What are some quotations from Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodríguez?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This memoir containing different essays about Rodriguez's own experience growing up in a system without bilingual education has many important quotations about being educated within the United States.  I have chosen four quotations that connect to the important themes of the memoir.  

Memory teaches me what I know of these matters. The boy reminds the adult. I was a bilingual child, but of a certain kind: "socially disadvantaged," the son of working class parents, both Mexican immigrants.

I want to include this particular quotation first because it connects to the title:  Hunger of Memory.  It also introduces the reader to the author's upbringing, which is the main focus of the memoir.  It is important to realize that it is Rodriguez's memory that is both the focus and the teacher here.  It is also important to realize that Rodriquez grew up with a public language (English) and a private language (Spanish).  Even though he admits to being "socially disadvantaged," it is this distinguishing factor between public and private language that Rodriguez believes leads directly to his success.

The boy who first entered a classroom barely able to speak English, twenty years later concluded his studies in the stately quiet of the reading room in the British Museum. Thus with one sentence I can summarize my academic career. It will be harder to summarize what sort of life connects the boy to the man.

Here Rodriguez admits that summarizing a life is harder than summarizing success in education.  However, he immediately connects this idea to the importance of a public language vs. a private language.  Previously, Rodriquez admits that having Spanish as a private language did make him "socially disadvantaged," but his academic success speaks for itself.  

To many persons around him, he appears too much the academic. ... He has used education to remake himself. They expect—they want—a student less changed by his schooling. If the scholarship boy, from a past so distant from the classroom, could remain in some basic way unchanged, he would be able to prove that it is possible for anyone to become educated without basically changing from the person one was.

In case there is any doubt, here is a quotation that shows that Rodriguez is against bilingual education.  When he uses the word "they," he is referring to people who believe the fairly new idea of teaching children in their native language is preferable.  Rodriguez believes these people to be wrong.  They want to see an "unchanged" person to be academic.  Rodriguez's point is that change is imperative.  The most important change, says Rodriquez, is distinguishing between a public language and a private language (and never combining the two within the educational system).

Of all the institutions in their lives, only the Catholic Church has seemed aware of the fact that my mother and father are thinkers—persons aware of the experience of their lives. Other institutions—the nation’s political parties, the industries of mass entertainment and communications, the companies that employed them—have all treated my parents with condescension.

Along with Rodriguez's anit-affirmative action stance, he also believes that the changes in the Roman Catholic Church have not been good for the community.  The traditional Catholic Church empowered Rodriguez's parents and gave them a firm foundation.  Changes in the Church seem to water it down and negate the mystery found within it.  This is a good comparison to what Rodriguez says about language.  Any time English as a public language is "watered down" to include Spanish in an effort to pander to the minority, the result is a detriment to the privately Spanish-speaking population.  Similarly, any time the Roman Catholic Church is "watered down" to include changes in order to reflect the masses, the result is a detriment to the traditional Roman Catholic Population.

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Hunger of Memory

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