Archive for September 2013

Hawaii celebrates Museum Day Live!

September 24, 2013

Museum Day Live!

On Saturday, September 28, you can discover Hawaiian arts and culture, learn about Japanese culture in Hawaii, study historic airplanes, and visit a historic sugar plantation.

In the spirit of Smithsonian Museums, nine Hawaii museums are opening their doors for Museum Day Live! Just print an official ticket, and you and a guest will gain free admission to their grounds and regular exhibits at one of these museums:

On Oahu
* Hawaiian Mission Houses Historical Site and Archives (10 am to 4 pm, 553 South King Street, Honolulu). The Museum was established in 1920 to preserve three of the historic structures that served as the family homes and headquarters of the first Protestant missionaries to Hawai’i. The houses, built between 1821 and 1841 have now been restored as a museum and are furnished with original artifacts and period reproductions.
* Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii (10 am to 4 pm, 2454 South Beretania Street, Honolulu). From taking that first hesitant step off a boat’s wooden plank onto a foreign land to having your patriotism questioned after the bombing of Pearl Harbor – you can experience the multi-generational history of the Japanese in Hawaii.
*’Iolani Palace (9 am to 4 pm, 364 South King Street, Honolulu). ‘Iolani Palace, the official residence of Hawaii’s monarchy, is a marvel of opulence, innovation, and political intrigue. Meticulously restored to its former grandeur, this National Historic Landmark in downtown Honolulu tells of a time when their Majesties, King Kalākaua, who built it in 1882, and his sister and successor, Queen Lili‘uokalani, walked its celebrated halls.
* Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor (9 am to 5 pm, 319 Lexington Blvd., Historic Ford Island, Honolulu). Located in the historic hangars of Ford Island that survived the surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on Pearl Harbor December 7th, 1941, Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor houses a collection of period planes, a restoration shop, flight simulators, and a period themed café.
* Queen Emma Summer Palace (9 am to 3 pm, 2913 Pali Hwy, Honolulu). Situated in lush Nu‘uanuValley, Queen Emma Summer Palace is one of the few remaining examples of Greek Revival architecture in Hawai‘i. The verdant garden of tropical flowers & trees, both native and introduced, are typical of the 19th century era when Queen Emma used the home to escape the hot & dusty climate of Honolulu. The Palace was saved from demolition in 1913 by the non-profit organization Daughters of Hawai‘i which maintains and operates the historic site and museum.

On Maui
* Bailey House Museum (10 am to 4 pm, 2375A Main Street, Wailuku). Built in 1833, the Bailey House is now a museum showcasing Hawaiian culture, artifacts, paintings, and furnishings from nineteenth-century Maui. Located in historic Wailuku Maui, Hawaii, built on the site of the Royal compound of Kahekili, last ruling chief of Maui, the house served as the Mission station for the Wailuku Female Seminary for Girls until 1847, and occupied by Edward Bailey and his family until 1888.

On Kauai
* Grove Farm Museum ( 10 am to 3 pm, 4050 Nawiliwili Road, Lihue). Grove Farm is the living history farm and sugar plantation homestead of George Wilcox and is made up of original buildings and collections. The museum also includes authentic sugar plantation steam locomotives with rides in cane cars while sharing the Hawaiian sugar plantation story.

On the Big Island
* Hulihe’e Palace (9 am to 3 pm, 75-5718 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona). Built as a residence for the first governor of Hawai‘i, Hulihe‘e Palace is one of the most historically significant sites on Hawai‘i Island. In 1925 the Palace was leased to the Daughters of Hawai‘i by the Territory of Hawai‘i and continues to be maintained and operated by the non-profit organization today.
* Lyman Museum and Mission House (10 am to 4:30 pm, 276 Haili St., Hilo). The Lyman Museum showcases the natural and cultural history of Hawai’i in its exhibit halls and its 1839 Lyman Mission House. The Museum offers unique educational and cultural experiences for visitors through its Earth and Island Heritage Galleries and Historic Home.

Do you have a favorite museum? Where will a museum take you this weekend?

A plea for better grammar in texts

September 17, 2013

Texting is everywhere. We all see people sitting, standing, or walking with their heads down, their hands clutched around a small object, their fingers moving quickly. We all see other people (and are sometimes guilty of it ourselves) ignoring Hawaii’s beautiful scenery, the people they are with, the people around them, and even traffic. 

Forget, for a moment, how texting encourages us to be rude and how it can make us oblivious to danger.

Is texting encouraging us to be illiterate?

