Discussion Topic

Rodriguez's perspective on bilingual education and affirmative action in Hunger of Memory

Summary:

In Hunger of Memory, Richard Rodriguez expresses a critical perspective on bilingual education and affirmative action. He argues that bilingual education hinders assimilation and proficiency in English, while affirmative action fosters a sense of victimization and undermines meritocracy. Rodriguez believes both policies ultimately do more harm than good to minority students by impeding their integration and personal achievement.

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What is Rodriguez's view on bilingual education and affirmative action in Hunger of Memory?

In The Hunger of Memory, Richard Rodriguez's stance on affirmative action and bilingual education in American schools is explicit, and to many, quite controversial.

Rodriguez believes that a person who participates in two cultures in America has a responsibility to speak the "public" language of English outside the home. He believes that it enables people to work on a more level playing field and have a better chance for academic, social and economic success. Rodriguez has stated that bilingual education in schools hinders students from fully mastering English and prevents full assimilation into the open and free country of America. He also came to believe that is important to speak one's native language at home in a private, familial setting because it helps to preserve cultural traditions and relationships. He neglected to do this himself, and it caused a rift between himself and the rest of his family.

As far as affirmative action is concerned, Rodriguez is against it because he believes that it works against minorities and perpetuates division and oppression instead of lifting them out of poverty and discrimination. Rodriguez is an advocate for achievement or merit rather than preference shown for race, and he avers that affirmative action could ultimately amount to reverse discrimination. In an interview with Scott London, Rodriguez speaks plainly about some of the objections he has with affirmative action:

Affirmative action ignores our society's real minorities—members of the disadvantaged classes, no matter what their race. We have this ludicrous bureaucratic sense that certain racial groups, regardless of class, are minorities. So what happens is those "minorities" at the very top of the ladder get chosen for everything.

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What claims about bilingual education does Richard Rodriguez make in Hunger of Memory?

Rodriguez says proponents of bilingualism claim the following:

Kids who get instruction in their native language won't be so alienated and will be able to learn more in the very important first months of school.  They'll also be more confident of their abilities and so they'll learn better.

Also, they will retain a sense of their "individuality" -- their ethnicity and their culture.

The question of whether they will benefit from it is a personal opinion.  Both opinions make sense to me.  It's hard to feel good about yourself when you don't know what's going on around you in school.  But it also seems like learning English is the goal and immersion would work quicker.

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