First of all thank you for inviting me to address you today, and thank you for being here. On a personal note, this convention is very close to my heart as my late mother, Nivea Hernández de McClintock, envisioned the need for a TESOL chapter in PR and along with others, acted to make this vision a reality, some forty years ago.
English is not only the official business language of the world, has replaced French as the language of diplomacy, but it is also the language of the future as it is the tool with which most cyber platforms are designed and conceived. In spite of the fact that most websites available through the Internet have translated versions, some better than others if I may add, it is undisputed that social, economic, and news related sites are oriented to those who are capable of reading and writing in English. English is a fundamental tool for those who wish to pursue any kind of commercial endeavor using the substantial benefits of today’s state of the art technology. If you think about it, most common names and jargon used in today’s economy stems from the English language: e-mail, v-card, attachment, contact list, just to name a few.
And yes, in spite of those who would like to have it otherwise, English is one of Puerto Rico’s two official languages.
For many years, way too many, we have been immersed in sterile political disputes as to what extent the English language, its teaching, dissemination, is or ceases to be, part of our culture and of our reality as a nation, territory, people, commonwealth, nation-island, judicially incorporated state. Unfortunately, we don’t even agree on the semantics we use to define what we are or aspire to be. And what is really pitiful is that those who end up paying the price are those who cannot and must not be affected by philosophical or ideological rhetoric: OUR YOUTH. Denying hundreds of our kids a high quality bilingual education due to ideological political warfare is unethical, inconsiderate and flat out wrong.
What was the reason behind this? Puerto Rico government officials “disagreed” with the instructional model outlined in the approved plan and the methods for teaching reading in English. Politics at its best, Public service at its worst.
The program would have required that schools funded by Reading First use "scientifically-based" reading instruction. Now, I’m not here to point fingers, but I will say this… this CANNOT and WILL NOT happen again. Equipping our youth with essential educational tools is imperative for their professional development and success which at the same time benefits our island. In the era of globalization in which we live in, speaking and writing fluently in the English language is the key to success and propels future young Puerto Rican leaders abroad. Our administration has begun to work tirelessly to make sure those tools are available to each and every student in Puerto Rico, regardless of political affiliations. Our students deserve no less…. I know that parents share this view. When my son Kevin turned 5 nine years ago, my wife Marie and I applied to enroll him in Cidra’s Bilingual School. 96 applicants for 20 slots.
A year later, when my daughter Stephanie was ready for kindergarten at the same public bilingual school, there were over 120 applicants for 20 slots. I’m sure that among those applicants’ parents you’d be able to find statehooders, populares and indepependentistas with separate ideological views but who agreed on one thing- their kids were entitled to a bilingual education.
So, as you celebrate the 40th anniversary of your promising organization, may I paraphrase John F. Kennedy’s favorite poet, Robert Frost, in saying that TESOL still has promises to keep and miles to go before you sleep and miles to go before you sleep. Thank You.