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By In education, Hawaii

Schools Don’t Cause Societal Tensions But They Can Address Them

Once vaccines rolled out, reopening schools felt like an important step toward resuming normal life, whatever that means in an ongoing pandemic.

This fake-it-til-you-make-it wish for normalcy was still probably the best available option – students suffered real harm being out of school and away from peers for so long – but it doesn’t mean there haven’t been issues with it. Teachers across the country have been seeing them every day, primarily as disruptive out-of-seat behaviors in class, self-harm and fighting.

It’s not hard to understand why. Students have been through varying degrees of trauma these past two years, and trauma significantly impacts how we think, learn and behave. The fundamental challenge of sociological analysis is determining where social and institutional culpability ends and individual agency begins, but in the case of children, it’s pretty clear that we can’t blame them for responding poorly to the intensity of their environments…

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By In Hawaii

Black History Is Hawaii’s History

On the cover of Nitasha Tamar Sharma’s recent book, “Hawaiʻi Is My Haven,” is a striking image of Kamakakehau Fernandez wearing a pink bombax flower lei. The Na Hoku Hanohano award-winning falsetto singer and ukulele player was adopted from Arkansas by a Maui family when he was six weeks old, and was enrolled in Hawaiian language classes starting in kindergarten. He grew up in Hawaii and with Hawaii in him.

Fernandez is one of countless examples of Black locals who have contributed to Hawaiian culture and life for over 200 years, yet whose stories have largely gone unrecognized.

“Black people have been evacuated out of the narrative of who is in Hawaii,” Sharma says. “Historically we don’t think Black people were in Hawaii when they actually were…”

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By In education, Hawaii

I’m A Teacher And I’m A Babysitter. You’re Welcome

When schools were closed statewide in 2020, there was a distinct moment of clarity amid the chaos. Times were scary and stressful and delirious, but at least people started to see how difficult other people’s jobs were.

It felt like we were having a long-overdue reckoning about what is really important in society. It was refreshing to see people acknowledge that yes, it is hard to teach kids.

But now that things have returned to some facsimile of normal, gone are the days of widespread appreciation for the services that teachers provide, services that help kids grow and learn as well as help parents go to work without having to worry about looking after their kids.

Now, as schools scramble to provide coverage for teachers who are out, a familiar refrain has emerged: teachers are merely babysitters. The shortage of substitute teachers has only magnified its rationale. Having security guards, librarians and counselors watch cafeterias filled with students seems a lot more like “sitting” than “teaching.”

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By In education, Hawaii

Hawaii Needs Substitute Teachers To Help With The Pandemic

It’s hard to say that school was back in full swing last week. When classes resumed following winter break, somewhere between 10% to 20% of students in each of my classes were absent, roughly mirroring the amount of teachers who were also absent.

For students and teachers alike, many, though not all of the absences were related to the surge of the omicron variant. Some had either contracted or been exposed to Covid-19 and thus had to quarantine. Others who traveled for the holidays were left stranded when their flights were canceled due to airline staffing shortages – shortages caused by Covid.

The abundance of absences renewed the debate about how schools should operate. Should we march on with in-person learning, move to distance learning again or return to the blended model where students alternate between coming to school and staying home?

Each has advantages and disadvantages…

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By In Hawaii

Red Hill Should Change The Way We Think About The Military

…But even mild critiques of the military are often met with patriotic outrage, as if a specific institutional criticism is no different than spitting in the face of your uncle who took a bullet for his country. Military culture is particularly effective at subsuming the identities of those who are in it, so it’s easy to understand why criticism of the military is often received as criticism of military members.

This dissonance was on display when news broke of drinking water contamination apparently caused by a Red Hill fuel tank leak. As more details emerged, some people were shocked by the Navy’s negligence, dishonesty and casual disregard for the public they’re supposedly protecting – and another group of people was shocked that it took this long for the others to be shocked by any of this.

How we talk about the military — what it is and what it does — is still couched in wartime nostalgia and freedom-fighting cliches from a century ago…

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