My Private Spanish and Your Public English: Interventions in the Public Sphere


Abstract:  In this article I introduce Hannah Arendt’s thoughts on Education and natality, and set her at dialogue with Richard Rodriguez who takes a stance against bilingualism. If natality connects us to our history and racial, social identities, the bilingual education debates question how to educate the new generations for their interventions into a pre-existing world. I will argue that Rodriguez’s view of the public sphere is one which is linked fundamentally to English speech and is already completed, closed off, and monolingual. I suggest Rodriguez is defending monolingual education in preparation for a monolingual sphere, but that such claim unsuccessfully accounts for the dynamic movement of the public sphere where languages and identities engage in complex negotiations and interventions. I also bring forth the consequences that such a stagnant view of the public sphere brings to the immigrant identity in relationship to their natality and future.

How effective is an English-only policy in a classroom that prepares the new generations to enter a pre-existing world? I write this from a neighborhood in New York City where cultures cultivate each other. The languages of older generations clash and are renewed culturally by the new ones, and new cultures and identities are produced from the remains of the old ones. Hannah Arendt made natality- the human condition of having been born-the central concept of her political theory. Insofar as new generations enter a pre-existing world and intervene with their identity, thoughts, and actions, they are historical beings entering a pre-existing public sphere. The dynamic movement of this public sphere actively engages in the emergence of new languages, new cultures, and new practices and this is a characteristic of cosmopolitanism. Immigrants are sometimes the invisible inhabitants of this city, and it has been argued that sustaining an English only policy in the classroom better prepares students whose native language is other than English to gain access and representation through speech in the public sphere. Rather than focusing on defending a bilingual policy in classrooms, my position will focus on the connection between native languages, natality and identity. Central to these factors is the role of education as a medium to prepare the next generations to intervene in the public sphere. I will defend an open, dynamic public sphere which, I believe, is the most accommodating for the needs of the older and new generations in a sphere where different forces, practices, and languages meet. From this perspective, it is easier to see how a monolingual educational sphere is unable to meet the racial, social, cultural and complex identities of the immigrant student.

In the first section of my paper I introduce Hannah Arendt’s thoughts on education focusing on her emphasis on the authority of the educator to preserve what is new and revolutionary in every child. I also point to Arendt’s distinction between public and private spheres. I then introduce Richard Rodriguez’s stance on the bilingual education debates focusing on his emphasis on his understanding of what public and private spheres convey. I argue that Rodriguez’s view of the public sphere is one which is linked fundamentally to English speech and is already completed, closed off, and monolingual. In this sense, I suggest Rodriguez is defending monolingual education in preparation for a monolingual sphere, but that such claim unsuccessfully accounts for the dynamic movement of the public sphere where new practices and languages intervene daily in an open, cosmopolitan space. I also bring forth the consequences that such a stagnant view of the public sphere brings to the immigrant identity and natal history: In a monolingual sphere, private and public selves cannot remain at play, so the private aspect of the self is dissolved at the cost of alienation or feelings of estrangement, as expressed in Rodriguez’s entire memoir.

To Arendt, education belongs among the most necessary and elementary activities of human society. In her essay titled “The Crisis in Education” she argues that this part of the human condition “never remains as it is but continuously renews itself through birth, through the arrival of new human beings” so it is important to focus on the role education plays in a “land of immigrants.”  Richard Rodriguez in his memoir Hunger of Memory writes about his educational journey from Spanish speaking boy to becoming an English speaking citizen. His controversial view on bilingualism is that the use of a native language, which Rodriguez considers to be a “private language” in the classroom would harm rather than aid the facilitation of the student into the public realm. Rodriguez writes:

“Bilingual education is a program that seeks to permit non-English speaking children, many from lower class homes, to use their family language as the language of school. I hear them and am forced to say no: It is not possible for any child ever to use his family’s language in school. Not to understand this is to misunderstand the public uses of schooling and to trivialize the nature of intimate life-a family’s ‘language’” (p. 5)

