Orinda Author’s New Book Recounts Battle to End Biased IQ Testing

Kathy Enzerink, Photographer
The Soledad Children is available at Orinda Books and at online retailers. Co-author Marty Glick, an Orinda resident for 30 years, will read excerpts and discuss the book Saturday, Nov. 2 from 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. at Orinda Books. Signed copies may be purchased at the event.

    It was 1968. Arturo, 10, was about to begin third grade at Soledad Main Street Elementary School in Monterey County. Before being allowed to enter the regular classroom, he was sent down the hall to a special room and instructed to take a test to see what he had learned. The timed test was administered in written English. Arturo had not learned enough and was labeled as being “retarded.”
    The case of Arturo and others like him resulted in a long legal battle to stop the practice of administering racially and culturally biased IQ tests. Marty Glick, a 30-year Orinda resident, was one of two attorneys to lead the fight.
    Glick, and co-author Maurice Jourdane, trace and recount their experiences in The Soledad Children (Arte Público Press, Sept. 2019). He is scheduled to read excerpts and discuss the book at Orinda Books Nov. 2.
    In 1966, the newly created California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) program, funded by President Lyndon Johnson’s Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, opened nine offices in key agricultural valleys. Glick, working for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in the South, was immediately hired to work at the Salinas office, 30 miles north of Soledad.
    Civil rights was his calling. “I have always been willing to do what’s right at the time,” said Glick. “This is what I wanted to do.”
    In California, his focus became the plight of the Mexican-American field workers. Hours worked. Rate of pay. Labor conditions. Fair housing. Receiving wages due. Public education. In 1969, parents of two of the Soledad farm worker children came forward to complain.
    “There is a major difference between ‘can’t learn’ and ‘hasn’t learned,’” said Glick. The CRLA attorneys knew tens of thousands of farm worker and other second-language students statewide had been sent to dead-end classes for the “mentally retarded” based on the tests. The courage of the parents set into action Glick’s two years of extensive research to attack the inequality of IQ testing.
    Arturo was born at a Soledad farm labor camp and raised by his Mexican-born parents. Spanish was the only language he knew when he started school and, therefore, he was assigned a seat in the back of the classroom where his English-speaking teachers “simply ignored him as well as the other children of Mexican-American farm workers,” according to Glick. He was bright and energetic, but shy. Watching television became his self-teaching tool to learn English.
    After the IQ test, the Soledad children – Armando, Arturo, Diana, Ernesto, Manuel, Margarita, Maria, Rachel and Ramón – joined other students, ages seven to 13, in yet a different special classroom. They were “all Mexican except for one Anglo boy off in a corner,” as referenced in the book. A teacher handed out coloring books, pencils and magazines and their school days consisted of “coloring, cutting out pictures, doing a very little bit of easy addition and subtraction and recess,” Glick recalled.
    When Arturo asked, “Why are we in this place instead of real school?” Maria replied, “This is the room for kids they think are dummies. They never give us anything to do but baby stuff. I hate it.” Arturo was relegated to the same classroom the following year.
    Unknown to these students and their families, Glick said “they were among the more than 13,000 Mexican-American children wrongfully placed in California’s Educable Mentally Retarded (EMR) classes.” This placement was “based on culturally biased IQ tests given in a language the children did not read or understand.”
    The attorneys’ landmark class-action cases, Diana v State Board of Education and Larry P v Riles were filed in 1970 and 1972 respectively. The name Diana, rather than one or more of the other Soledad students, was chosen by Glick because, “I liked the sound of it,” he said.
    Diana ended the use of culturally biased, English-only IQ tests given to young farm workers and other Hispanic children. It took only 29 days for “the revolution in treatment of the California-wide plaintiff class of schoolchildren, including the children in the Soledad school district,” said Glick.
    Diana was followed closely by Larry P v Riles, a fight to end the use of the same biased IQ tests with African-American students. At the time, African-American and Mexican-American students were 21.5 percent of the state education population, but were 48 percent of special education programs. In March 1970, Jourdane and Glick wrote in the CRLA newsletter, “A month ago, Arturo’s chances of finishing high school were slim. Now, it would not surprise us to see him graduate from college.”
    And he did.

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