Hawaiian Education Pedagogy and Critical Pedagogy Essay

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Education can reinforce hegemony or be used to facilitate political resistance and catalyze social justice. Students and faculty at the University of Hawaii have empowered themselves through education, through changes to curriculum and also to the norms of public discourse. In “Native Student Organizing,” Trask also describes how political structures in education have a direct bearing on community empowerment. Left alone, university politics can too easily reflect the dominant, colonialist, and typically white discursive practices. Trask describes how concerted efforts at building campus organizations of resistance and decolonization can and will yield results that extend far beyond campus boundaries. In fact, education is often the breeding ground for broader social and/or political revolutions like the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, which Trask recalls. During processes of transformative change in universities, it is important to create pathways for harmonious exchanges of ideas. Indigenous empowerment and the Hawaiian sovereignty movement can be aligned with non-Hawaiian values to create a campus culture and curriculum that embodies and enforces the lofty ideals of social justice.



The creation of the Hawaiian Studies program has played one of the biggest roles in promoting the general interests of Hawaiian sovereignty in general. Hawaiian studies are a critical component in the general de-colonization effort, as well as the key to providing students with a more robust educational curriculum that is devoid of biases and misconceptions about indigenous culture or history. The result of Hawaiian studies and other “Indigenous critical pedagogy” is an educational environment and extended community that is knowledgeable, aware, and compassionate (Reyes, 2013, p. 205). All students, and not just the indigenous, benefit from critical pedagogy and from specific coursework in Hawaiian studies. To live in Hawaii is to respect Hawaiian culture, epistemology, worldview, and history, supporting the use of Hawaiian language and the implantation of Hawaiian political structures and institutions on campus. Classes like the “Myths of Hawaiian History” have also been instrumental in helping to dismantle institutionalized racism and the pedagogical, curricular vestiges that perpetuate the colonial mentality (Trask, 1999, p. 188). At times, classes like these seem reactive rather than proactive, as students recognize microaggressions and other subtle ways white hegemony is perpetuated on campus, by both students and faculty.

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In addition to the creation of the Hawaiian studies department, students and faculty at the University of Hawaii have been able to empower themselves through community activism and campus leadership. Trask describes student government groups like Make’e Pono and Kalai Po, and the roles they have played in catalyzing change to campus culture and school policies. Led largely by indigenous women, student groups reveal the intersections between race, class, gender, and political power. Trask (1999) claims that in the past, student government groups have been used as mere extensions of the administration: as upholding haole values and social institutions instead of challenging institutionalized racism or oppression. Recently, however, groups like Kalai Po have helped inspire the disenfranchised—however small their numbers—to raise awareness and create change. Some of the specific strategies that have been successfully used by student groups include forming alliances with other oppressed groups, most notably via the creation of a pan-Polynesian union that includes Samoan student representation (Trask, 1999). Results of activism are tangible and visible, including the renaming of campus buildings and the promotion of more Hawaiian language courses. Therefore, activism often begins as reactive responses to single events or grievances, but emerge as long-term fights against systematic oppression.



Resistance to change is a genuine problem in all large organizations, though, and one that still needs to be addressed through conscientious effort and a spirit of optimism. When Trask challenged the colonialist assumptions and ignorance of white privilege in a scathing letter condemning one student’s white privilege, the backlash was indicative of the resistance to change. Trask was severely censured, and had to work long and hard to clarify and justify her response. When similar incidents arise on campus, leaders need to work together and consider the big picture issues: listening closely to the grievances and responding in ways that are proactive in fulfilling ultimate goals of harmony. White privilege and institutionalized racism often proceed unchallenged because these are by definition unconscious patterns. When people of color challenge the status quo, the people in positions of power feel threatened and react aggressively as in Trask’s example.….....

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References

Reyes, N.A.S. (2013). ‘Ike Kü‘oko‘a: Indigenous Critical Pedagogy and the Connections between Education and Sovereignty for ka Lähui Hawai‘i

Trask, H.K. (1999). From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai’i. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press.

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