Arendt’s argument for education preparing in advance the new generations for renewing a common world exposes a sustained distinction between public and private spheres. The realm of education, divorced from political life, is the space where the child transitions from the intimate setting of the family to the public arena of the political world. In this pre-political sphere, the educator has a role to play; Arendt argues that education must be “conservative” in the sense that authority should not be discarded by the educator if he is to assume responsibility for the world into which the children are brought into. And the question that emerges is, do we preserve or dispense the students native language? Arendt writes: “the teacher’s qualification consists in knowing the world and being able to instruct others about it, but his authority also rests on the assumption of responsibility for the world.”  So if the child is to flourish as a person, the school acts as an institutional mediator between private life and public world with the responsibility of preserving that which is new in every individual. To Arendt, the private life is one were the child discovers his inherent qualities, while in the public life; he acquires representability and a political-legal character.

Both Rodriguez and Arendt see the realm of education as a preparation for persons to intervene, break into the public sphere, and both argue that spheres should remain separate, although for different reasons and with different consequences. Discussing the role of education, Arendt’s thinking takes an unexpected turn on her emphasis on authority. The task of education is to mediate between old and new individuals or generations by introducing youth to a pre-existing world, preparing them for the public scene. The task of the teachers is to help this “transition from family to world” as a “representative of all adult inhabitants, pointing out the details and saying to the child: this is our world” (189) Arendt’s emphasis on authority is a tool to promote the future freedom of the new generations as she argues that “education too is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands the chance of undertaking something new” (196) It is this space of authority that makes education different from other realms such as the social or political spheres and education should strive to preserve what is revolutionary in very child. For the sake of preservation, Arendt’s view is that “we divorce the realm of education from others…in order to apply to it alone the concept of authority” (189) So education, authority, and responsibility for the world are connected. And private, educational, and public spheres remain sustained and distinct spaces.

Can the task of preparing in advance the new generation for intervening and renewing a common world be achieved successfully with English-only policies in the classroom? In such cases, language-minority children growing up in homes where languages other than English are spoken would be encouraged to transition from the home language to English, so as not to be disadvantaged in the public sphere. But what type of public sphere is this one that education prepares students to enter? To Rodriguez, who views the English language as intrinsically connected to the public sphere, this would be a monolingual, stagnant sphere that is already closed off to any form of movement and exchange. Rodriguez assumes a naturalized connection between English and the public sphere when he argues:

The bilingualists simplistically scorn the value and necessity of assimilation. They do not seem to realize that while one suffers a diminished sense of private individuality by becoming assimilated into public society, such assimilation makes possible the achievement of public individuality. (p. 26)

Here, private and public selves are unable to remain at play in the public scene because the native language bears the mark of inclusion or exclusion. This point becomes clear in Rodriguez’s memoir were we witness various moments of shame or guilt for having lost his Spanish at the cost of becoming a public citizen. And even before he transitions into a monolingual identity, his Spanish is linked to the language spoken inside the home, providing him with both a sense of public separateness in relationship to native speakers:  los gringos, but also a reminder of such intimate space.

Assuming a monolingual public sphere, Rodriguez finds it logical to accept that the immigrant student must suffer the loss of his native language to make possible his appearance as an educated English-speaking person. Rodriguez’s rigid separation between Spanish as an intimate language and English as a public language, were Spanish then becomes the other, non-white language functions within the separation between public and private spheres. Critic Jeyum Lim in his article “The Performance of Bilingualism in Richard Rodriguez” has argued that Rodriguez develops a “politics of intimacy” where “loss, then, becomes constitutive of the citizen in the public sphere.” (p. 520) such concept of loss could be understood though estrangement or the ongoing disconnect between one’s self in the intimate realm, and one’s self in the public sphere.

