Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Governor's education initiative may be another try to take over education

I really felt funny. I was the only one in the hearing room today to speak against the governor's education initiative. Well, after I spoke, two others followed with oral testimony. It really was scary. I was wondering, should I split, should I rethink what I wrote?

Maybe I'm stupid, or maybe I'm brave, but I did testify.

I was dismayed to see the same old pitch for Hawaii as a high-tech center come up again. Someone even testified before me that our position in middle of the Pacific, between the Mainland and Asia, gives us an advantage. No it doesn't. Guy Kawasaki, a couple of years ago at a lecture at UH, advised Hawaii to drop that already. Being in the middle of the Pacific, away from the centers of technology and far from markets, is a disadvantage. It makes a high-tech future tougher.

We're not going to be leaders in robotics. Robots are not going to be built here. We're not going to be leaders in space science.

Nor, in my opinion anyway, can we afford to damage the curriculum of students who need to learn English and math in order to write technical reports, for example. It all has to be integrated, and some of the money should go to improving basic skills. The proposed "academies" are to handle remediation, another hint that they are intended to substitute for DOE education. Let's make it so there needs to be little or no remediation. That should be part of the plan.

There's also the sword of No Child Left Behind still hanging over the heads of Hawaii and every other state. Unfortunately, in order to meet its mandates, schools are often forced to give up enriched curricula. NCLB will soon require science assessments and I don't know how that will work, or if robotics "academies" will be helpful or not.

We shouldn't dangle false hopes of technology employment in front of parents, students or the people of the state. Those magical jobs aren't going to be here for good reasons. For example, the current technology darling, Hoku Scientific, is creating jobs, but they are in Idaho (google for articles in the local papers).

I'm not saying do nothing, I'm saying first get a plan, and I think the plan has to be run by the Department of Education. It seems UH, HPU, Chaminade and perhaps others want to get on the bandwagon, and I do believe they are serious about making a contribution. But without an inclusive plan centered in the DOE, it could simply be a technology cacaphony, a chaotic mess that will interfere rather than help our struggling students.

I'm a graduate of New York City's Stuyvesant High School, a specialized engineering and science school that attracted a remarkably qualified faculty. Stuyvesant (and other specialized schools) are run by the New York equivalant of our own DOE. Of course, the school system can do it. And of course, I had to learn English and take other subjects designed to create a well-rounded--and employable--graduate.

The governor failed to break up the Board of Education a couple of years ago. So I have some suspicions, but I wouldn't want students to lose potential benefits. This proposal has much to like, and it should be for the Superintendent to say how she would like to proceed. That may or may not include outsiders running the show, I can't say. It should not be used as a backdoor way to take over Hawaii's K-12 educational system.

Now that the bill has begun its tortuous path through the legislature, let's see how it goes. Expect more PR from the governor's office (see her website) and expect every state agency to jump on the innovation bandwagon. Expect that those who oppose the governor's plan may be branded as anti-education or something else.

The legislature can decide what is good in the proposal and how to use it to improve education for all students--on all islands. And not just where the proposed "academies" will be located.

That's right, we need to give every boy and every girl an opportunity to choose technology studies. Never mind that they might have to go to the Mainland later to work. We haven't solved that part yet. I'm talking about students who live on Kauai or who live in Hana. Everyone, without discrimination.

Let's not promise students jobs here in robotics or space that aren't going to materialize. High-tech jobs seem to be decreasing rather than increasing (Isles' tech jobs drop despite tax credit), and there is no evidence that Hawaii will be the high-tech center of the universe except for some ocean or bio sciences where perhaps something remarkable will really happen.


You are so on target. Haven't we beat the high tech concept to death yet? It goes all the way back to the 1970's. It hasn't worked in nearly 40 years, so why does the gov think she has the ability to do any better? If we could only get all the players in state government to work together to improve the DOE, we might stand a chance. But as long as the turf battles continue, there's no way.

An "inclusive plan centered in the DOE"??? I agree with much of what you say, but where is this coming from? Maybe if the charter schools can break free of DOE that would the place to build a plan. There's been no evidence for ages that the DOE could plan it's way out of a paper bag.

Thanks for your comments.

Controversies over the DOE are appropriate, and I've been a severe critic.

In this case, the problem is that the governor is making plans without involving the body that is responsible. It's a recipe for failure, not success.

And it's on top of trying to break up the system earlier in her term. I'm sure the memory of that is still fresh in people's minds.

The governor's house is right behind the DOE. Maybe she could walk over there and share a cup of coffee or something sometimes. And talk about and promote her plans. Maybe tear down the fence between them.

I'd be happy to hear that this is already happening and I just haven't heard about it.

Agree that in a perfect world one who is in power should be talking with those responsible. I fear in this case, tho, Larry, taking down that fence would just allow Tweedle-dum to talk with Tweedle-dumber. I think the system is just too broke to fix. The charter schools offer the only sign of hope I see, and a possible way forward to improving Hawaii's ED system.
By the way, KUTGW! Aloha.

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