Keep talking, keep thinking ...


POSTED: Monday, August 17, 2009
This story has been corrected. See below.

Some teachers don't need a classroom to teach. Anthropology professor Christine Yano and retired religion professor George Tanabe are hosts of the weekly KZOO radio talk show “Thinking Out Loud: Talking Issues, Taking Action.” It’s a community-issues show in which the duo asks the questions rather than provides the answers.

“;It's hard for me. ... I'm used to expounding and having everybody listen,”; Tanabe says. “;As a host, I must draw guests out rather than put my stamp on them. It's a new experience and a different discipline.”;

Still, what motivates the hosts is inspiring thought and action in listeners.

“I love to be part of a community of critical thinkers — the operative word here is thinking,” says Yano. “The notion of questioning and confronting issues — it’s the kind of skill to take us forward.”

Yano, who is on the board of directors at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, had been wanting to start a radio talk show for several years. When KZOO radio moved into the center as a tenant in January, the time was ripe.

“;Part of the mission of the cultural center's board is to encourage strategic alliances with its tenants,”; says Robyn Furuya, of KZOO. “;Up until now, for 45 years KZOO was all Japanese language, except in the evenings, when English-speaking deejays played Japanese music. It's important to reach new audiences, and we hope to attract those who have an interest in local issues.”;

After agreeing to a one-year trial, Yano sought the assistance of Tanabe, who serves on the center’s board of governors, to help meet the 52-week commitment. He brought his wife, Willa, a retired UH art professor, who now runs a monthly book club on air.

“;When things fall together, you know that things are going right,”; Yano says.

The show hit the airwaves relatively quickly, debuting on June 22. Topics have included everything from obon to internment to sustainability. It's important to everyone involved that “;Thinking Out Loud”; topics extend beyond the bounds of “;nice”; or “;safe”; cultural issues.

“;Did you know a group of women formed an organization to take care of picture brides who ran away from abusive husbands?”; Yano asks. “;In the myth-making of the Japanese-American community, they tend to ignore these types of stories. But these kind of issues need to be talked about.”;

Tanabe nods in agreement. “;When people in the (Japanese-American) community talk about all the great things the Japanese here have done, why are they claiming these values as Japanese? What are universal human values versus those of a specific group? It's a new Hawaii, and maybe we might be moving past that.”;

“;In some ways Hawaii prides itself on being a nonconfrontational society, but sometimes it doesn't help us move forward to be nice,”; says Yano. “;Sometimes you have to raise things that are not pleasant — misogynistic attitudes or wartime memories — so we don't do it again. Also, it's just a way to look into ourselves. Critical thinking is all about looking at yourself.”;

“;Any society that doesn't look at issues critically is doomed,”; Tanabe adds. “;Look at Enron. They had a culture of no criticism and ended up with lots of trouble.”;

“;THINKING OUT LOUD'S”; community focus extends beyond programming. The show has resulted in partnerships with UH's Center for Japanese Studies, Barnes & Noble (which features a monthly poster announcement of Willa Tanabe's book club selection) and the Hawaii Council for the Humanities.

Tanabe approached the council, where he once served as a chairman, hoping to publicize the show in the group's newsletter, given that topics are humanities-related. But the organization became a full-fledged partner, providing funding for programming and publicity.

Robert Buss, executive director of the group, says radio connects with the community in ways other formats cannot.

“;The call-in format works well for humanities discussions, which are always well served with (these hosts),”; he says. “;The humanities are important because they take a step back and ask, 'Why do we care about these things?'”;

KZOO listeners have paid attention, despite the show being conducted in English.

“;The next day, they'll call in to discuss the show in Japanese,”; says Lennie Yajima Andrew, president of the cultural center.

Yano and Tanabe are gratified for the interest, and as usual, are looking toward the next step: Will the larger community tune in?

“;I hope so, because inevitably they're a part of it,”; Yano says.

“;I think, at least for what we've done so far, it works. George and I are both interested in people and willing to listen really well. I learn at least one thing from every show.”;

“;It's great to meet people,”; says Tanabe. “;Most people welcome an opportunity to share what they're doing.

“;We want to cover all kinds of issues that affect us outside our ethnic circles ... and foster critical discussions, not to pare down, but to build up.”;

“;Ultimately, we're an optimistic program,”; Yano adds. “;Perhaps by talking and thinking through things, we can improve things. We want to hear that conversation or at least get it started.”;


'Thinking Out Loud: Talking Issues, Taking Action'

» Airs: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays

» Station: KZOO-AM 1210

» Call: 941-5966 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Show topics

» Today: The value of oral history, with guests Warren Nishimoto and Michiko Kodama from the University of Hawaii, hosted by Christine Yano

» Aug. 24: U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, hosted by George Tanabe

» Aug. 31: Book club discussion of “;Mililani Mauka”; with author Chris McKinney, hosted by Willa Tanabe

» Sept. 7: Mayor Mufi Hannemann on the arts, culture and tourism in Honolulu, hosted by George Tanabe

» Sept. 14: Ann Bayer and Lois Yamauchi talk about public education in Hawaii, hosted by Christine Yano

» Sept. 28: Tom Coffman will discuss his project “;The Island Edge of America,”; with book club host Willa Tanabe






        » Christine Yano is a professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. Originally, this article said she retired.