Such disconnect between his Spanish self, and his English speaking self create in Rodriguez a form of cognitive dissonance in the sense that he cannot identify nor share with his family anymore, and does not know how to handle the complexities of his identity. He writes “after English became my primary language, I no longer knew what words to use in addressing my parents” (p. 23) His transition makes him an outsider in his own private life, but the lack of transitioning is viewed by Rodriguez as the lack of a public life. His father, for example, who never learned English, is described as a “silent” man confined to the private sphere:

My father seemed reconciled to the new quiet. Though his English improved somewhat, he retired into silence. At dinner he spoke very little. One night his children and wife helplessly giggled at his garbled English pronunciation of Grace before meals. Therefore he made his wife recite the prayer at the start of each meal…Hers became the public voice of the family…But my father was not shy, I realized, when I’d watch him speaking Spanish with relatives. Using Spanish he was quickly effusive…”

Rodriguez’s intellectual or aesthetic education was also influential. But his ability to read Western literature and identify with it comes at the cost of feeling estranged inside his home. Rodriguez cannot share the “classics” with his parents. For example, he selects Willa Cather’s My Antonia and recommends it to his mother, who does not understand it, and feels disappointed at this fact:

Several weeks later I saw it next to her bed unread except for the first few pages, I was furious and suddenly wanted to cry. I grabbed up the book and took it back to my room and placed it in its place, alphabetically on my shelf. (55)

He also describes his experience coming back from college and having little to say to his parents, “what could I tell them of the term paper I had just finished on the ‘universality of Shakespeare’s appeal?” (61) Later he finds an article on the ‘hundred most important books of Western Civilization’ and reads all the titles. His ability to appreciate Western literature reflects on his upward mobility through education, but also on the role of educators who aided him to understand the world from the perspective of the colonizer. As Spivak herself writes about the phenomena of teaching English Literature to Indian students: “The ideal student of British Literature was expected to “internalize this play of cultural self-representation that she would be able to, to use the terms of the most naïve literary pedagogy, ‘relate to the text’ and ‘identify’ with it.” (36) But however naïve these terms, Spivak argues that they describe a kind of cultural and epistemic transformation. Such transformation produces “an out of date, British-Council Style colonial bourgeoisie in a changed global context.” (37) In this sense, Rodriguez’s aesthetic education was also his transformation into a subject of ideological production.

While Rodriguez’s mother can barely grasp Cather’s novel due to her language constraints, Rodriguez is “educated” enough to read for pleasure. Yet even such pleasure has its costs, as Spivak argues: “When we teach our students to read with pleasure texts where the implied reader is culturally alien and hegemonic, the assent might bring a degree of alienation” (38) as is the case when Rodriguez feels uncomfortable and cannot explain Shakespeare to his immigrant parents, maybe because he himself feels the opposition between native and migrant at play in the private sphere of his home. Alienation also appears as Rodriguez becomes more aware of how his own ambiguous identities can open some doors (reading for pleasure, public representation, affirmative action) while closing others (his family and community life dwindles.) In the public sphere Rodriguez is an outsider among the Spanish speaking communities, as he cannot understand their language anymore. He writes, “Hearing a Spanish speaking family walking behind me, I turned to look. I smiled for an instant, before my glance found the Hispanic-looking faces of strangers in the crowd going by.” (p. 25)

Rodriguez also writes about the authority of teachers, and his thought sides with Arendt’s in that those teachers have the responsibility to lead the new generations from the private sphere into the public one. But assuming a monolingual sphere, he argues for a monolingual education:

“It would have pleased me to hear my teachers address me in Spanish when I entered my classroom. I would have felt less afraid. I would have trusted them and responded with ease. But I would have delayed-for how long postponed?-having to learn the language of public society.”

