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View Point

By Georgia McMillen

Saturday, July 15, 2000

Don’t limit the future
of Hawaiian students

Kamehameha should focus on
academics, not vocational education

AS a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, I would like to respond to the Star-Bulletin's June 7 article announcing Kamehameha Schools' future focus on vocational learning.

The last 50 years have seen the development of a global marketplace and an unprecedented explosion in communications-related technology. The new economy provides new economic opportunities, and political and cultural allegiances.

In this context, now more than ever, an education focused on developing high levels of communication skills through English and foreign language study -- logic and analytic reasoning through mathematics and other forms of quantified logic, world understanding through history and geography, and an understanding of the hard sciences including physics, chemistry and biology -- is fundamental.

I call such an education an academic education, whose purpose is to teach the student to think critically and independently.

Academic education is necessary for success at the college and university level, in the world market, and to develop a child's mind so that he or she will have options, and not be bound by circumstances of birth.

It is at the heart of an informed democratic citizenry. An academic education is at the heart of sovereignty, which I consider, in the broadest sense, the thoughtful exercise of free will.

Kamehameha Schools is endowed with remarkable financial resources from the Bishop Estate. It is in a unique position to ensure that all Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian children will receive a world-class academic education.

All Hawaiian children deserve such an education given the legacy of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the founder of Kamehameha Schools. Moreover, all Hawaiian children need such an academic education given:

Bullet World realities at the beginning of the millennium, with the challenges and opportunities now available.

Bullet The history of our people, who were not prepared to transact with the West and paid dearly for that lack of knowledge.

Bullet That while some children may not choose college, every child must be given the option.

Bullet That while a child may choose to practice a vocation, he or she will always need an academic education to fully participate in our complex democratic society, and the world beyond.

NOTWITHSTANDING the financial resources available through Bishop Estate, an academic education does not require computer labs, television studios, athletic complexes and other large expenditures. It only requires excellent teachers, patience and compassion.

All Hawaiian children are capable of learning academic excellence. All Hawaiian children need it -- not only the rich, the upper middle class or middle class. All Hawaiian children.

Thus an education plan focusing on vocational learning, as your June 7 article reported, robs Hawaiian children of the ability to choose their own futures. It robs our people of future leaders. It robs our people, state and country of informed, thoughtful citizens.

I urge the Board of Trustees to reconsider the educational goals of Kamehameha Schools.

Georgia McMillen , an attorney and resident of Wailuku, Maui,
is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools.

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