Saturday, March 31, 2007

I am writing in support of HB 1268 HD3 SD1 (Relating to Innovation in Education).

It’s been true for some time now, that we don’t need MORE education -- but LESS. But we need to learn the one thing that enables us to learn all the other things -- as needed, when we actually have to -- because the old manner of learning as much as we can, in the hopes that one day something might be useful, is really an outmoded and fallacious understanding of knowledge, learning and understanding.

The one skill every person needs to learn is simply how to process any piece of information -- as in computer programming, which reduces any bit of information to a universal digital code. It doesn’t matter whether it is health, business, philosophy or technology now -- as in the traditional (obsolete) education of categorizing, fragmenting, specializing the world of experience into many jargons, jurisdictions and hierarchies -- mainly to keep out the casual learner. That has become an increasingly useless and irrelevant education.

The really useful education of these times is learning how to function optimally and practically in this world -- rather than just academically and theoretically. It used to be that people were very impressed if one could tell them all one knew. But in this age of abundant information, we all only have time for the information we want to know -- and not everything that could be known.

Obtaining just that, is really the easiest and most essential lesson to learn -- and one can learn everything else, when there is a real need to. Learning just for the sake of learning, is not a powerful enough reason and motivation -- especially for the wisest and most perceptive. That is frequently the problem with the most gifted students. They have a passion, focus and intensity for learning (and creativity) because they can see through the false and inessential.

When people are vitally interested in what they are learning, there is no limit to what they can learn -- or how much they can learn. But if uninterested, they are like the people who get on the bus each day with the same book for the last twenty years who can never get pass the first page because they always read the same line over and over again. When asked why don’t they read a different book, they insist they have to stay with that book until they finish it, before going on to any other.

And so they never get around to learning vitally, all the great things happening in the world -- and how much easier and better, life could be because of their learning all the things useful and practical to learn. We need to learn in this new way -- and not just the old politically correct way, to be “correct.” That kind of "education" has no meaning -- though undoubtedly, the professional educators can keep providing more of that same.

Life is too important to learn all those things just because somebody else says it is for our own good. We each can determine that for ourselves -- once obtaining the basic skills, for processing any piece of information -- of which the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are the fundamental orientation we need to have -- in order that we can live daily lives of our own inclination, temperament and talent -- as intelligently as possible. The great injustice is that some students begin kindergarten with that exposure to those enabling technologies and orientation -- while many others will regard that as a threat to their entire being and way of life.

We need to level at least that playing field for all our citizens -- to live the lives now possible that could never have been imagined possible even by the previous generation of "teachers."

4 Comments:

At April 04, 2007 9:38 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

One of the surprising things I found in 30 years on the Mainland, was that whenever I ran into former Hawaii-residents, they invariably did very well at adapting to the new conditions they were in -- because they had to, while there is often no requirement for doing so, and even the well-known hostility to adopting new ways -- that keeps them from returning, even though they may come back for a visit to the Islands each year.

A lot of them wonder if Hawaii has changed in that respect -- or do they have to start all over at the bottom as "newcomers" -- and put in their time until they have "seniority." That model doesn't even work well for job efficiency and motivation and really needs to be abandoned in favor of the merit approach.

Believe it or not, there is no Commandment against rewarding merit over seniority. In fact, that is not even a requirement for unions -- except that is what they have voted to value. It's not imposed by any higher authority than themselves -- which those beginning kindergarten can recognize as an injustice but they are told by those who presume to know better, that that is the wisdom of the world because that's how their own union works.

That's how it is with most human rules: they are voluntarily and willingly self-imposed, yet take on the force of custom and tradition. That's why people when they are freed not to kill one another, continue -- even though they no longer "have" to.

But even today, in enlightened countries, the media and other institutions, continue the wars -- even demanding that every report is a division and conflict in society, only in this country, they like to call it "partisanship" -- which makes all the ugliness of hatred and prejudice okay, as long as it is the "right" kind of liberal hatred and prejudice.

And that's why the problems go on.

 
At April 04, 2007 5:14 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2007/4/4/191945.shtml?s=lh

Bilingual Education Is Getting an F

Lowell Ponte
Thursday, April 5, 2007

One of the fathers of bilingual education in the U.S. says the program is failing immigrant students – and actually preventing their integration into American society.

