Sunday, July 29, 2001

Redistricting panel may be
targeting Senate reformer

The issue: The state Reapportionment
Commission has given state Legislators a
preview of its redistricting plan.

PLANS to redraw Hawaii's 76 legislative districts have been revealed to legislators but not to the public for reasons that can only be inferred, and those reasons are neither honorable nor acceptable. Moreover, the Reapportionment Commission may have violated the state's Sunshine Law. The plans should be scrutinized intently when they are made public for their underlying political objectives and the commission should provide ample time for review. If it is to gain public trust, it should also be willing to return to the drawing board.

The commission has been meeting since early June under the chairmanship of Wayne Minami, a banking executive and attorney general in the administration of Gov. George Ariyoshi, to draw lines for the state's 51 House and 25 Senate districts, plus its two congressional districts. In a closed meeting, the commission briefed legislators on Wednesday about the plan.

Minami said legislators were not shown detailed plans for the new districts, but lawmakers from both the Democratic majority and Republican caucuses said they were shown a drastic reshaping of the districts. Common Cause spokesman Larry Meacham, who obtained a copy from a friendly legislator, calls part of the new map "gross and outrageous," obviously aimed at punishing Sen. Les Ihara, a reform-minded Democrat from Kapahulu who helped press legislative leaders to open budget proposals to the public in this year's session.

One Senate district, the 15th, begins at the top of Nuuanu Valley and winds its way past several districts through downtown and along the waterfront all the way to Waikiki, ending at Kapahulu, taking out part of Ihara's present district. Another district, the 11th, starts at Makapuu Point and follows the oceanside to Kapahulu, where it meets the 15th. At one point along the shoreline, Meacham says, the district's width narrows to a single block before "bulging out again to use up part of Les Ihara's district."

"These two extreme gerrymandered districts are put in clearly to knock out his district, clearly because he's a dissident in the Senate," Meacham says. "That sort of petty, political stuff should not be going on when they're doing redistricting. That's the worst sort of gerrymandering."

If Meacham's depiction is accurate, other less-noticeable transgressions are probably present, but the public will have little time to decipher them. The commission's schedule is to show the final redistricting plan to the public on Tuesday and vote on it Thursday. The commission should revise that schedule, disclosing its proposed plan to the public immediately and providing more time for review before approving it.

School panel opens
door to creationism

The issue: A Board of Education panel
has proposed a standard that would have
a version of origin of the universe and
humankind known as creationism to be
taught alongside the theory of evolution.

A state Board of Education committee has approved the addition of "multiple theories of origin" to the performance standards for science education in public schools. Performance standards set out what knowledge a child should have in a particular subject. The proposal is worthy of serious consideration but the board should proceed carefully in our pluralistic society.

Although the standards do not mention creationism specifically, the committee was prompted to make the change after member Denise Matsumoto asserted that schools in Hawaii present the Darwinian theory as fact rather than opinion and that they should teach creationism as another possibility.

The committee replaced language that described "biological evolution" to read "the basic idea of the multiple theories of origin" because, Matsumoto contended, "evolution" is an incorrect term that is often confused with "adaptation." She argued that "evolution" reflects the idea that one species can change into another, such as ape to man, which she argued is not possible, while adaptation reflects change within a species.

Creationism itself has a variety of definitions. In ancient Greece, philosophers held that the universe was eternal, without a beginning. In the Middle Ages, Jewish, Islamic, and Christian philosophers ascribed the origin of matter and species to a prime mover. Thomas Aquinas sought to bridge religion and science, arguing that "not only does faith hold that there is creation, but reason also demonstrates it." Fundamentalist Christians today assert that the biblical account of creation should be taken literally, which appears to be the definition applied by Matsumoto.

In the 142 years since Charles Darwin published his theories in "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection," Darwinian principles have become widely accepted theory as humans seek to understand life on Earth, and should be treated as such in teaching.

The introduction of creationism into a school curriculum need not be contentious. Creationism would have a place in lessons on religious and cultural beliefs about the origins of the world. Exploring the tenets of religions -- from Judaism to Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism -- in the context of history and their influences on society would be valuable. Teaching creationism as part of the science curriculum, however, would seem questionable.

Public education should include a broad presentation of ideas and a search for knowledge. Under this umbrella, creationism has a place. What should be avoided, however, is an intrusion of religious doctrine into Hawaii's school system. Religious education belongs in the home or a church.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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