Hawaiian Education

Some alarming statistics on Hawaiian education were brought to my attention recently:

1) Only 25% of Hawaiians graduating from Hawaiʻi schools are what the DOE considers “college and career ready” (that is, taking and passing the tests they need to enter college, the military or other fields, not having to take remedial courses if they enter Community Colleges), even worse, however, was:

2) Among Hawaiian graduates of public schools, 9% are completing college.

What is to be done about this? Or perhaps more importantly, how should we interpret these numbers? The standard response is to create programs that target the “weak” areas – for example, something is definitely happening in high school, because readiness numbers around middle school are comparatively good. So counselors may be deployed to intervene, which is exactly what Kamehameha Schools has done with its Kamehameha Scholars program, a “supplementary educational enrichment program with a focus on college and career guidance. Students will discover and assess their skills, interests, and values and explore matching post-high institutions and career options to develop plans for their future.”

But perhaps more important is questioning how and why we find ourselves in this predicament. It canʻt be that weʻre adapting to a new environment, as would be the case with immigrant groups; we’ve been here longest. Something not yet entirely measured is behind these gaps, perhaps a kind of existential terror of the brutally competitive system we have to navigate. Some research is supporting this seemingly far-fetched explanation.

Terror Management Theory holds that as we all have a deep-seated fear of death, the best way of coming to terms with it is to identify with cultural constructs that are larger than ourselves – if we are mortal, at least these cultural symbols (language, art, history) live on, and we are a part of that.

Hūlili journal, vol 3

In one of the most insightful recent articles on Hawaiian well-being, A. Kuʻulei Serna notes (in Hūlili journal, 2006, 133) that because “Hawaiians’ trauma [is] caused [by] disruption of culture,” we have few symbols through which to deflect this existential terror.

There are, of course other reasons. The emerging Native Hawaiian educational network, consisting of Kamehameha (7000 students), Hawaiian-focused Charter Schools (4000 students) and immersion schools (about 1500-2000 students), only touches a small fraction of the 150,000 Hawaiians learners today. Another 7000 Hawaiians are educated in other private schools. All of this adds up to something like W.E.B. DuBois’s “talented tenth,” who are supposedly tasked with bringing up the rest. And this group has done a lot, but not nearly  enough. While public schools “honor” Hawaiian history by requiring it in middle and high school, there is no system in place to ensure that teachers are prepared to deliver such a complex history. I’ve written (not flatteringly) about the state of Hawaiian history at the university level, and won’t repeat that here, except to say that in this case, it is a top-down process that’s not working well.

While we need more and better institutions of Hawaiian education, we also need to take a hard look at what the economic, political (read: military) systems do to us at a deep level.


Filed under academia, Hawaiian history, intellect

Obliterating Objections to Independence

Many people dismiss independence for Hawaiʻi with unsupported arguments that it is too small (in terms of population and economically),that a monarchy is an archaic form of government, or that the need for a military is an insurmountable one. None of these arguments have really been scrutinized – I do so here:

1. According to Wolfram Alpha, at $75.24 Billion, Hawaiʻi would be the 67th largest GDP out of 204 countries (there would be 205). Ironically, Cuba would be the next largest GDP at $66 Billion, but they have almost exactly ten times the population of Hawaiʻi (11 million). Of course, Hawaiʻi’s GDP would likely go down, but it is so much larger than the smallest economies, it is still quite possible that quality of life could be high. Tonga, for example, has about a $200 million economy, yet has no homelessness or starvation.


2. Monarchy is one of the most common forms of government in the world. Many countries that we think of as “democracies” (i.e., not monarchies, because the two must be incompatible) actually have monarchs: the UK (which includes Australia, New Zealand and Canada), Belgium, Japan (emperor), Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Thailand.

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands

3. In today’s security environment, a military is not entirely necessary – or so say Haiti, Mauritius, Panama, and the Federated States of Micronesia. Admittedly, these all have security arrangements, but Costa Rica does not.

