Pastora San Juan Cafferty and Carmen Rivera-Martinez, The Politics of Language: The Dilemma of Bilingual Education for Puerto Ricans (Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1981).


14 George Works, Texas Educational Survey Report, vol. 7 (Austin: Texas Educational Survey Commission, 1925). p, 208.


15 Ibid., pp. 212-13.


16 Ibid., p. 216.


17 Manuel pronounced his name as if it were spelled “manual,” although in the Southwest it was generally pronounced “Man-well” with the second syllable accented. He was also often addressed as Manuel Herschel. “I’ve traced the family back as far as I can, and there’s nothing but Anglo-Saxon Protestants,” reported the Indiana-born and bred Manuel in an interview with the Austin American Statesman on January 7, 1973. I want to thank the library staff at the Perry Castañeda Library, University of Texas, for calling this interview to my attention.


18 Herschel Manuel, The Education of Mexican and Spanish-Speaking Children in Texas (Austin: The Fund for Research in the Social Sciences, University of Texas, 1930), pp. v-vi.


19 Ibid., p. 20.


20 Ibid., p. 22.


21 Ibid., pp. 75-76.


22 Elizabeth Peal and Wallace Lambert briefly review the theoretical and methodological foundations of the early twentieth-century research in their path-breaking article “The Relation of Bilingualism to Intelligence,” Psychological Monographs: General and Applied 76 (1962): 1-23.


23 H. T. Manuel and Carrie Wright, “The Language Difficulty of Mexican Children,” Pedagogical Seminary and Journal of Genetic Psychology 36 (September 1929): 460.


24 Ibid.


25 Ibid., p. 461.


26 Algernon Coleman, English Teaching in the Southwest (Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education, 1940), p. vi.


27 See John Higham, Strangers in the Land (New York: Atheneum, 1955). pp. 158-300.


28 See especially the work of Junius Meriam, e.g.: “Play and the English Language for Foreign Children,” Journal of Educational Sociology 4 (November 1930): 129-33; “An Activity Curriculum in a School of Mexican Children,” Journal of Experimental Education I (June 1933): 304-08; and Learning English Incidentally: A Study of Bilingual Children (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Office of Education, Bulletin No. 15, 1937).


29 L. S. Tireman, “Preliminary Report of the First Four Years of the San Jose Experimental School” (Box 599 [Folder 6361], General Education Board Collection, Rockefeller Archive Center, Pocantico Hills, New York, May 27, 1935). p. 10. I would like to thank the center’s associate director, J. William Hess, for calling this and other pertinent documents to my attention. I also want to thank Judy Pence, associate head of the Special Collections Department, University of New Mexico, for calling to my attention diverse archival materials on the San Jose Training School.


30 Coleman, English Teaching, p. 114.


31 Ibid., p. 36.


32 Ibid.


33 The work of the San Jose Training School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was perhaps the best-known example of this approach. See L. S. Tireman, “New Mexico Tackles the Problem of the Spanish-Speaking Child,” Journal of Education 114 (November 9, 1931): 300-01.


34 Coleman, English Teaching, p. 36.


35 George Sanchez, “The Implications of a Basal Vocabulary to the Measurement of the Abilities of Bilingual Children,” Journal of Social Psychology 5 (1934): 400-01.


36 Ibid., p. 401.


37 George Sanchez, “Bilingualism and Mental Measures: A Word of Caution,” Journal of Applied Psychology 8 (December 1934): 767 . 38 Ibid., p. 771.


39 Ibid., pp. 766-67.


40 Ibid., pp. 767-68.


41 Ibid., p. 770.


42 George Sanchez, Forgotten People: A Study of New Mexicans (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1940). pp. 24, 26, 38, 40.


43 Ibid., pp. 28, 38.


44 Ibid., p. 28.


45 Ibid., p. 29.


46 Ibid., p. 33.


47 Ibid., pp. 71, 75, 78.


48 Ibid., p. 74.


49 Ibid., pp. 31-32.


50 Ibid., p. 79.


51 Ibid., pp. 37-38.


52 See Lawrence Cremin, The Transformation of the School (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961), pp. 258-70.


53 Sanchez, Forgotten People, pp. 85-86.


54 George Sanchez, “Pachucos in the Making,” Common Ground 4 (1943): 13.


55 Ibid., p. 16.


56 Ibid., p. 20.


57 See Charles Wollenberg, All Deliberate Speed: Segregation and Exclusion in California Schools, 1855-1975 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977). especially pp. 108-35.


58 On Sanchez’s views regarding segregation, the single best source is George Sanchez, Concerning Segregation of Spanish-Speaking Children in the Public Schools, Inter-American Occasional Papers, No. 9 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1951).


59 For additional details, see Leff. “George I. Sanchez,” chaps. 8 and 10, passim; and Mowry. “A Study of the Educational Thought,” chap. 3, passim.


60 Delgado v. Bastrop Independent School District of Bastrop County Texas et al(1948). No. 388 Civil, District Court of the United States, Western District of Texas.


61 George Sanchez. “The Crux of the Dual Language Handicap,” New Mexico School Review 38 (March 1954): 38-39.


62 George Sanchez, “History. Culture, and Education,” in La Raza: Forgotten Americans, ed. Julian Samora (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966). pp. l-26.


63 See Abraham Hoffman, Unwanted Mexican Americans in the Great Depression: Repatriation Pressures, 1929-1939 (Tuscan: University of Arizona Press, 1974).


64 Sanchez, “History, Culture, and Education,” p, 9. See also George Sanchez, “Spanish-Speaking People in the Southwest: A Brief Historical Review,” California Journal of Elementary Education 12 (November 1953): 106-11.


65 Peal and Lambert, “Relation of Bilingualism to Intelligence.”


66 Sam Cheavens. “Vernacular Languages in Education” (Ph.D. diss., University of Texas, 1957).


67 Sanchez, “History, Culture, and Education,” p. 24.


68 Ibid., pp. 11, 14.


69 Ibid., pp. 10, 16.


70 Ibid., pp. 19-20.


71 George Sanchez and Charles Eastlack, Say It the Spanish Way (Austin: Good Neighbor Commission of Texas, 1960).


72 Sanchez, “History, Culture. and Education,” p. 21.


73 Ibid., p. 22.


74 Ibid.


75 Ibid., p. 23.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 84 Number 4, 1983, p. 871-907
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 819, Date Accessed: 10/20/2021 3:36:20 AM

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About the Author
  • Steven Schlossman
    Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, California
    STEVEN SCHLOSSMAN is staff historian at the Rand Corporation, and visiting lecturer in the department of history, University of California, Los Angeles. His most recent publications include "Is There an American Tradition of Bilingual Education? German in the 19th Century Public Elementary Schools," American Journal of Education, February 1983, and The Chicago Area Project Revisited, The Rand Corporation, January 1983 (co-authored with Michael Sedlak).
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