“Master Teacher, Envious System” – Themes and Direction

Learning Target: What are the main THEMES discussed in the movie “Stand and Deliver” and the article “Master Teacher, Envious System”?

Review Definition: THEMEa subject of discourse, discussion, meditation, or composition; topic // a unifying or dominant idea, motif, etc., as in a work of art.

Written Classwork (20 points):

  • What are the themes discussed in the movie so far and the article?       You should be able to write what the theme is in one sentence.
  • Defend your theme with two or three points or pieces of evidence that support your premise.

Today’s Excerpt:


He was an immigrant from Bolivia. He had taught school in Bolivia, but he was legally unqualified to teach in the United States. He could not speak English. He got a job as a bus boy in a restaurant. Within six months, he was the head cook. He was that kind of man.

He enrolled in a local community college. With scholarship aid and a day job with Burroughs, he graduated in mathematics from a four-year school. He still wanted to teach. So, he quit his job and applied for a position in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He was sent to Garfield.

This made sense. He spoke Spanish. He was a new teacher. Garfield was not on any new teacher’s list as the preferred school. So, he wound up in a school where there was no advanced mathematics training.

He was not content with this arrangement. He was able to add courses on more advanced math. He called mathematics the great equalizer. It does not care what your social background is. It does not care what language you speak. It is objective. Either you get the answer correctly or you don’t. He told them they could go to college. “I’ll teach you math and that’s your language. With that you’re going to make it. You’re going to college and sit in the first row, not the back, because you’re going to know more than anybody.”

He persuaded students that they were the best. This comes out clearly in the movie. He pushed them, he manipulated them, he sometimes humiliated them, but he got them to take his class. They showed up before school began. They stayed after school. They came to class on Saturdays. They came to summer school. They worked harder than students in their peer group, and I don’t mean just in East L.A. I mean the whole age group. They worked like the children of Asian immigrants.

They also scored like the children of Asian immigrants. Year after year, more of his students passed the AP. This was considered impossible — not genetically, but socially and culturally.

Escalante said that what students needed was desire — “ganas,” in Spanish. They needed a challenge, and he was going to give it to them. He did, year after year.

Edward James Olmos and Jaime Escalante:

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