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Teaching English

By Susan Sampson

31 March 2005
Copyright © 2005 ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

Ray Quintanilla's column in Sunday's Sentinel was very interesting. It confirms what the majority of Puerto Ricans on the mainland have been saying for years. The lack of English-language teaching in Puerto Rico has done a lot of damage to our youngsters, especially the poor.

The politicians on the island have just about eliminated the teaching of English in public schools. How can Ruben, Carla, et al., compete in SAT scores with those in the mainland? The Puerto Rican children studying on the mainland do as well as others on their SAT scores. The U.S. colleges are not at fault.

The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of those politicians who, since the middle of the 1950s through the 1970s, kept shortening the teaching of English at the public schools. Yet, these same politicians kept sending their children to study on the mainland or put them into private schools so they could learn English and be prepared for the future.

There was a time when, from the first grade, all classes, except Spanish, of course, were taught in English. That's why old-timers like me, with only a high-school diploma, were able to get ahead. We were poor and could not go to any college, but the English we learned in school enabled us to get much-better jobs. When drafted in 1951 and "assigned" to the Marine Corps, I was able not only to successfully complete basic training but also pass three promotional tests.

When Esteban says that colleges don't want Puerto Ricans because we are different, he is very far from the truth. U.S. colleges will take you if you are prepared.

Unfortunately, this preparation includes being able to write, speak and understand basic English. It is not Esteban's fault he is not prepared for college. The so-called leaders, who for their own selfish reasons, drastically cut the teaching of the English language in Puerto Rico's public schools are at fault. For the future of Puerto Rico and new generations, this problem should be fixed.

Pedro A. Cortes

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