For millions of youngsters, bilingual education has been a bridge to nowhere, producing shockingly high dropout rates, social Balkanization, and shattered American dreams.

Frustrated parents and voters have begun to fight back against bilingual education approaches that put kids last.

When bilingual education became federal law in 1974, "We expected students to be in bilingual classes for only a year or so," former New York Congressman Herman Badillo, chief author of the 1974 legislation, tells NewsMax.

"But we put no limit in the bill. We never suspected that a bilingual lobby would emerge that would keep students in bilingual classes for two, four, six, or eight years!"

By teaching newcomers math, history, and other subjects in their native language, bilingual education was supposed to prevent students from falling behind in those subjects while they learned English.

When Badillo moved to the U.S. from Puerto Rico at age 12, he spoke little English. He learned firsthand the difficulties youngsters face when plunged into speaking English, a difficult languages to master. But more painful for Badillo was learning bitter lessons later as an idealistic Democratic politician, and as the first Puerto Rican elected to Congress, about the selfish ways of progressive special interests.

That's one reason why Badillo, 77, has become a Republican. Now a senior fellow at the libertarian-conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, he shares his hard-won insights in an eye-opening new book, One Nation, One Standard: An Ex-Liberal on How Hispanics Can Succeed Just Like Other Immigrant Groups.

"Instead of helping students learn English, bilingual education became monolingual education in Spanish," Badillo says.

He also discovered that 30 New York City teachers were recruited in Spain to teach bilingual classes, but the city had to provide translators for them because these teachers spoke no English. Students sidetracked for years into Spanish-only "bilingual" classes, Badillo found, were usually directed away from college preparatory classes and into vocational training, limiting their future opportunities.

And because school policies of "social promotion" advanced students without regard to their mastery of curriculum, "many graduated high school barely able to read or write in any language," he says. "Bilingual education often produced bi-illiteracy."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich voiced sentiments similar to Badillo's in a recent speech. He told the National Federation of Republican Women: "We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and prosperity, not the language of living in the ghetto."

A February 2007 study by the Pacific Research Institute found that in California – where more than a third of the population is Hispanic – 47 percent of students classified as English Language Learners (ELs) scored high enough on the California English Language Development Test to be reclassified as fluent in English. But most local school districts adopt additional standards to prevent such reclassification.

"More than half of 10th-grade EL students are kept in the EL category for 10 years or more," according to Lance T. Izumi and the co-authors of the PRI study.

The reason for this, wrote Izumi and his co-authors, is "that school districts simply want more money … [and] have a financial incentive for keeping students classified as EL because federal Title III funds are distributed on a per-EL basis, and the state Economic Impact Aid program ... is based in part on EL student counts."

At its peak nationwide, bilingual and English as a Second Language education programs cost taxpayers more than $12 billion each year, according to one estimate.

What Badillo labels the "bilingual lobby" includes the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE). One aim of NABE is to keep students speaking their native language instead of switching, as most of our ancestors did, entirely into the English language and its culture.

When Linda Chavez, former chairwoman of the National Commission on Migrant Education, enrolled one of her sons in a Washington, D.C., public school, she received a letter notifying her that the boy would be placed in a bilingual program.

But her son "didn't speak a word of Spanish," wrote Chavez. "American-born Hispanics, who now make up more than half of all bilingual students, should be taught in English."

Voter initiatives backed by Silicon Valley software millionaire Ron Unz to restrict public school bilingual education programs passed in California in 1998 by 61 percent, in Arizona in 2000 by 65 percent, and in Massachusetts in 2002 by 68 percent.

The bilingual lobby responded with legal challenges and efforts to circumvent, undermine, or delay the will of voters. In Colorado, heavily funded bilingual activists spent millions of dollars in 2002 to defeat a similar ballot measure.

"The organized anti-bilingual campaign ran out of steam about that time," wrote NABE's then-executive director, James Crawford, in August 2006. "No English-only initiative measures have reached the ballot since 2002 -- but bilingual enrollments have continued to drop." The biggest reason for this drop, wrote Crawford, has been President Bush's No Child Left Behind program, which took effect in the 2002-03 school year.

Because Bush's federal mandate requires every school to meet targets of "adequate yearly progress" for specific groups, including English Learners, it puts pressure on schools to rapidly improve EL scores on English-language achievement tests. Bush's general approach has won widespread support from Hispanic parents and even, concedes Crawford, "from Hispanic organizations such as the National Council of La Raza."

