Stand and Deliver

Patrick Gibbons

Jaime Escalante, the public school teacher immortalized in the 1988 film Stand and Deliver, died last week at the age of 79.

Andrew Coulson at the Cato Institute wrote an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal about Escalante’s life and struggles as a teacher. The highlight of the article is the realization that the status quo stands in the way of great teachers like Jaime Escalante, effectively preventing them from teaching students.

Coulson writes:

With the help of a few dedicated colleagues at Garfield High in East Los Angeles, he shattered the myth that poor inner-city kids couldn’t handle advanced math. At the peak of its success, Garfield produced more students who passed Advanced Placement calculus than Beverly Hills High.

In any other field, his methods would have been widely copied. Instead, Escalante’s success was resented. And while the teachers union contract limited class sizes to 35, Escalante could not bring himself to turn students away, packing 50 or more into a room and still helping them to excel. This weakened the union’s bargaining position, so it complained.

By 1990, Escalante was stripped of his chairmanship of the math department he’d painstakingly built up over a decade. Exasperated, he left in 1991, eventually returning to his native Bolivia. Garfield’s math program went into a decline from which it has never recovered. The best tribute America can offer Jaime Escalante is to understand why our education system destroyed rather than amplified his success – and then fix it.

Read the full article, “Escalante Stood and Delivered,” at the Cato Institute’s website. Reason Magazine has another article that highlights Escalante’s struggles with the education establishment. Read “Stand and Deliver Revisited” at