Graphic by Emily Metcalf

Graphic by Emily Metcalf

 

BY SCOTT FOSTER — The Hawai`i State Board of Education (BOE) is voting on Tuesday, August 16 on whether to eliminate yet another essential curriculum area as part of their new Policy 4540 High School Graduation Requirements (beginning with the class of 2016).

A newly-formed alliance, the Aloha POSSE (Preserve Our Social Studies Education) will host a press conference on July 21 at 10:30 a.m. in front of the Queen Lili’uokalani Building (DOE Bldg.) at 1390 Miller St. (Punchbowl & Vineyard). With Hawaii’s schools starting on July 26, 2011, the alliance will be announcing their formation — and their current effort to rally community support. The group includes parents, students, educators, community members, organizations and individuals.

Dr. Lyla Berg, a former Hawai`i State Representative, founded Kids Voting Hawai`i and is the State Coordinator for Project Citizen with the Center For Civic Education, Washington, D.C. Dr. Berg said, “We believe that the Social Sciences, which include economics, psychology, participation in democracy, geography, Hawaiian Studies, Pacific Island Studies, and  government are all fundamental to a young person’s development as a career-ready, college-bound, civic-minded and responsible member of our democratic society, particularly at this time of globilization. Social Studies courses present vital content, learning experiences, and opportunities for young minds to discover and explore their personal connections to the world around them and such courses help them better understand their civic and social responsibilities as Americans. One must only look at Hawaii’s low voter turnout to understand the great importance of this now-threatened curriculum. It’s imperative that we safeguard the basic civic mission of schools.”

Dr. Berg’s concerns are being echoed across the nation. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said in a May 4, 2011, New York Times article: “We face difficult challenges at home and abroad. Meanwhile divisive rhetoric and a culture of sound bites threaten to drown out rational dialogue and debate. We cannot afford to continue to neglect the preparation of future generations for active and informed citizenship.”

In addition to Dr. Berg, the statewide Hawai`i effort includes Linda Coble, Board Chair of Kids Voting Hawai`i; Robert Buss, Executive Director, Hawaii Council for Humanities; Drs. Jeff Moniz and Patricia Halagao, faculty of the UH College of Education; Gail Tamaribuchi, former Director of the Center for Economic Education, and Ted Petit, Chair of the Civic Education Committee of the Hawai`i State Bar Association.

In the words of Dr. Maya Seotoro-Ng, Co-founder of Our Public School, “What we value most as a society is reflected in what we mandate. Through social studies, students solve problems and connect school with society. It does not make sense for us to pare down on social studies requirements in our DOE schools when our private schools are recognizing the value of more social studies through courses that focus on spiritual and ethical development, as well as individual and community responsibility.”

Long-time civics and education advocate Linda Coble observed, “Hawaii’s Act 51, The Reinventing Education Act of 2004, states: ‘although many responsibilities are laid upon education, ultimately education must do no less than advance the endowment of human culture itself, so that each succeeding generation finds itself further along the road towards peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability in a society guided by creativity, compassion, and curiosity.’ Our alliance believes this commitment to Hawaii’s K-12 Social Studies curriculum to be more important and relevant today than ever before.”

Scott Foster works to promote a number of community groups across the state

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