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An (Un)Educational Experience

October 13, 2008

Welcome to the wonderful world of education in Hawaii. No doubt you’ve heard a few things about the school system, and I am here to confirm that it is all true.

Last Friday we attended our first open house at the preschool where Taiyo has been going since August. Arriving a few minutes late, we took an open seat in the alcove near the administrative office where the principal was greeting parents with a welcome message that was about as heartfelt as a bureaucrat’s handshake. Looking around it was clear that less than half the families with children in the school had bothered to attend. And as events proceeded, it became apparent why. Nobody, including the principal, had really bothered to prepare anything beyond refreshments for the evening. Taiyo’s teacher didn’t even show up – she was on vacation. We instead relied on the hospitality of the non-native English-speaking assistant teacher and one of the rotating class aides. The hour-long session consisted of the kids playing in the classroom with intermittent conversations between the teaching assistants and those parents who were willing to approach and ask questions.

Was there a presentation? No. When I asked about the daily/weekly schedule, did I receive anything resembling a detailed or coherent answer? No. Do I have any confidence whatsoever that my kid is receiving a valuable educational experience? No.

Considering we pay over $700 a month, I think I have the right to expect more than just basic daycare/social learning services. At the very least, I expect the school to make a pretense of providing more than that.

So the precedent has been set for an educational experience where, if you attend public schools, you are lucky to graduate speaking more than pidgin. In a state that perennially ranks in the bottom ten nationally in education, a state that just slashed another $45 million in education budget.

It is more obvious than ever why the only mainland haoles living here are either in their 20s or their 60s and up. No one wants to subject their kids to the education system here unless they can afford Punahou.

I’d like to end with a caveat. I don’t mean to be (though I probably sound) wholly negative about the prospect of a Hawaiian education. I have noticed that Taiyo’s alphabet and counting skills are improving, and during fire safety month, he has come home spouting the odd fact or two about what to do in a fire emergency. At the same time, as a young, concerned parent, I rely on the school for reassurance that my child is building the foundation for his future education. And I’m just not getting that.

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