Will Mt. Washington kids attend school at the top of the hill or join the children of the “hummus people”?

Photo by JeffreyW/Flickr

Rubén Martinez moved his family from Silver Lake to Mt. Washington, where his twin daughters would be able to attend the highly regarded Mt. Washington Elementary at the top of the hill. But Martinez, in a Sunday opinion piece in the L.A. Times, said he has been impressed with a visit to a new,  dual-language  immersion program down the hill in Highland Park’s Aldama Elementary, where students spend half the day being taught in Spanish, the rest in English.  The experimental program was launched at the urging from an unexpected group of parents who call themselves the “hummus people,” writes Martinez:

The initial push didn’t come from working-class immigrant parents but from middle-class newcomers. Courtney Mykytyn, a local mother with a new doctorate in medical anthropology, led the charge for Aldama’s dual-language program. Mykytyn refers to herself and other middle-class, professional parents at the school as the “hummus people,” because that is what they bring to parent potlucks — in contrast to the Doritos or tamales others would bring.

“If I believe in my community, then my kids need to learn Spanish,” she tells me. Beyond that altruism, she also points to research studies that show bilingual and biliterate students displaying greater aptitude for music and science.

Where will Martinez send his twin daughters in a year and a half when they are old enough to attend elementary school? Martinez said that decision has not been made.


  1. Funny. A bunch of us parents were talking about the term “Hummus Parents” (As we remember it) while we waited in line early Monday morning on April 11th for our Kindergarten applications to the dual language program at Aldama. And yes, the majority of those parents in line could be described as such. Also interesting to note how we hummus parents weren’t particularly interested in the fabled Mt. Washington School, which in these parts, seems to be a place people are willing to live in a tent just to get their kids into.

    That said, as a parent and educator, I was thoroughly impressed with Aldama Elementary and their dual language program.

  2. This hummus comment has taken on a life of its own and that is really unfortunate.

    Mrs. Mykytyn works her butt off every day for this school and has for over 8 years now. She is invested in the community to a degree few others can claim.

    There is an undeniable cultural divide between the children and families of the dual language program at Aldama Elementary. Both sides can feel it. We are working through it and learning from it all the time.

    When she coined the term “hummus people” I’m sure Dr. Mykytyn was merely acknowledging this cultural divide without referring to income or skin color.

    Others may have said it more eloquently. But I promise you from experience, this minor faux pas can do very little to take away from the incredible–astounding really–education and cultural skills my children are learning at Aldama Elementary here in our awesome HP hood!

  3. Mr. Martinez has discovered something many parents in Los Angles already knew but that is never reported: LAUSD- and charters within the LAUSD boundaries- offer an abundance of wonderful schools with some many different types of specialties, programs and niches, that nearly every family and child can find an enriching place to learn that meets their needs. My daughters school as a huge community garden and an outstanding music program. The school to the south of us has a dance academy. The school to the north of us is considered one of the best in the district. The school to the east of us has less than 200 students. The school to the west has two great magnets. Now not all these schools would be good for every student, but with all the choices, a family is bound to find one that works for them.

    All we every read in the news is how bad LAUSD is, I thank Mr. Martinez for reporting on one of the many great things in the district has to offer.

  4. I wasn’t aware that there is a sizable Middle Eastern population in Highland Park. Interesting.

  5. Ms. Powell, the longtime principal of Aldama who retired a couple of years ago, deserves much of the credit for establishing Aldama as an outstanding school. Good schools happen when there is a great leader…that is true of Aldama and the vast majority of public schools in LAUSD and throughout the country. And they do this in spite of the constant negative criticism from so called “reform” politicians and billionaire foundations who have their own axe to grind.

  6. when i lived in france they didn’t teach me in english. i had to learn french & fast. was happy to do it. now i’m fluent in french & my native tongue. i don’t understand why people who come to america can’t bother to learn english. i know there are free english classes. i’m not against immigration. i’m all for it. america was made by people leaving their birthplace to create a better life for themselves. lets keep it going. but spending tax money to cater to other languages (spanish, korean, etc) only perpetuates the divide between all our sub-cultures. we are all americans & we should all have a common tongue, english.

  7. I hope they’re more friendly than the hookah people.

  8. I would like to propose a trade; my kids spot at Aldama for one of Mr. M’s kids spots at Mt. W. Then we can compare test scores through elementary. Heck we can even go all the way through which colleges they get into. I know, I will be the one that comes out on top in that deal and I think he does to.

    or… he could break up his twins so that one goes to Mt. W and the other goes to Aladam. Then we could see which system works best.

  9. David, you should consider signing up for some free English classes yourself. Judging from your post it seems like you forgot all your grammar lessons while living abroad.

  10. Comments like David’s seem to be based on a lack of understanding about what the dual language program is about. My son is now a part of the dual language program at Aldama and I asked this question during a tour I attended prior to his enrollment:
    me: “I would like my son to attend this program for a number of reasons, but can you help me understand how a child who’s family speaks spanish at home would benefit from a program like this (compared to an all-english education)?”
    answer: “quite a few spanish-speaking parents tell us that they are concerned that their children may begin to lose a sense of pride in their own culture after attending an english-only school where, before long, speaking spanish may be looked down on, and where they would not gain the ability to read and write in spanish…”
    Contrary to David’s implication, I really don’t think that spanish-speaking parents would enroll their children in this program simply because they think it will somehow be easier, or somehow allow for their children to avoid learning english…
    What’s wrong with a child who can speak, read and write in both spanish and english by the time they leave Aldama after grade 6?

  11. Do Tiger Moms Eat Hummus?

  12. This might sound funny but its not intended to be a joke or a dig. What is the quality of the Spanish that is being taught? Again, I live in the area and most of the Spanish I hear around this area is the equivalent to a backwards Cajun trying to speak English. If the program can teach kids to speak proper Spanish and English independently then it sounds like a good thing.

  13. I must agree with the previous comment, that the level of Spanish or English taught/spoken/written here is atrocious. I do, however, applaud the effort to bring all our kids up with at least some skills in a second language.

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