Rodriguez only sees his native language as a burden to be painfully removed –the burden of Spanish, we could call it. Wishing to remain an autonomous, coherent self, he would rather dissolve this aspect of himself than attempt to reconcile with it. In her book, Visible Identities, Alcoff helpfully traces various conceptions of the self through different phases and schools of philosophical thought. In general, the healthy modern self is seen as one that is able to attain autonomy by being able to disengage from the surrounding culture as well as one’s own desires so that one can engage in rational judgment that is not unduly influenced by the passions or outside influences. Rationality and critical distancing are important attributes of such a self. In particular, Alcoff points out that this view assumes that one only legitimately adopts or identifies with cultural traditions because one has found them to be rational. What is one to do, if one cannot find one’s attachment to a cultural identity to be rational (according to cultural norms of rationality)—In this sense, Rodriguez cannot get past the complex relationship of having a rational attachment to an “irrational” identity, so he dissolves his private identity in favor of the more autonomous and coherent, public identity.

Looking at the history of philosophy through Alcoff then, the self either is pure, rational, coherent and unified and is therefore healthy, or it is considered to be fractured and fragmented. My own experience teaching at a public middle school in New York City involved a classroom with a various students with parents who did not speak English. My students served as interpreters for their parents, and as interpreters between two different spheres, the private sphere of the home and the public sphere. NYC schools keeps an English only policy, and Spanish (or any other language) classes are seen as “enrichment” classes. The consequences that I witnessed as a teacher where that those students who still spoke the language and could have been placed at advanced levels in reading or writing could not further develop their skills. In the future, my students may be missing out on opportunities for bilingual jobs, which could enhance their social mobility. The majority of parents I spoke to during that year did not see the need to develop the Spanish of their children because of the idea that they were now living in the United States, where the national language is English. In this sense, the assumption of a closed, stagnant, and monolingual public sphere is not made by Rodriguez only. Further, there are plenty of communities who are sadly linking autonomy and coherency of self with English speech. And even when schools strive for diversity, the educational sphere remains monolingual.

Unless the immigrant student fully masters the English language their future performance in the public sphere may be diminished: She will remain in an in between state: unable to use her Spanish anymore, but never fully speaking like a native English student, perhaps unable to identify with western curricular arrangements either. In this sense, the student looses both her access to subjectivity and the access to the other’s language. These students may engage in negotiations of social, racial and class identity. For example, Rodriguez reads others and himself through visible signs of the body, reading his “long nose sculpted by indifferent, blunt thumbs” as “incapable of portraying” his ambition. As Linda Alcoff argues “this mediation through the visible, working on both the inside and outside, both on the way we read ourselves and others read us, is what is unique to radicalized identities as opposed to cultural identities.” (2006: 191) Such constant negotiating point to the play between private and public selves the public sphere. But my point is that these cultural identities linked to native languages are not doomed to be reduced or dissolved. I suggest we rather think of education as a space that will prepare the new generations to intervene and renew a dynamic, open, changing, cosmopolitan public sphere.  A non-native speaking student will be better prepared for future cultural negotiations and the creation of healthier identities if she can gain access to subjectivity and also gain access to the language of the other.


If speech is one of the aspects representing persons in the public sphere, are we to forfeit the wealth and diversity of the world languages for the sustenance of a monolingual sphere? And if so, what happens to our identity, natality, and history? Keeping these questions in mind, I want to argue that a traditional approach to subjectivity where private and public self are kept separate, like the one Rodriguez defends, is detrimental for many who are forging complex racial identities. I will also argue that a traditional view of the public sphere as closed off and monolingual is also detrimental to the project of re-connecting native languages to natality, natality to identities, and identities to communities.

Education, being the most necessary activities of human society continuously renews itself through the arrival of the new generations, and the transition from private to public sphere can either preserve the student’s native language, or diminish it. Rodriguez is transformed by his education because he transitions from Spanish speaking boy, to English speaking citizen, leaving his Spanish behind. But the possibility of transitioning into the public sphere and preserving one’s native language would allow for a more productive education preparing students for a dynamic, multilingual public sphere. Here, languages are a central player insofar as they are linked to cultural and racial identities.  Spivak herself, who sees the aesthetic education as the last available instrument for implementing global justice and democracy, argues that “the teaching of English literature can become critical only if it is intimately yoked to the teaching of the literary or cultural production in the mother tongue(s).” (52). A English only classroom policy would thus, prevent the student from engaging in language learning, which in its various forms is a productive site for social, political, and cultural critique and transformation.

