Hawaii Public High School Experience – An Inside Look from a Hawaii Teen

article top

When you ask your teenager how their day at school was their response is most likely along the lines of “fine” or “boring”. What they don’t tell you are the truths about school that is not advertised in brochures or talked about in education meetings.

This week I made the decision to transfer to a public high school in hopes of taking more challenging classes like AP (advanced placement) and having the opportunity to meet new people. My experience at this public school was astoundingly different then I expected.


On my first day at the public school, I was the typical reserved new kid, who stumbles around campus attempting to find where each class is. Before the first bell even rang, I came across a group of about ten teens, who appeared to be smoking cigarettes. A boy from the group said “Hey! You like one smoke?”

I ignored him and kept my head low, but then I felt someone grab my arm. I whipped around and there he was gripping my arm. He said firmly, “Come on, all new kids don’t like try, but it good kine fun.” I was in shock, so I unconsciously ripped my arm from his grip and ran off. Drugs have been offered to me before, which I have always refused, but the fact that these teens were doing drugs on campus with no secrecy stumped me.

I knew going into a public school that the social environment would be extremely different then what I was accustomed to, but I didn’t expect to see so many teens doing drugs, making out in the hallways, and grappling with other students. Honestly, the “school” seemed more like a hang out spot, since the “learning” in the regular Ed classes seemed absent. For example, in my first class the teacher gave out what appeared to be middle school basic math calculations.

The classroom environment was horrendous and appalling! A student said to the teacher to “Get the F**k over here and tell me the damn answers to this stupid s**t!” I was speechless. Never had I seen a student disrespect a teacher like that. At my school, I have always enjoyed having engaging class discussions about current events to give students the opportunity to think independently. Those debates were always educated not just simply yelling at the teacher.

My next few classes were just the same, except most teens were sleeping or texting under their jackets. I am not saying that at private schools teens don’t do drugs or text during class, because I can say first hand that no matter which school you go to there are students who really don’t care about the education. What set this public school apart from the other types of schools was how casual and “chill” the disciplinary code and punishments were. The teachers in the regular classes that I participated in were terrible!

One teacher said to me and I quote “You’re lucky you got this class because it’s so easy. I don’t like giving out work because I don’t like wasting time grading.” He was lethargic and I figured he was kidding, but after talking to the other students they all concurred that he really didn’t care, since everyone got an A even if they did no work. After only two days of this I immediately told my old school that I wanted to come back and I am thankful that they were more than happy to accept me.

I don’t regret going to that public school for the short time I was there because it showed me things that you can’t learn from a textbook. I am still astonished at how unmotivating that environment was. My brother who is a freshman at a public school is taking 12th grade calculus honors and he says it is still easy. Since I was not able to participate in any honors classes or take AP classes, I can’t give my opinion about the maturity level and how appropriate that environment is. What I can say is that I never want to take regular Ed classes at a public school again because of how unproductive the classes were.

Next time that I hear a DOE bureaucrat say “we need more money to solve our issues” my frustration will boil over the top.

I am not saying that ALL public schools are bad and that ALL students that go there do drugs or that ALL classes are easy, because that would be irrational of me to make generalizations that I know are not true.

I know from seeing inside the classrooms, looking at the books used, and being in that school environment why Hawaii’s public schools are failing. I dare those DOE bureaucrats to step out of their office and attempt to put yourself in a student’s shoes and go to various public schools and actually see what goes on.

For the amount of money taxpayers pay for the kind of “education” I witnessed clearly shows how inefficient the DOE and BOE is. From a student’s perspective, I can’t learn in classes like that.

Since public schools don’t need to compete for students or money, it is less efficient then it could be. Education is something that should not be pushed aside.

Students from across the state from different communities and schools have been neglected in the educational opportunities, whether from budget cuts or bad administrating.

I know education will never be flawless and that there will always be students that no matter how much counseling they get they will never try hard in school. However, there will always be students who want to take the initiative to learn on their own and excel.

Next time you want to know how your child’s day at school was and what happened, ignore the fine print of pages from the bureaucrats. It is not at all as it seems.

‘Janae Rasmussen is a 10th grader in Hawaii’