TABLE OF CONTENTS
Little School of the 400 Collection:
An Inventory of Records at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library
The "Little Schools of the 400" was founded by Felix Tijerina in 1957. Tijerina became national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in 1956 and under his direction LULAC inituated the "Little Schools of the 400" as a pioneer effort in Mexican American education. The program intended to teach Spanish-speaking preschool children four hundred basic English words so that they could deal adequately with the first grade. In this manner, its advocates reasoned, Mexican American children would not fall behind in their early school years, become discouraged, and ultimately drop out at the alarming rate which characterized the Texas Mexican community at that time.
The pilot projects were established in the Texas towns of Ganado and Edna in 1957, and by the following year had spread to other places in the state. The overwhelming majority of the project's preschoolers went on to sucessfully finish the first grade, a dramatic contrast to the apalling failure rate of children who did not receive such instruction.
The "Little Schools of the 400" were consistent with LULAC's traditional emphasis on education as a primary focus for Mexican American advancement. Tijerina's own non-confrontational approach in dealing with Anglo society represented a principal tactic of the late 1940's and 1950's, especially during the Eisenhower years. In 1959, Tijerina's friendly persuasion convinced the parsimonious Texas State Legislature to adopt and fund the concept as the Preschool Instructional Classes for Non-English Speaking Children.
Tijerina and LULAC worked to spread the program across the Southwest. Ultimately, it became a model for Project Headstart under the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. Felix Tijerina's approach made Houston a focal point of state and national attention on Mexican American issues. Such periodicals as the Saturday Evening Post and Time magazine featured articles on Tijerina and the plight of Latin American education.
The materials in this collection were collected by Dr. Guadalupe C. Quintanilla, Associate Provost of the University of Houston and a representative of many successful Mexican Americans in higher education, when she was writing her doctoral dissertation in 1976. A school dropout at age fourteen, she reentered the educational system as an adult, and against much adversity, eventually earned a doctorate. Quintanilla moved beyond the campus, involving herself in a legion of civic affairs. She pioneered teaching Spanish language and Hispanic culture courses to Houston police officers. Nationally, she served for a time on the United States delegation to the United Nations during the Reagan administration.
The collection contains copies of pages from David Adame's registration book and correspondence from Jake Rodriguez, Executive Director of "The Little School of the 400". There are also financial reports by the LULAC Educational Fund, Inc. from 1958 through 1962. Copies of lists of the schools that were qualified for the "Little School of the 400", Spanish program radio stations, and LULAC councils in the state of Texas are also in the collection.
Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the Little School of the 400 Collection must be obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.
Little School of the 400 Collection. Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library.
Acquired from Special Collections, M.D. Anderson Library, University of Houston in 1981.
Processed by Thomas Kreneck.