The Mexican American Studies program, implemented in high schools if Arizona, was a project with the goal of allowing students to produce social, political, and cultural critique while keeping a sense of their historical, racial, and cultural identity. Some of the books to be read were: ‘Critical Race Theory’ by Richard Delgado, ‘500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures’ edited by Elizabeth Martinez, ‘Message to AZTLAN’ by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales, ‘Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement’ by Arturo Rosales, ‘Occupied America: A History of Chicanos’ by Rodolfo Acuna, ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ by Paulo Freire, and ‘Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years’ by Bill Bigelow. This program would have allowed for Native speaking students to keep their sense of identity apart from the public and also be public persons. It would have allowed for productive spaces where history, natality, and identity could be forged. But the state of Arizona’s recent ban against the program prevented such learning. These actions show how far a state can go to preserve its closed off, monolingual policy in classrooms, as it would rather prepare students for a monolingual public sphere. Insofar as one’s native language is connected to racial, social, and political identities, Arizona legislature is scared of allowing a curriculum with non-western literature and native languages that might foment an anti-white sentiment among impoverished populations of Mexican and Central American kids. As Linda Alcoff argued in a recent New York Times article, “the Arizona legislature is not concerned with misnamed targets but with having any targets at all. Tom Horne was incensed when students walked out of an assembly in 2006, protesting English-only policies and calling out Republicans for having anti-Latino racism. He does not want politically active Latinos in his state. He wants them to shut up and keep mowing the lawns.” (2012/04/01)

The fear of anti-white sentiment among impoverished populations is one of the factors which contributed to the creation of a “naturalized” link between the public sphere and the English language insofar it supports a closed off, stagnant space where little change and cultural enrichment are possible. Rodriguez who also believes, or was educated to believe, this link is natural does not grant the possibility of students keeping both private and public selves in the political scene. He writes:

Supporters of bilingual education want it both ways; they propose bilingual schooling as a way of helping students acquire the skills of the classroom crucial for public success. But they likewise insist that bilingual instruction will give students a sense of identity apart from the public. Behind this there gleams an astonishing promise: One can become a public person while still remaining a private person…that one can be both! (34)

But, just as languages are central insofar they are connected to our natality, history and identities, public and private selves must remain at play to connect to identity. Rodriguez does not grant one can be both a private and public person at the same time. In this sense, he holds a more traditional view of identity that adheres to an “authentic” self.  His schooling and history led him to relegate his native language and culture to a private sphere which he describes as secluded. Rodriguez, unable to negotiate or sustain both public and private selves looses a part of his subjectivity. His parents on the other hand, remain in the private sphere but without a public persona (in his view.) Rodriguez writes that his father was never able to speak English; and later became a silent man both inside and outside the home. His mother spoke with a thick accent that caused him embarrassment as he had to translate for her whenever they were out in public. His relatives laughed at him for not speaking their native language. Later, Rodriguez describes them as easy to convince by those politicians who learned the language to get Spanish speakers to vote for them. In this sense, Rodriquez sees the private sphere as a primitive space where little dialogue and cultural production or languages can surge. His experience of the private sphere is, also of a closed off, monolingual private space.

If being monolingual is the best way to have a public persona, then why does Rodriguez experiences contradictory feelings about his own stance? He writes how “Once I spoke English with ease, I came to feel guilt (this guilt defied logic). I felt that I had shattered the intimate bond that once held the family close.” (30) Such guilt surely defies the logic of adhering one’s identity to a coherent, stable, autonomous, English speaking self. But is the adherence to such a self really that logical? I want to say that it is more productive to keep an incoherent, dynamic- maybe even illogical-self to allow for identities that might actually contribute to the health of individuals and societies. In this sense, one can keep their identity apart from the public and still remain a public person. Such appearances happen daily in dynamic, open public spheres where city life is possible.