As bilingual enrollments have declined, student test scores and English fluency have generally improved nationwide. If the goal is to learn English – and not to advance other agendas – then total immersion that forces students to learn only in the new language apparently works at least as well as today's bilingual education.

"The recent decline in bilingual enrollments," wrote Crawford, "may be only the beginning of a long-term trend."

 
At April 05, 2007 4:10 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Since we won’t read all about it in the daily newspapers:

http://www.hawaiireporter.com/story.aspx?e865be73-ffa4-4ed4-873c-a682f22ce51c

Who's Running the Asylum?
By Malia Zimmerman, 4/5/2007 2:26:15 PM

Who would want to head up a notoriously dilapidated, dysfunctional and dismal state prison system where people from all walks of life from the mentally ill, to unionized prison guards, to criminals with extensive rap sheets including convictions of rape, murder and assault and their ACLU backers, to the 25 members of the Hawaii State Senate - would tell you how to do your job? Not only that - they would have a say if they weren’t satisfied with your performance. No, this isn’t a reality television show. No, this isn’t an episode of Survivor on a remote island. But this is the reality that anyone heading up Hawaii’s Public Safety department will face.

Surprise! There aren't many takers. Especially for a salary under $100,000 a year. But Iwalani White was willing to take the challenge. She believed not only in the cause, but in her ability to make the changes that would make a positive difference. But would she get that chance?

White was raised in the projects, and pulled herself from poverty to achieve greatness as a state family court judge and the city’s first deputy prosecutor. She didn't go to charm school. She didn't take Politics 101 to learn to grovel to politicians. She missed that public relations class on how to deal with the media. That much is obvious.

But all that aside, White is a local woman who exceeded by a long shot what statistics would say she would, and she went on to become the first woman to run Hawaii’s prison systems.

Gov. Linda Lingle appointed White as director of this department 8 months ago after tremendous turnover. White hoped the Senate would confirm her as director so she could continue with the makeover she’d started.

But her life long struggle towards success, (or a night in a pit of poisonous snakes and ravenous rats), might have seemed easy compared with the extended confirmation process she endured in the Hawaii State Senate these last couple of weeks.

After two long, grueling hearings before the Senate Public Safety Committee, White was not confirmed on the Senate floor on Monday by a vote of 16 to 9.

Before White even set foot in the Senate Public Safety Committee, Senate Committee Chair Wil Espero, egged on by the mental health “advocates” working in the system and Lynette Mau, mother of alleged triple murder suspect Adam Mau-Goffredo, had waged a successful campaign to unseat her. Lynette Mau sent out regular emails to lawmakers and the community on perceived failures of the state’s mental health programs and facilities and asked for testimony against White. With these opponents’ guidance, Espero sought out and subpoenaed 9 people who were unhappy with White during her brief time on the job. The Senate chair didn’t seek positive testimony in the same fashion.

Apparently White had shaken up the historically dysfunctional prison system, because of the 100 people who testified at her hearing, 21 people were opposed to her confirmation.

To the casual observer, the hearings were actually quite a frightening reflection of what White must have endured during her brief tenure. So called “mental health advocates” looked and spoke as though they’d endured one too many shock treatments or possibly had swallowed an overdose of Prozac. One sitting in the front row even openly fell asleep during the hearings, waking only to occasionally nod her head or offer her testimony. Prison guards, some who looked as though they ought to be behind bars and not overseeing the prisoners, grunted almost unintelligible complaints about White’s management style and objected to being put under investigation by her for various and sundry alleged deeds. A couple of well-respected professionals in the system testified against White citing her management style, but those negative reports were miniscule compared to the big names that backed her.

No one opposed to White claimed that she was corrupt, dishonest, or incompetent. Her critics either complained about the prison system that has been over-crowed and poorly managed for the last 4 decades, long before she arrived. Or they accused her of being a poor communicator and manager who hadn’t done enough – or had done too much – in her brief tenure.

White supporters said just the opposite – that she’d been aggressively pursuing fixes to the department’s long-standing problems and that she was just the person to make much needed changes.

Behind the scenes, an unusual combination of people lobbied on her behalf. The state’s top private and public union leaders as well as Honolulu City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, her former boss, Mark Bennett, the state attorney general, and the Republican governor and her staff, asked lawmakers to confirm her. They packed the Senate chambers on Monday in support of White.

