Since the Kamehameha Schools' announced the acceptance of a non-Hawaiian student to its Maui campus Thursday, concerned members of the Hawaiian community, including those parents whose children were denied admission to Kamehameha Schools, have contacted me and voiced their disgust and anger. One group is considering taking legal action.
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Television media coverage has portrayed the admittance of a non-Hawaiian student as something permitted by the will of Princess Pauahi Bishop, when in reality the will was written to ensure the education of Hawaiian children.
In the context of the time the will was written, there was no need for Ke Ali'i Pauahi to clarify and specify "native Hawaiian" children when addressing her beneficiaries.
The social norms of the princess' time dictated the clear racial and ethnic lines within our island communities, and there was no need for her to distinguish who she meant by Hawaiian children. The term "Hawaiian children" or "children of Hawaii" did not mean all children in Hawaii, it meant the native children of the indigenous people of our state.
In the past, students have been asked to leave the Kamehameha Schools because they could not prove their Hawaiian ancestry, so where does last week's decision leave us now?
Royal family members were well-traveled and versed in the ways of Western law and social rules, and Princess Pauahi saw the importance of providing quality education to Hawaiian children as did Princess Ruth who graciously bequeathed properties to the estate to support Pauahi's mission to educate Hawaiian children.
Another royal family member, Prince Kuhio, saw the need to provide land for Hawaiians to ensure that our people would not perish in our own islands but always have the opportunity to be tenants of our 'aina; thus, he created the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
Both ali'i were able to see that a land base and quality education were necessary in preventing the alienation of our own people in the land of our aboriginal roots.
Princess Pauahi did not intend for the Kamehameha Schools to be a means for economic mobility for individuals or the elite few chosen to attend. She saw the necessity to cultivate leaders and create industrious young men and women who will serve, and provide guidance and power for our people to rise socially, economically and politically, and she knew that this could be achieved through good education. The preference of Hawaiian children for admission not only furthers the primary mission of the schools, but is a tool for ensuring social mobility for Hawaiians as a group.
The Kamehameha Schools' administration said the admission criteria were not met by any other Hawaiian applicants to the Maui campus. This is an unacceptable explanation. Kamehameha is the vessel in which Hawaiians are provided the opportunity to gain skills to become competitive. Test scores should not be the only measure of a child's potential. Many average students become great leaders. If the trustees and administration do not understand this, then something is amiss.
Our people are not on an even playing field yet. Kamehameha Schools is one way our people will have a fighting chance to have power over our own destiny.
This action goes far beyond what is seen as an admission of a non-Hawaiian student. Beneficiaries of the Kamehameha Schools include all Hawaiians, not just members of the KS ohana, but all Hawaiians.
We all should be concerned about the ramifications that this action will bring not only for our schools, but for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Alulike, Queen Lili'uo-kalani Children's Center and Trust, Queen Emma Foundation, and all programs intended to benefit the Hawaiian people.
Pohai Ryan is director of the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association, Oahu Region and a graduate of the class of 1980.
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