If Rodriguez had considered a more dynamic public sphere, maybe his identity confusion and conflict would not have been as strong and painful. Journalist Ed Morales, among others who searched for their Latino identity in America, focused on the concept of Spanglish as a language for dialogue and resistance. Instead of opting for assimilation or choosing one persona over the other in the creation of identities, Morales uses the amalgamation between English and Spanish spoken in immigrant communities to deny racial and linguistic purity. In this sense, the appearance of Spanglish in the public sphere serves as “a blow against the tyranny of outward appearances” (11) and as evidence that, indeed, the public sphere is not monolingual. Against critics who see the attachment to one’s native language as an attachment to identity and think this is a political or metaphysical mistake, Linda Alcoff argues in Visible Identities that:

The road to freedom from the capriciousness of arbitrary identity designations lies, not, as some class reductionists argue, in the attempt at a speedy dissolution of identity-a proposal that all too often conceals the willful ignorance about the real-world effects of identity-but through a careful exploration of identity, which can reveal its influence on what we can see and know, as well as its context dependence and its complex and fluid nature. (p. 5)

Further, how can one not be a public and private person at the same time? This is precisely what being a person entails, as Arendt explains in her study of the word persona in her book On Revolution. Such concept was one of the many political metaphors derived from the theatre and later taken into politics. The persona meant a mask that ancient actors used to wear in a play. The mask as such had a double function; it had to hide or replace the actors own face, but in a way that would make it possible for the voice to shine through. In this sense, the metaphor of the mask had a positive reference in that it allowed for the individual to affirm its personhood or persona in the public sphere. Arendt writes:

The distinction between a private individual in Rome and a Roman citizen was that the latter had a persona, a legal personality, as we would say; it was as if the law ha affixed to him the part he was expected to play on the public scene, with the provision however that his own voice would be able to shine through.

Arendt also makes a distinction between persona and ‘natural man’ to clarify that it is not a private Ego who enters the court of law but rather a right and duty-bearing person “created by the law, which appears before the law.” Without his persona, there would be an individual without rights and duties which Arendt calls “perhaps a ‘natural man’-that is, a human being or homo in the original meaning of the word” indicating “someone outside the rage of the law and the body politic of citizens as for instance a slave-but certainly a politically irrelevant being.”  Here I think Arendt makes a connection between public identity and subjectivity in that both remain connected in the public sphere. Her view may allow us to understand Rodriguez’s view of Spanish speaking individuals as being secluded from the sphere of politics, and exposed to their natural state. But Rodriguez does not take into consideration, as Arendt does, that law bearing citizens achieve their status as such only through their persona which distinguishes them from private individuals. In this sense, they can, indeed, keep both private and public selves. The Romans only knew a city-state, but Rodriguez, a cosmopolitan citizen, lived in the world. He could have known better.

Arendt, whose work was historically informed by totalitarianism, exclusion, and the surge of concentration camps which marked the twentieth century, had a reason to keep public and private spheres separate. At the same time, Arendt does not grant private and public selves either to stay separate or to be conflated and dissolved: They are to remain at play. One of the main characteristics of totalitarianism is that every sphere was turned into a political sphere (the juridical, educational, scientific, economic spheres etc.) and everything became public. Under such regime, rights, identity, difference and plurality were eliminated along with the private sphere as citizens became foreigners in their own land. So, private and public spheres are to remain distinct if we are to prevent the conflations of totalitarian regimes which swept away with everything. This is made clear in her analysis of the French Revolution were Arendt explains how, under the name of ending corruption and hypocrisy, this regime attempted to “unmask” those who were corrupt, but ended up unmasking its own children. Thus, all individuals were equally left without their legal rights and exposed in the public sphere. Rodriguez, who views those who do not transition into English as either secluded into the private sphere, or exposed in the public sphere may be expressing a similar fear of being left without any subjectivity whatsoever.

