Stand and Deliver is an inspirational classic from 1988 starring Edward James Olmos as Jaime Escalante, and his class of rag tag students in East Los Angeles. It’s the story of how a new teacher shows a motley group of students in the inner city with backgrounds as gang members, dishwashers, and mechanics — the power of self-determination. He teaches the teenagers to believe in themselves through algebra and calculus.
Math is the great equalizer… When you go for a job, the person giving you that job will not want to hear your problems; ergo, neither do I. You’re going to work harder here than you’ve ever worked anywhere else. And the only thing I ask from you is ganas. Desire.
It was very moving how the teacher Jaime Escalante connected with the low-income students who had low hopes for themselves. He related to the students through both culture and mathematics. He started off early in the course conveying a sense of history and destiny to the students.
Jaime Escalante: Did you know that neither the Greeks nor the Romans were capable of using the concept of zero? It was your ancestors, the Mayans, who first contemplated the zero. The absence of value. True story. You burros have math in your blood…
This really caused the students to pause and rethink what they were capable of. They hadn’t thought that math was for them. They had thought that education was too far a stretch for someone of their background. But this little piece of information inspired some pretty significant confidence within the students.
Jaime also related to the students by being a good leader himself. He was relatable to the students, speaking Spanish, and coming from the same background. He was smart, worked hard, and had succeeded in the world of engineering. He was also kind and caring — it was obvious how much he loved and believed in his students.
The students themselves were very inspirational to watch throughout the movie. When Pancho tries to quit the class to help out with the family business, Jaime decides to take him on a car ride. Jaime drives erratically trying to shift the gears in Pancho’s car. As they rapidly approach a fork in the road, Jaime exclaims “Right or left?” Panicked Pancho exclaims, “Go right! Go right!” Jaime swerves right, and the car screeches to a halt in front of a dead end. Jaime says with a lot of gravity, “All you can see is the turn, you don’t see the road ahead…” Sure enough, Pancho learns the lesson and decides to dedicate himself to learning calculus again.
One student, Claudia, asks her mother to sign the permission form allowing her to take AP Calculus during summer vacation. When her mother told her that guys don’t like smart girls, she replied, “I’m doing this so I don’t have to depend on a guy!” The mother smiles proudly, and signs off on her daughter’s class.
Stand and Deliver is a movie that anyone can relate to. It’s the story of leadership, self-determination, and hard work. The main characters could’ve been from any ethnic background. What makes this story special is that the movie stars Latinos as the heroes. Hopefully there can be more movies like this in the future.
Incluvie Score: 5
Movie Score: 5