Dr. José Angel Cárdenas was working in educational research in the late 1960s, prior to becoming the superintendent of the Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio.
“In one powerful moment, it all came together for me. Scientists had experimented with amoebas in a laboratory, and by using their reactions to color and light, they had trained these amoebas to recognize letters of the alphabet. And I thought, ‘What if the amoebas had been sent to public schools instead? Then I would be hearing what I always heard about non-readers in our schools: ‘They don’t speak our language!’ ‘They’re amoeba! How can you expect them to learn?’ ‘They come from the wrong side of the pond.’
“What was different and special for those particular amoebas wasn’t their readiness to learn compared with other amoebas, but the context: the laboratory and all the equipment, the skills of the technicians, the elegant process the scientists had designed specifically for amoebas. And I was sure that all children could learn if their schools had effective curricula and material and were properly equipped and their teachers were well-trained and exercised every effort to teach them.
“I became determined to make this happen! But as I prepared to take up new responsibilities as superintendent of the Edgewood school district, I asked my fellow administrators, ‘What do you see as your primary responsibility?’ And they all said, ‘To stand up for my teachers.’ Well, whose responsibility is it to stand up for the child? I resolved this conflict by imagining that God had appeared to me in the night and asked me to defend his children.”
From that moment, Dr. José Cárdenas would defend all children and their right to an excellent and equitable education. Children who are minority, poor, or non-English speaking often have no voice. Few leaders will take a stand for them. Dr. Cárdenas took that stand, and for 30 years so has the organization he founded.
Now under the leadership of Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA is a dynamic, independent organization with vision, commitment, principles, and courage. IDRA’s “constancy of purpose” is unwavering. The organization remains dedicated to the improvement of educational opportunities for children. The issues IDRA has framed and the solutions that have been created, by IDRA and our partners, are all firmly grounded in this purpose.