If we where to place them more directly at dialogue, Arendt would find Rodriguez’s stance problematic for separating public and private selves, or conflating the two. She argues that this is what the men of the Revolution did. Insofar as they had no concept of persona and no respect for the legal personality which is guaranteed by the body politic, through a passion for unmasking society: “they had unknowingly torn away the mask of the persona as well.” The Regime of terror was the opposite of true liberation because it did not allow for both public and private selves to remain in the public sphere; it rather conflated both selves, equally exposing them in the public scene. To the men of the revolution, keeping both public and private selves was an issue because it pointed to hypocrisy or corruption. Hypocrisy was seen as a vice through which corruption became manifest and it meant shining with something that is not really there. Arendt traces the core of this meaning to the teachings of Machiavelli, who taught: “Appear as you may wish to be” which Arendt interprets as: “Never mind how you are, this is of no relevance in the world and in politics where appearances are not ‘true’…if you can manage to appear to others as you would wish to be, that is all that can possibly be required by the judges of this world.” Arendt claims that such advice “sounds to our ears like the council of hypocrisy” and the hypocrisy on which Robespierre declared his futile war involves the problem of Machiavelli’s teachings. This is another example of a philosopher adhering to a traditional idea of a rational, coherent, autonomous self, and suggesting such self appear to others as something he is not. Yet, Arendt argues that such teachings stood in opposition to the tradition of Greek thought, were Socrates took his point of departure from an unquestioned belief in the truth of appearances and thought. As an individual one could “be as you would wish to appear to others” by which Socrates meant “Appear to yourself as you wish to appear to others.” In this sense, the self is always appearing as something incoherent but still true to one’s identity.

As Arendt argues, sustaining separate public and private spheres and allowing for private and public selves to remain at play in the public scene may allow for a broader, more dynamic public sphere. Only in a multilingual sphere can students reconcieve  concepts of language and race to their natality, history, and identities. These new concepts of self might actually contribute to the health of individuals and societies. I have argued that the sustenance of a monolingual sphere and the sustenance of separate public and private selves do not contribute to this project and should be re-examined if we are to really prepare the new generations to come into a pre-existing world, intervening and renewing it with their thoughts and actions.


Foreword:  From 2011 to the current date, I have been teaching in the NYC public school system. My subject areas are Spanish and Social Studies. The following 2 poems were written by a 7th grade student as part of a project for my Spanish language class at Our World Neighborhood Charter School in Queens, New York: May, 2013. I include them as an example of a student whose thoughts and actions will intervene and renew the public sphere a few years from now. I include them because I have had the privilege to think philosophically about every day lessons learned in my classroom. My student is one of many who come from Spanish speaking families and are constantly negotiating racial and cultural identities at school and at home, as his writing shows.




Arendt, Hannah. Between Past and Future, Eight Exercises in Political Thought. NY.

New York. Penguin Books. 1968

Arendt, Hannah. On Revolution. NY. New York. Penguin Books. 1965

Alcoff, Linda. Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2006.

Alcoff, Linda. In Arizona, Censoring Questions about Race. The New York Times. 2012

Rodriguez, Richard Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez. Bantam Books. NY. New York. 1982

Spivak, Gayatari. An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 2012


See O’Byrne, Anne Natality and Finitude, p. 74-76

See Arendt Hanna, “The Crisis in Education” in Between Past and Future, p. 177-78.

Ibid 193

Ibid 189

See Spivak, Gayatari. An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization. P. 36

For more on the history of the link between personal identity and an authentic, rational notion of the self, see Taylor, Charles. 1989 Sources of the Self, the Masking of Modern Identity. Cambridge: Mass, Harvard University Press.

See Morales, Ed Living in Spanglish, The Search for Latino Identity in America. P. 11

Arendt (1965) p. 107

Ibid 101


PAGE  22

See Alcoff, Visible Identities, Chapter 3.

Alcoff, Visible Identities, p. 53

About Are You Hung Up

I am a trained philosopher but usually make a living teaching middle school or writing Spanish scripts for Youtube. I get hung up on things. So here is my writing about whatever I'm hung up on in the moment. I'm from Argentina and my style of writing might have too many run ons for you. Consider that too.
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