The death of Margarita Muñiz was a shock but not a surprise. It was an open secret for the past year that she was dying of cancer, even as she continued running the Hernandez School, the groundbreaking bilingual school she fought to keep alive.
Officials and parents rushed to memorialize Muñiz before it was too late to say thanks. Most fittingly, Boston Public Schools created a new, JP-based bilingual high school and named it in her honor.
But history often gives way to pigeonholing. Muñiz’s legacy is more than bilingual education.
In 1997, the Gazette reported on a Hernandez School civics class that sent sixth-graders door to door to get input on the reuse of vacant lots in the area (a civics lesson BPS could stand to learn for its school reconfiguration planning). In the article, Muñiz spoke about education in words that are prescient in the age of MCAS and charter schools.
“Learning does not have to be drudgery,” Muñiz said. “Schools today can’t expect to deliver a quality education from just inside their own four walls. They have to reach out into the community.”
“Our responsibility is not to just present information, but to also show students how to use it,” she said. “If we do not deal with the information revolution, only the poorest kids will end up in public schools.”
Bilingual education was important to Muñiz as part of a bigger picture: that one size does not fit all in education, and that the separation between the classroom and the “real world” is an illusion. We can honor Muñiz by remembering those principles.