Stand and Deliver


LOTS OF NEW national and international policies need to be changed in order to halt the Islamization of the West. But for this to happen, more of us must become educated about Islam's prime directive. That's where you come in. Is this a tough assignment? You bet it is. Here's a little inspiration to help you...

Jaime Escalante got out of the computer business because he wanted to teach high school. He got a job in East Los Angeles at a public school to teach computers, but there wasn't enough funding to buy the computers, so he ended up teaching math. His class consisted of mostly Chicanos (people whose parents or grandparents were Mexican immigrants). The class was rowdy and noisy, the students were rude — they threw papers, they talked out of turn, there was spray-painted graffiti on some of the chalkboards, and they weren't interested in learning math.

But Escalante wanted to teach. And this class was what he had available for students. So he began to teach them math. But instead of doing it in a conventional way, he took into account the students. He customized his approach for this particular audience.

So the next day he showed up looking like a chef, wearing a cook's hat and an apron. He had already cut up some apples in different proportions and placed them on the desks around the classroom. The whole thing made the students curious. He pointed to a student and said, "What do you have?" The answer was half. He pointed to somebody else, "What do you have?" She said, "Missing 25%." That was the beginning.

Escalante used humor, he challenged his students, he built on their strengths, he used lots of class participation, and he was hard on the students sometimes. He used some rote repetition, and he relentlessly motivated them in every way that would reach them.

Then he decided to teach them calculus. It wasn't normally taught in the school, and he did it against some of the administration's objections (they thought he would be lucky to teach the students basic math, or even just keep the students in their seats). But Escalante wanted to challenge the students and he wanted them to do something that brought them into the future.

The reason he wanted to teach them calculus was that you could get college credit for passing the very difficult Advanced Placement Calculus Exam. He wanted them thinking about a college education. He wanted them to see themselves differently. He wanted to change their future.

Less than two percent of all high school seniors nationwide even attempt to take the Calculus Exam.

Most of the other teachers thought it was ridiculous and that the students would fail this challenge. The students didn't even have some of the prerequisites normally required for calculus. Trigonometry, for example. So Escalante taught them trigonometry during the summer so the following year they could take calculus.

One of the reasons he wanted to teach them calculus is that it's a form of math used in the computer industry. He wanted to put their sights on a future goal rather than fulfilling the low expectations everyone else had for them. This was another way he motivated them. It was another way he found to reach them. He was creative. He found new ways, found what worked, and continued to innovate new ways to reach them. And he succeeded beyond anyone's wildest imagination.

Out of the 18 students in Escalante's class, 18 of them passed the AP Calculus Exam! No other high school in Southern California had more students pass the test.

But then when their scores were reviewed, the students were suspected of cheating because all their scores were so high and they all made similar mistakes. So they re-took the test under more strict and careful observation, and all 18 passed again.

An inspiring movie was made about Escalante's amazing achievements, starring Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips. The movie is called Stand and Deliver. (Watch the trailer here.)

Escalante kept learning and innovating. The next year, 31 of his students passed the AP Calculus Exam. The year after that, 63 students passed. The year after that it was 77 students. And so it went.

We are in a similar situation as Escalante. We often find ourselves trying to teach people things they don't want to learn. And the reasons they don't want to learn are not legitimate, but they don't know that.

We may be able to use many of the specific techniques Escalante used with his students when we talk to people about Islam, but the more fundamental principle of commitment, innovation, thinking outside the box, and using whatever fits the personality of the person you're trying to reach — those are principles we should enthusiastically emulate. He could have given up like many teachers have done under similar circumstances. But instead he innovated and experimented, and that is what we must do.



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