4. Epeli Hauʻofa’s concept of the Pacific as a “sea of islands” challenged the prevailing idea of Pacific smallness. Hawaiʻi is relatively huge (both in population and land mass) compared to Tonga, an independent country. Hawaiʻi’s population is larger than the following countries: Bahrain, Estonia, Mauritius, East Timor, Cyprus, Fiji, Bhutan, Montenegro, Solomon Islands, Malta, Brunei.

Tallin, Estonia

5. And more than 1 million larger than: Bahamas, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Barbados, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Cook Islands. This is significant, because of the 1.3 million current residents in Hawaiʻi, one million are not native Hawaiian (this does not count descendants of the roughly 2000 non-native Hawaiian citizens of the Kingdom). Nearly another 200,000 native Hawaiians live on the US continent.

6. One final fun population fact: Hilo is bigger than Monaco.


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Occupation redux

In the (proposed) 1899 Hague Regulations, the basic premise of the law of occupation was stated:

The country invaded submits to the law of the invader; that is a fact; that is might; but we should not legalize the exercise of this power in advance, and admit that might makes right (Beernaert in Benvenisti, 2012, 90).

In the fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV) (which was crafted to with the “aim of imposing on occupants ʻa heavy burden”) (Benvenisti, 2012, 97), the norm was codified that the occupant (occupier) must take three considerations into account: “itʻs own security interests, the interests of the ousted government, and those of the local population, which may be different from the interest of their legitimate government” (Benvenisti, 2012, 69).

First Geneva Convention, 1864

The norms of GCIV were formed in the context of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, which created an expectation that during occupation the occupying military and the civilian population could be kept at a distance from each other and even co-exist relatively harmoniously (Benvenisti, 2012, 70). As for changes to law, they were to be kept at an absolute minimum, but were allowable for the purpose of making occupation practicable and functional on the ground. Benvenisti (2012, 90) notes that the rule that changes to law are only when “absolutely necessary … has no meaning” because the occupant is never absolutely prevented from complying to local law.

Article 43 of the GCIV was a mandate to “restore and ensure public order and civil life” – this came to be seen as an “incomplete instruction to the occupant” because of the conflicts of interest between occupant and the ousted government (Benvenisti, 2012, 71).

Changes to the law of occupation also continued as human rights became more of a concern to the international community. As this occurred, actual occupants began to seek to avoid the responsibilities of occupation by “purport[ing] to annex or establish[ing] puppet states or governments, rely[ing] on ʻinvitations’ from indigenous governments [the Soviet/Russian formula]” and other means (Benvenisti, 2012, 72).

But as is often pointed out, these means are not legitimate as GCIV states “the benefits [or applicability] of the [Geneva] Convention shall not be affected … by any annexation … of the whole or part of the occupied territory.” In short, the occupant retained the duty to fulfill its obligations under the law of occupation (GCIV in Benvenisti, 2012, 73).

As with all legal documents and doctrines, however, it is “impossible to read the drafting history of the GCIV without paying close attention to the diverse concerns of the different state representatives” (Benvenisti, 2012, 98). That is to say, it is contingent on the conditions of the time and context in which it was crafted.


As it developed in the twentieth century, the human rights regime came to decenter the law of occupation’s emphasis on the agency of states as the only actors. People came to play a role in international law, under which previously only states were subjects. In the occupation of Iraq, for example, Amnesty International pushed for changes in Iraqi law – normally in contravention of the law of occupation – for the purpose of the protection of human rights. Occupation was in this case seen as an opportunity to improve conditions for the citizens of the occupied state (a rare, but quite possible scenario). Sharia law was in this case seen as “incompatible” with GCIV rights (Benvenisti, 2012, 103).


Keanu Sai has used the “doctrine of necessity” as a justification for forming the Acting Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom; the necessity of an “organ” to speak on behalf of the occupied state, in other words, necessitated the creation of a “government” whose legitimacy would otherwise be highly questionable. Benvenisti notes this doctrine as a “recognized justification for legislation by the occupant,” but noted that it does not apply to the civil and criminal laws of the occupied state: “the penal laws of the occupied territory shall remain in force,” (Benvenisti, 2012, 96) ostensibly to prevent draconian trials and execution of resisters against the occupation. However, it is also recognized that the occupant would be “prevented from respecting the laws in force” in the rare case that they “conflicted with its obligations under international law, especially [the GCIV] (brackets original)” (Benvenisti, 2012, 102).


