Education: A 400-Word Start

Until he was 14, squat, jolly, Texas-born Felix Tijerina could not speak a word of English. He was like thousands of other Mexican-American children: his mother taught him to read and write in Spanish only. And had he gone to school, he might still not have learned English. At the time (1920), Texas segregated Mexican-American schoolchildren on the basis of language—a discrimination usually as enduring as skin color. According to the odds, Felix seemed doomed to stagnate behind the language-discrimination barrier for the rest of his life.

Felix was made of sterner stuff. When...

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