Graphic: Emily Metcalf
Graphic: Emily Metcalf

BY MIRIAM LANDRU – Parents, social studies teachers and former lawmaker Lyla Berg will rally at the August 16 Board of Education meeting in hopes of preventing the Board of Education from eliminating a social studies credit as a requirement.

The group, which formed Aloha POSSE (Preserve Our Social Studies Education), wants to ensure that “Hawaii’s public school students are provided with the wide array of educational opportunities and choices that the Social Studies curriculum offers.”

Currently, Hawaii public school students must take a Social Studies elective worth one credit, which includes classes such as Economics, Psychology, Hawaiian Studies, and Political Science.

Because these classes normally count for a half of a credit, students usually take two types of these classes in high school. If the Board of Education votes to eliminate half of the requirement, students will only be required to take one.

Berg stated, “I think our board is new. I don’t think they are even aware of all the Social Studies courses that are available. Economics is fundamental. We all know how much it would be needed in the legislature.”

But State Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nazoe, in a phone interview with the Hawaii Reporter, said: “I think it’s important for everyone to understand that we are not eliminating Social Studies as a requirement.  You can still take social studies classes under a proposed new policy. We’re just changing the credit requirements for social studies to graduate.”

Department of Education officials want to assure students and parents that nothing will change in the curriculum that will be detrimental.

“Hawaii’s public school students deserve rigorous, challenging and relevant courses to graduate college ready and successfully compete for jobs in an ever-changing global economy. Therefore, the Department of Education has and continues to consult with the Board of Education, principals, teachers and students to ensure graduation requirements continue to meet the needs and expectations of post-secondary institutions and employers,” Nazoe said.

If the new policy is implemented, no student will be required to take these courses as an elective and “Participation in Democracy”, a required course in the curriculum, will be abolished.

“We are trying to be more performance based, we want them to be able to demonstrate what they know in the real world. We are trying to create more options for schools,” said Nazoe.

Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout in democratic elections in the nation among citizens 18 to 24.

That concerns Marissa Okazaki, a Mililani High School graduate and incoming freshmen at Scripps College. She told Hawaii Reporter that having Social Studies in school helped her understand cultural differences among her age group.

“I think Social Studies has helped me interact with my peers for one thing. It helps build a better understanding in how people engage in personal relationships – it’s not just about history,” she said.