It was an unfortunate reality that through the process, White was one of her own worst enemies. Her biggest supporters quietly acknowledged that White had been so focused on fixing the problems in her department, that she often ignored media requests and phone calls from the public. Freedom of Information Act inquiries were stacked up in her office, going unanswered for months, if answered at all. She didn’t communicate well enough with her 2,400 employees so that they understood the changes she was trying to make. And finally, she didn’t lobby adequately on her own behalf, not even taking the time to meet with all 25 Senators before the final vote, as all nominees inevitably should.

But was that enough to can her – especially when so many of the state’s most prominent people came out to rally for her? Nine of 25 Senators said no, but they lost to the majority vote.

Sen. Espero led the charge against White. In a speech on the Senate floor before her supporters, Espero said he was not putting down White’s talents or past accomplishments, but did not believe she was the right person for the job. He laid out several accusations against her made by detractors, mainly focused on management style or personality.

Four of the five Senate Republicans gave speeches on White’s behalf. Sen. Fred Hemmings argued not only was she the best person for the job, but that no one else wants the job. Sen. Paul Whalen, who supported White’s confirmation in committee, said she was more than qualified and had many, many more supporters than detractors. Whalen questioned why detractors, many who had conflicts of interest, had more weight than supporters. Sen. Sam Slom noted White was hoping to head up the “Department of Public Safety”, which was supposed to live up to its name and keep the public safe. He asked if the public would be safer with a department with no leader, than with a leader with the mental toughness, the academic and law enforcement experience and passion to make the necessary reforms and stand by them. Slom also dismissed the few criticisms about her management style, pointing out several made no sense and were not backed up by facts.

Several Democrat Senators who voted in opposition said privately that they potentially would jeopardize the careers of those who came forward to testify against White, if they didn’t vote to oust her. Slom countered, “What about Iwalani White’s career being put in jeopardy by her critics?”

Outside the governor told the media how disappointed she was in the Senate’s decision, saying she believes White is the right person at the right time for this job: “Iwalani has proven to be an effective director of a department that has very tough challenges. Iwalani has brought stability to the department and structure to the staff, which was made clear by the number of Public Safety Department employees who turned out to testify in her favor.”

Peter Carlisle, who drafted White from her position as a family court judge nearly 10 years ago to serve as his first deputy director, is one of her biggest supporters. He said the vote was disappointing, not only for White and those who believe she can make a difference, but for the people who work under her.

White isn’t the first person this legislative session that Senators planned to oust through an organized solicitation and subpoenaing of disgruntled employees.

She certainly won't be the last.

In fact, Department of Human Service Director Lillian Koller is on the hot seat this week. Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Peter Young will be next. Fourteen people have already been subpoened against Young next Wednesday in what one Senator says is sure to be a "bloody" event. Deputy Prosecutor Glenn Kim was subjected to the same just days ago, but overcame a seemingly sure defeat on the final floor vote.

The question Sen. Hemmings asked from the Senate floor during the White confirmation - “Who the hell would want this job?” - is a poignant one.

If people fear that everything they may have said, thought or done in their life might come out in a confirmation hearing, they won't apply to work in public service. After all, whose closet is skeleton free? Certainly not the Senators'.

While it is appropriate to assess a candidate’s credentials and make sure they are not a shyster or a mass murderer, it is important to weigh the pros and cons, and look at the motivations and credentials of those who do come forward against the candidate.

If not, the Senators might get so desperate to find someone they approve of to take the job, that they will have to do it themselves. That is, in between running their own assylum at the Hawaii State Capitol.

FINAL SENATE VOTE:

NO AGAINST IWALANI WHITE (16)

* Roz Baker
* Robert Bunda
* Kalani English
* Wil Espero
* Clayton Hee
* Gary Hooser
* David Ige
* Les Ihara
* Donna Mercado Kim
* Russell Kokubun
* Ron Menor
* Clarence Nishihara
* Norman Sakamoto
* Jill Tokuda
* Shan Tsutsui
* Colleen Hanabusa

YES IN SUPPORT OF IWALANI WHITE (9)

* Carol Fukunaga
* Mike Gabbard
* Fred Hemmings
* Loraine Inouye
* Sam Slom
* Brian Taniguchi
* Gordon Trimble
* Suzie Chun Oakland
* Paul Whalen

 
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