Sai also notes that Debellatio, or conquest, while seen as a legitimate form for the transfer of sovereignty, was essentially outlawed in the Americas – by the United States and some of the recognized sovereigns in South America – because they feared their former colonial overlords would re-conquer them. This, in his view, was the purpose of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine. As Jay Sexton notes in his book  The Monroe Doctrine, “American statesmen exploited fears of foreign intervention in order to mobilize political support” (Sexton, 2011, 12). Sexton also notes how the Tyler Doctrine (actually proclaimed in 1842 by secretary of state Daniel Webster) “effectively extended the 1823 message  [the Monroe Doctrine] to Hawaiʻi” (Sexton, 2011, 112). As a result, the United States does not recognize debellatio - conquest – as a legitimate form of transferring sovereignty. This quells any argument that even though there was no conquest of the Hawaiian Kingdom, “there would be.”


The occupant is allowed to collect taxes, “as far as is possible, in accordance with the rules of assessment and incidence in force … to defray the expenses of the administration of the occupied territory” (Benvenisti, 2012, 81). In other words, the occupant should not, as was seen in the film The Last Emperor, make the occupied “pay for its own occupation” as the Japanese ambassador says to the Emperor of Manchuria (Manchukuo). The occupant is also bound by the general rules regarding property of usufruct – the use of land without destroying it (Benvenisti, 2012, 77). This is relevant to the U.S. presence in Hawaiʻi as evidenced by the more than one hundred Superfund sites at Pearl Harbor alone.


My own understanding of the law of occupation is that it strictly prohibits the “overwhelming” of the nationals of the occupied state with settlers from the occupying state, as was done by Russia to Estonia and other Baltic states. Benvenisti treads very lightly here, noting only that settlement need only avoid “impinging on the rights” of the citizens of the occupied state. It is possible (though I donʻt mean to hastily accuse him) that his status as an Israeli influences this light treatment of settlers, and he does mention Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in the very short section on this topic (Benvenisti, 2012, 106-107).


Filed under Globalization, Hawaiian history, intellect, law, Uncategorized

The Kingdom Exists

Iʻve written for about a decade now that the Hawaiian Kingdom exists legallythat is, as a subject of international law. But I’ve started to compile the other ways in which it continues to exist. Many ask if Hawaiians (and non-Hawaiian allies of independence) want to “go back” to the Kingdom, but signs of the Kingdom are all around us.

1. ʻIolani Palace: after being used as a storage facility, the friends of ʻIolani Palace, led by Abigail Kawananakoa, rehabilitated the palace into the symbol of the monarchy that it is today. In tours it’s called the “only royal palace on American soil” – shouldnʻt that make you wonder if this is in fact American soil?

2. The law: Kingdom law is the common law of the State of Hawaiʻi. The Provisional Government was not in any way capable of recreating decades of carefully-thought out statutes, and simply adopted the existing laws, which became, eventually, the laws of the State (with some notable modifications to be sure). Native Tenant Rights (Kuleana) were still being debated in 1895 (Dowsett v. Maukeala), after the overthrow. Kanawai Mamalahoe (the law of the splintered paddle) was incorporated in Article IX of the Hawaiʻi State Constitution (on Public Safety).

3. Schools: Lahainaluna (1831), Royal School (1839), Punahou (1841), St. Louis School (1846), ʻIolani School (1862) St. Andrew’s Priory (1867), and Kamehameha Schools (1887) are all Kingdom institutions.

4. Churches: They were built to last; Mokuʻaikaua in Kailua, Kona (1837) Kawaiahaʻo (1841), Waiola in Lahaina (burned down and rebuilt in 1953, but its cemetery dates to 1832 and Queen Keōpūolani, King Kaumualiʻi and Princess Nahiʻenaʻena are buried there) and St. Andrew’s cathedral all date to the Kingdom period. (The original Kaumakapili Church was built in 1839, but the current structure dates to 1910).

