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Public Education in Hawai‘i: Oral Histories

Students watch stage play.

Cecil Dotts’ English class performs an adaptation of A Mid-Summer’s Night Dream, Konawaena School gym, 1932. (Photo courtesy Cecil Dotts.)

This project, commemorating the 150th anniversary of public education in Hawai‘i, was funded in part by the state Department of Education. It documents, through research and interviews, the historical development of public education within the context of socio-economic and political change in the Islands.

“So the (UH Teachers) College was a unique college. It served a unique purpose in the Islands, and it made us very conscious of the problems here of the social structure and the feudalistic economic system we had here in the Islands. So that we became far more than educators, we became what we considered the social revolutionaries. . . . Boy, yes, we dare create a new social order, and we’re going to do it through public education. So we weren’t just trying to get kids jobs, we were trying to get them jobs, and hoping, then, they would transform society after they got out into it. And they did.” —Hubert Everly

In these volumes are life history interviews with ten educators who, first as students and later as teachers and/or administrators, witnessed and participated in the developments in public education in Hawai‘i from the early years of this century to the present.

“When I got the principalship (of Hilea School), very few Japanese were principals. My father told me, ‘Don’t quit. Don’t quit, because you have to consider the social standpoint, and let them know that the Japanese are just as good as any other nationality.’ ” —Stephen Kanda

The interviews cover a diversity of topics, such as the interviewees’ family background, childhood, community, early education, preparation for their careers in education (i.e., Territorial Normal and Training School, University of Hawai‘i College of Education, and mainland colleges), employment (focusing on their careers in education), changes in education philosophies, policies, and practices, and, lastly, feelings and attitudes toward these changes and their careers in general.

“Teaching is important, but teaching was not the most important, in my opinion at the time. I deny that now. I think the teacher is the key person. But the fact is that society gives a higher salary to the principal and encourages people to move to positions like that. I think ideally they should all be based on the kind of contribution that they can make, rather than their status in the school. A teacher can very often be a much more important influence in the school than the principal can be. But that’s society, so I was caught up with that idea that, well, if I want to advance, I’ve got to be a principal.” —Cecil Dotts


Link to audioMarion Lee Loy gives her view of homework and teaching (.au sound file, 182K).




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