In 1977, IDRA published Theory of Incompatibilities, by IDRA founder, José A. Cárdenas, Ed.D., and Blandina Cárdenas, Ph.D., presenting five areas of incompatibility (poverty, culture, language, mobility, and societal perceptions of Mexican American children) that affect the child’s learning. Particularly poignant for today’s context is the section on educational philosophies: “Problems in the education of minority children would be eliminated almost overnight if educational institutions would develop and implement positive educational philosophies concerning minority education… Basic philosophies that must be adopted regardless of origin include the following:

  1. Minority children can learn, regardless of any characteristic they may exhibit due to economic, cultural, language, social, ethnic or racial background. There is nothing inherent in minority children that is an impediment to learning. Past failures of minority children are the result of inadequate school programs and not the fault of the child and his or her background.
  2. Cultural pluralism is a desirable condition in our society…The co-existence of differing lifestyles will allow alternatives that provide the natural variation needed for subsequent selection.
  3. Facility to utilize more than one language is a desirable educational goal.
  4. The individualization of instruction is an essential element of all instructional programs for all children.
  5. Children, all children, are a natural resource of our country.
  6. The end result of an educational program for minority children, and for all children, is freedom. Freedom is manifested through freedom of choice…It is incumbent upon the schools to develop in children the necessary skills which make feasible alternatives available to them. Vocational choices, lifestyles, economic levels, etc…should be dependent upon an individual’s free choice, and not by accident of birth, parent’s economic conditions, geographic location, race, ethnicity, or any of the monolithic cultural constraints now found in social institutions and which lock out people through the absence of alternatives.”

Thirty seven years later, IDRA released, College Bound and Determined, showing how one school district in south Texas embraced these philosophies and transformed itself from low achievement and low expectations to planning for all students to graduate from high school and college. This transformation went beyond changing sobering graduation rates or even getting graduates into college.

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[©2014, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the October 2014 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has been made to maintain the content in its original form. However, accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our information request and feedback form. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]