5. Roads: King Street used to be King’s path, then King’s Road (it was for the King), Kamehameha Highway, Lunalilo Home Road, Kahekili Highway, Manono Street in Hilo, Honoapiʻilani Highway on Maui, and many more refer to royalty.

6. Parks: Kapiʻolani Park was a horse racing track, and the row of ironwood trees was the entrance for King Kalākaua and Queen Kapiʻolani, Thomas Square was named for Admiral Thomas who restored Hawaiian sovereignty in 1843. There is still a visible Union Jack when seen from the air.

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 1.43.12 PM

7. Maunaʻala – Royal Mausoleum: Even Congress acknowledges that the Kingdom exists. Congress stated that the grounds of Maunaʻala are sovereign land of the Hawaiian Kingdom. And there the physical symbols of the monarchy lie.


Filed under academia, Hawaiian history

Legal Pluralism

When I was a boarder at Lahainaluna, one thing that was very clear to me, even at age 14, was that there were multiple layers of rules, depending on who was present. If the Principal was there, no one could wear shoes in the dorm. If only the Dorm Counselors were there, then upperclassmen could wear their shoes. But if it was only boarders, another set of rules applied that was not entirely different from The Lord of the Flies. But these were indeed rules, not anarchy, and they demanded, and were concerned with, respect and obedience.

Scholars in critical legal studies have described the legal systems of some locales as “plural,” i.e., more than one system exists simultaneously in a single area. Sally Engle Merry, a major scholar in this area, notes “different systems of law intersect within fields of power relationships linked to conceptions of race [and] nationalism” (Merry, 2000, 18).  Often these rule systems consist of tribal laws that are superimposed by colonial or national laws.

Hawaiʻi has a legally plural system, but not in the way that other places do. Here, the laws of the Kingdom remain largely intact, while “overwritten” by those of the State of Hawaiʻi. But the State considers Kingdom law to be its common law, and any law that is not expressly changed by the legislature remains in place.

But law in Hawaiʻi is plural in yet another way: many laws that are quite “liberal” toward Hawaiians (my work focuses on native tenant, or kuleana, rights) remain on the books, but are not followed. So there is the written law and that law that is understood to be the “real” (though not official) law of Hawaiʻi. This pluralism may in fact sometimes be merely a failure to follow law; a disregard of law in favor of power. At other times, it is a contest over which [form of] law will be followed.


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Sanford B. Dole, the Congregationalists, and Annexation, 1902.


Non-Hawaiian anti-annexationist views..

Originally posted on nupepa:


On Monday evening, April 28 last, Governor Dole was the guest of the Congregational Club of Boston. Elsewhere in this issue will be found a sketch made by Dole of the Hawaiian situation. It is characteristic of the man. Having the full support of the Administration behind him he is not afraid to say in public what he has been thinking in private for many long years. Let us see and take up his points one by one.

Point No. 1.—”The monarchy was overthrown and annexation was accomplished for the sake of good government for the islands; that is, for their benefit.”—It is true! Annexation was accomplished, by a handful of Congregationalists because the reciprocity treaty between the United States and Hawaii was in imminent danger of being abrogated. The monarchy was overthrown, so as to save the $40 per ton duty on sugar. It was then…

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The Racist Professor at the University of Illinois


On academic freedom … and unfreedom.

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

University of Illinois emeritus professor Robert Weissberg published an essay this week with the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a right-wing think tank, in which he argues about the Salaita case: “The trustees are not guilty of violating free speech; their sin is cowardice in overseeing the faculty. They did not perform their job.” It certainly takes some hubris for an openly racist professor who was never punished by the University of Illinois to complain that the trustees have failed to punish offensive left-wing faculty.

I want to refute Weissberg’s attacks on Salaita later on in this blog, but first I should state that the Pope Center had invited me to submit an essay along with Weissberg, and I wrote one for them.

Noting that Weissberg had spoken at a conference of white supremacists, I wrote in that essay: “I think that Weissberg’s views are far more…

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