Gathering Places


Friday, May 25, 2001

Past, present and
future of education:
It’s not a pretty picture

The strike that crippled public education recently was only an exclamation point on the state of affairs that has emerged over the past 20 years. Slowly education continues to crumble and the vast majority of people are not aware of it.

>> PAST: When I came to Maui to teach 20 years ago, I was first struck by the hard work and care given by teachers from all grade levels. I would drive by schools late at night and on weekends to see others working hard. It gave me a sense of pride; it motivated me to work harder -- even though I was one of the lowest paid faculty members at Maui Community College.

I identify with teachers who give of their own personal time, energy, and finances. We do this with little support. We just do it. Our government states they cannot pay us when times are bad; and when times are good, there are too many other needs that must be addressed. There never seems to be a good time for a deserved raise. Education is only a priority in a politician's speech.

>> PRESENT: Years go by and frustrations mount. We hear more and more negativity. Gradually, the negativity starts to override even the hardened professional and we start to wonder why we even work the way we do. Our budgets get slashed and it's our fault. Buildings become dilapidated and it's our fault. We tell people in high places what is happening and are labeled "whiners."

When all else fails, we strike and are labeled "unprofessional." Alas, we do not see the "big picture."

I am angry and depressed. The ending of the strike did not change that. I am angry at an "education" governor who has no clue about education. I am angry at our legislators who have gone into hiding or choose to follow their leader by being silent even though they know in their hearts that this isn't right. I am angry at what we are worth to people.

Why depressed? I see nothing on the horizon that will change our plight. I now see new "heir-apparents" to the governor's throne coming forward preaching the same thing Gov. Ben Cayetano preached. What assurances do we have that, whoever is elected, they will not "pull another Ben" once they get into office? It worked so many times before.

Even with the anger and depression, I continue to work hard for my students. That's what teachers do.

>> FUTURE: Teachers are leaving the state at alarming rates. Why? Other places respect them more and although Hawaii offers so much, it's just not worth it any longer to come or to stay.

Eventually, the strike ended. Teachers filed back into classrooms and students returned as though nothing ever happened. There was a sigh of relief and the public thought things were back to normal.

Unfortunately they are right.

Lynn Yankowski is associate professor of
psychology at Maui Community College.

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