State takes a step toward Hawaiian education

Ikaika M Hussey

Two images of Native Hawaiians permeated the media yesterday: the first, of an angry Maui man. The second, of Hawaiian educators at the Board of Education.

Their juxtaposition is coincidental, but useful. The solution to the former begins with the latter, and further efforts to empower Native Hawaiians.

The solution is power and empowerment, and education is a big part of that.

Over the past decade, the Hawaiian educational movement has led to a centripetal pulling-away from the mainstream, effectively creating a separate, and often unequal charter and immersion system.

The efforts that Cheryl Lupenui has moved through the DOE, however, are pulling back in the right direction: the reform of the mainstream system. Hawaiian-language assessments, a Hawaiian education leader in the Superintendent’s office, and a framework for native values all help to achieve a more equal society in which Hawaiian language, culture, and people are no longer on the margins.

Anger from a displaced people – that’s the subtext in the now-viral Maui video, and it’s a phenomenon that most Native Hawaiians – including this one – can identify with. The solution is power and empowerment, and education is a big part of that. So too is housing, humane employment, and self-determination.

Pila Wilson is right: it’s not enough, we can and should go farther. It shouldn’t be odd or notable to speak Hawaiian. (Parenthetically, a news report on Hawaii Public Radio last week noted that a legislator “spoke Hawaiian without translating.” That ought to not be news.) But this is forward movement.