Among prevailing myths for those who work in the field of education is that “those kids” from this or that slum simply can not perform at the level of children from the suburbs. Experts will trot out charts to prove that children born into poverty or whose parents never went to school have too many problems to become “A” students or to compete for academic honors with middle class children. Jaime Escalante, a math teacher who was born in Bolivia, died yesterday and with him, most probably, evidence that with the right teacher, children of any background can succeed. As one who was born to parents who never went to school and who never read books to me as a child, I did succeed because of teachers who believed in me and would not teach down due to my poverty background.
Jaime Escalante taught in the toughest high schools in Los Angeles and produced classes of math students who did as good on standardized children as those from the most affluent schools in America. He stood and delivered when the world told him it could not be done.