[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/US/03/30/escalante.obit/story.escalante.wb.jpg caption="Escalante died this week after a battle with cancer." width=300 height=169]
Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
Jaime Escalante was ahead of his time. And today, more than 30 years after the Bolivian-born math teacher put East Los Angeles' Garfield High School on the map by convening 14 students in his very first AP calculus class, the rest of the educational establishment is still trying to catch up.
Escalante - who was immortalized in the 1988 film "Stand and Deliver" - died this week at his son's home in Roseville, California, after a bout with cancer.
It was way back in 1978 when Escalante began teaching calculus to Mexican-American kids from the barrio. That's more than two decades before President George W. Bush challenged the nation's public schools to acknowledge and overcome the "soft bigotry of low expectations," and Escalante was already fighting that battle. He knew all about low expectations - most of them coming from jealous colleagues and visionless administrators.
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