With all of the acronyms, abbreviations, cute spellings, misspellings, lack of capitalization, and missing punctuation, it seems that our writing skills are slipping away. It’s even easier to loosen up on grammar rules because pidgin is so common and accepted in Hawaii.

On one hand, Penn State researchers claim that texting leads to declining language and grammar skills.

On the other hand, Scholastic reports that texting can help kids become better spellers because it helps them read and encourages them to play around with words.

Whether or not you text, I’d like to make a plea for better grammar in texts. Please…

* Use capitals when you start a sentence and type names. Even easier: turn on the auto-capitalization.
* Add punctuation! Let us know you’re done with a sentence.
* Avoid uncommon acronyms and abbreviations. You might save time typing it, but they probably waste time deciphering it.
* Resist cute spellings like 2nte, gr8, and l8r (unless you’re a kid; maybe even if you’re a kid).
* Check your spelling. But be suspicious of spell-check (just check out

Do you have texting pet peeves? How do you like to communicate best – via text, phone, email, video, or face-to-face?

Remembering Helen Kinau Wilder

September 10, 2013

Every September, I make a contribution to the Hawaiian Humane Society in honor of my cat Oscar, who was with us for ten years. I’d like to take a moment to remember a woman who made a huge impact on the Hawaiian Humane Society: Helen Kinau Wilder (1869-1954), a Hawaiian heiress and world-traveler who was the first humane officer in Hawaii.

I first read about Wilder in the Hawaiian Humane Society Newsletter (June-August 2012), and I wanted to learn more about this remarkable woman. The most complete information that I’ve found about her is in two articles: “Helen Kinau Wilder: A ‘New Woman’ in the Pacific Islands” on the YesterYear Once More blog, and “In Search of Charlie Chan” by Geoffrey Dunn, which claims Wilder as a long-time Santa Cruz resident.

Helen Kinau Wilder on Horseback

Wilder was deputized as a special constable of the Marshal of the Republic of Hawaii in 1897. At the time, women were the driving force behind animal welfare. Officers in Hawaii ventured out on horseback to investigate animal mistreatment, which included 285 overworked horses and mules in 1900. With their own money, Wilder and her friends hired Officer Chang Apana (the inspiration for Earl der Biggers’ Charlie Chan) as the Society’s officer to investigate animal crimes on the Big Island. Other humane officers, such as Rose Davison and Lucy Ward (daughter of Victoria Ward), followed Wilder’s example and investigated animal cruelty and mistreatment.

News of her appointment and commitment to animals and children reached across the United States. In 1899, Fort Wayne News (Fort Wayne, Indiana) reported: “Honolulu has a policewoman. Her name is Helen Wilder, she is 23 years old, and is a regularly appointed officer of the Hawaiian police force. She wears a soft felt hat, on which glitters the silver star that shows that she is a policewoman. She carries a revolver and is not afraid to use it. She has made several arrests unaided. Miss Wilder loves children and animals, and wherever she is, or whatever she may be doing, carries a pair of handcuffs, which she is quick to snap upon the wrists of the enemies of her small and lowly friends.”

She sounds like someone I would like to know and have on my side. “Helen Wilder is as much a part of Hawaii as is Mauna Loa. Visitors never fail to ask who she is. For with close-cropped hair and confidant stride, her soft hat and shining star, she never fails to attract attention. Hawaiian society, which is itself complex and odd, does not often frown upon her eccentricities,” enthused the Hornellsville Weekly Tribune (Hornellsville, New York) in 1897.

“They like her because she is bright and original, because her personality is as refreshing as it is peculiar. They recognize her clear-grained human worth. Men who are tired of the inane or the clinging vine act find in Helen Wilder a comrade who is interesting, amusing and altogether charming.”

Her personal life was also filled with excitement: a lawsuit after Wilder arrested a mule driver without a warrant (she left the courthouse victorious, humming “My Honolulu Lady”), with a broken engagement to a possible gold-digger, and a secret marriage after which she decided to spend her honeymoon alone.

Is there an animal rights advocate whom you admire? What causes do you champion?

“Weapons of Mass Instruction” by John Taylor Gatto

September 7, 2013

Weapons of Mass Instruction

I think that public education is a wonderful thing. I think that equal access to education can make the difference between poverty and self-sufficiency. But until I read “Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling” (2010) by 30-year New York educator and author John Taylor Gatto, I didn’t really think about what public education teaches children and how it influences us.

