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By In Hawaii

Learning To Talk About Politics From Middle School Students

For every 10 venom-soaked diatribes there is at least one person on social media urging people to show each other aloha, asking why we can’t put political parties aside and come together.

I thought a lot about that question. I, too, want unity in this country and healing in relationships that have strained during the Trump years. So why were group discussions with seventh graders more enlightened and human than the dueling lectures I’ve been having with adults lately?

There’s something to be said about the willingness of young people to recognize what they don’t know, and its obverse stubbornness that comes with age. The classroom setting also plays a part, since the reality of having to see the same people several times a week for the rest of the year naturally regulates behavior.

Those explanations aren’t complete, though. There was something else that was different, an absence like a black hole: difficult to pinpoint but unmistakably there. This may sound like I am joining the chorus of folks bemoaning the death of civility in our national discourse, but I’m not really, though being nice to one another is always preferable.

To me, the main distinguishing characteristic of my seventh graders’ discussions was the absence of absolute lunacy…

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By In Hawaii

How Do We Transform Hawaii’s Complicated Relationship With Tourists?

I can’t be the only one who caught a little buzz of schadenfreude from the recent rains. I usually enjoy this kind of weather anyway, but it was especially gratifying to know that the first few days of the return of tourism were somewhat rained out.

I’m not particularly proud of my kneejerk reaction; I’m inclined to believe it’s never good to feel that sort of cruel satisfaction, especially when it’s applied to real people I have never met. But now that we’re returning to the same old new normal – lots of tourists, but with masks and social distancing required – visitors have become much more obvious, more intrusive even.

There have always been reasons to bristle at the presence of tourists. They make traffic worse, they crowd beaches and sidewalks, they’re loud, they litter. They’re not alone in any of those contributions, and not every tourist fits that description, but enough of them do to make it easy to lump them all in together. Earlier in the pandemic, the absence of tourists was a small pleasantry in an otherwise endless cascade of anxiety…

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By In Hawaii, surfing

Here’s Why We Should All Mourn The Loss Of SURFER Magazine

Earlier this month, SURFER Magazine announced its first presidential endorsement in its 60-year history, for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

“The decisions made in the political realm have tremendous influence over our surfing lives and the health of our coasts,” the magazine posted on Instagram in a preemptive rebuttal to the “keep politics out of surfing” types.

The comments fell along predictable fault lines: those who thought it was a bold move given the magazine’s sizable readership in conservative Orange County, and those who treated the endorsement as polluted runoff seeping into the crystalline waters of their favorite surf break…

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By In education, Hawaii

It’s Time For Some Kids To Start Learning In Person Again

I recently saw some of my students for the first time this year. Saw them in person that is, as opposed to a floating head on a screen – or worse, a black square with a name on it when the computer camera is turned off.

After two months of distance learning, a select few students have started coming to school. They still participate in the same virtual classes, but they are sequestered in small groups on campus where they have more reliable internet access, quick tech support and adult supervision.

This is a good thing. While everyone has had to make adjustments this year, for some students and their families there are simply no conditions under which distance learning is going to work. Their disabilities are too incompatible with the independence required to succeed in this format; or their home environments are too unstable to be effective classrooms; or they are left alone while the parents are at work and they never really show up to class…

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By In education, Hawaii

COVID-19 Gives Us A Chance To Change How We Teach. Let’s Not Waste It

Somewhere between the initial uncertainty of the pandemic and the current ongoing delirium of it, there was a brief moment of clarity, a few weeks where hope for the future felt rational.

In the face of a crisis unseen in over a century, everyone seemed to get it. People complied with emergency orders and Congress managed to pass stimulus legislation in days – proving the previous gridlock to be a matter of conscious decision, not political necessity.

People collected their $1,200 government checks, and Gov. David Ige appeared to be getting most of the major responses right: clearly communicating how to apply for unemployment and small business relief, putting a moratorium on evictions. National poverty fell, and Hawaii’s case numbers steadily dropped.

People came together to support small businesses. Restaurant and grocery store workers were regarded as the vital pillars of community they’ve always been but for which they were rarely appreciated. Countless commuters were given back hours of their day as they began working from home. Summer vacation was on the horizon for students, presumably granting enough time for the Department of Education to learn from its abrupt pivot to online instruction and prepare for the fall.

It felt, briefly, like a saner world. The pandemic shook society by its ankles, holding us all aloft long enough for us to see what fell out of our collective pockets and wonder what, if any of it, was worth salvaging. Evidently, we don’t need to be at our job every day to get our work done, and yes, all of those meetings could just be emails instead.

But … of course, there’s a but…

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