José Padín was an educator, public servant and essayist. After a long career as a teacher and an employee of the Department of Public Education, he was named commissioner of education, a post he held from 1930 to 1937. During his incumbency, a linguistic-educational policy was instituted that used Spanish as the language of instruction in the first eight grades and incorporated English as a special subject.
José Padín Rodríguez was born on May 30, 1886, in San Juan, the son of José Padín and Francisca Rodríguez. He attended elementary school in the Ballajá neighborhood of Old San Juan and graduated from high school in Moorestown, New Jersey, where he studied thanks to a scholarship he won in 1901. He attended Haverford College in Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor of Sciences degree (1907) and a Masters of Arts with a specialty in Romance languages (1908).
After returning to Puerto Rico, he worked as an English teacher and an assistant inspector of schools in Corozal and Salinas. He gradually rose through the ranks in the Department of Education: superintendent of schools in the Guayama district from 1909 to 1912; superintendent of schools in the Arecibo district from 1912 to 1913; general superintendent of schools until 1916; and assistant commissioner of Public Education until 1920.
Padín moved to the United States to work as the manager of the Spanish division of the D. C. Heath & Company press in Boston, Massachusetts. At the same time, he took post-graduate courses at Columbia University and contributed as an advisor and as the author of reviews in the Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, which was edited by Federico de Onís and was created through a collaborative effort between the Department of Hispanic Studies at the University of Puerto Rico and the Institute of Spain in the United States.
In 1930, President Herbert Hoover named him commissioner of Public Education. As commissioner, he was known for changing the language of instruction to Spanish for the elementary levels (up to eighth grade). He based his decision on studies done on the efficacy of using English as the language of instruction in the Puerto Rican schools. The studies concluded that the use of Spanish helped the progress and development of the children. English would continue to be taught as a special subject from first grade on. This new educational policy was different from the one that had been implemented by the United States government from the time of its arrival on the island, which called for using English as the language of instruction and Spanish as a special subject.
During this period of his life, he also served as interim governor during the absences of Governors Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., James R. Beverley and Blanton R. Winship. Upon completing his term as commissioner in 1936, Padín returned to his post as Modern Languages editor at Heath & Co. (1936-1953). He was also a member of the Puerto Rico Higher Education Council (1942-1954).
As a writer, José Padín’s work generally reflected his concerns about the social, political and educational situation in Puerto Rico. The first articles he wrote during his years as a teacher were published in various magazines, including the Boletín del Departamento de Educación and the Revista Escolar de Puerto Rico. In 1916, he published the essay The Problem of Teaching English to the People of Porto Rico and, along with then-Commissioner of Education Paul G. Miller, Cervantes-Shakespeare Tercentenary, 1616-1916.
At the Heath & Co. press, he edited various annotated works such as El mercader de Venecia by Shakespeare (1919) and Misericordia by the Spanish writer Benito Pérez Galdós (1928). Padín continue to write while he was Commissioner of Education, contributing to various publications such as Brújula and the newspaper El Mundo with essays and articles including “El estudio científico de nuestros problemas,” “La americanización de Puerto Rico,” “La función educativa de la Iglesia” and “Estado actual de las profesiones en Puerto Rico y su porvenir.”
He also published a pamphlet called Consideraciones en torno al régimen colonial (1945), a speech he gave at a graduation ceremony at the University of Puerto Rico. He collected many of his articles, speeches and papers that he wrote between 1930 and 1945 in Personas sobre cosas (1951).
Various educational institutions granted him honorary doctoral degrees. He received an honorary Law degree from Haverford College (1931); one in literature from the University of Puerto Rico (1933); and another in education from Dartmouth University (1934).
José Padín died in the city of his birth in 1963. His book Estampas puertorriqueñas (1967), a collection of traditional tales, was published posthumously.
Gallardo, José Miguel. “Esboso de la personalidad y la obra del Dr. José Padín”. Educación 35 (1971): 93-94. Impreso.
Rivera de álvarez, Josefina. Diccionario de literatura puertorriqueña. 2a ed. Vol 2. San Juan, P. R.: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 1974. Impreso.
Quiñones Martínez, Daniel. José Padín: su vida y obra educativa (1886-1963). Tesis MA. Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1971. Impreso.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: August 26, 2010.
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