“Weapons of Mass Instruction” questions America’s need for compulsory schooling and provokes analysis of public education. Gatto discusses the history of public education in the US, which began in 1905-1915, heavily influenced by the Prussian education system. He points out that the literacy rate has declined since the 1930s; highlights successful people with “open source” education but a lack of “formal” schooling; and argues that despite “intense forced schooling” there has been a steep decline in common prosperity, and wealth is even more concentrated.

Gatto asks some simple questions and offers some surprising answers:

Do we really need school? There is a big difference between being “educated” and being “schooled.” “School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your children to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently” (page xxii), Gatto advises. We should celebrate drop-outs as brave and self-motivated. “Degrees should never stand as proxies for education” (page 35).

What is the purpose of our public schools? Ideally, education would make good people, good citizens, and his or her personal best (page xvi). But in reality, public schooling trains a standardized citizen to be obedient, to conform, and to be separated into classes. It dumbs people down. Students are taught memorization, not critical thinking. Parents are alienated from their children. Schools are a massive jobs program.

What does school really teach? It teaches children to wait their own turn, to fake enthusiasm, to know their place/rank in the social order, to follow rules, to be obedient, to be passive, to e afraid of looking bad or different. It teaches that everything is separated – nothing they learn is connected to other subjects or to the real world. It teaches that children and teachers are enemies. And school destroys uninterrupted, reflective time.

What if there is no “problem” with our schools? What if they are succeeding at their goals? Public education has social engineered an extended childhood, discouraging responsibility and independence. “We have become a nation of children, happy to surrender our judgments and our wills to political exhortations and commercial blandishments that would insult actual adults” (page xxi). At the same time, public education fosters an acceptance of hierarchy and subordination.

How can teachers engage students? As a schoolteacher, Gatto sent students on walkabouts around New York City, so they could write pamphlets and visitors keys by talking with residents and researching history. He had students wrote down three wishes (things they wanted to learn) and three weaknesses (things they wanted to overcome), which gave students “a personal reason to work hard, one that was self-grading” (page 102).

What do we need to do about public education? We need a long, loud national, regional, and local debate about how to define an educated person. New schools would eliminate centralized testing, would include the study of vocation (earning a living and contributing to the common good) and death (a natural part of life), and would take place outside of classrooms with flexible schedules.

Gatto concludes with an invitation to join an open conspiracy called the Bartleby Project, whose goal is to destroy the standardized testing industry. It encourages students to quietly refuse to take standardized tests by writing at the top of the page, “I would prefer not to take this test.” No group protests or meetings; Gatto encourages peaceful, independent opposition to the test.

“Weapons of Mass Instruction” is thought-provoking and passionate, presenting a scary and rational explanation for the outcomes and problems with our public schools. Whether you support public education or question its effectiveness, I urge you to think about how and what you were taught in school, and what it is teaching our children. Visit Gatto’s website to find out more about his books and essays, and to join the discussion about public education.

3 things to know about Hawaii’s schools

September 3, 2013

It’s been one month since my son started second grade at a public school. We are slowly getting used to the morning routine, the new classroom, the new achievement standards, and another year of fundraising.

Our school has given us a lot of useful information, like the school calendar, lunch menu, after-school programs, events, fundraisers, and contact information. They hosted an Open House and are already scheduling parent-teacher conferences.

But there are three critical things I think all parents should know about Hawaii’s schools:

1. Tell us about teachers. Which grade levels, subjects, and schools have they have taught? How have their students performed on standardized tests compared to other teachers? I understand that there might be a concern about teachers’ privacy, but parents usually check references before hiring a baby-sitter or nanny.

2. Tell us about school programs. Who are the teachers and aides responsible for extracurricular programs, additional classes, and elective classes? What are their qualifications? If it’s a third-party vendor, how were they selected and what are their hiring policies? How do current and former students rate their programs?

3. Tell us about school leadership. What are the backgrounds of the principal and vice principal? Who is the complex leader and what is their background? How would teachers rate their leadership and management?

In addition, there’s one critical area that I think needs improvement:

* Show us survey results with better questions. Satisfaction surveys are too vague. Instead of asking students if they are “satisfied” with their education, ask whether they feel interested and challenged by their schoolwork. Instead of asking teachers if they are “satisfied” with school leadership, ask whether school leadership is accessible and supportive. Instead of asking parents if they are “satisfied” with the quality of the school, ask if their children are eager to go to school, engaged in schoolwork, and have a good relationship with their teachers.

What information do you wish you had about schools? How much information about teachers and teacher evaluations is it reasonable to share with parents? Does your school anticipate what you want to know?