Viewpoint for Monday — December 5, 2005

• More wrong than right

More wrong than right

By John Hoff

Allow me to respond to Mr. Peter Antonson’s letter (TGI FORUM, 11/27/05), in which he responded to my letter (TGI FORUM 11/25/05). I agree with Mr. Antonson’s opening line; “Propagandists play fast and loose with statistics and/or general statements when they frame their arguments.” That’s just good propagandizing.

I agree with Mr. Antonson’s second leading line: “There are lots and lots of rankings available on the Internet and these come with a variety of biases and agendas that must be considered along with the value, or lack of value, of such rankings.” I would say this is a given and that any good propagandist would use any “rankings” favoring his/her position over those that oppose his/her position.

Where I disagree with Mr. Antonson is that in my article I never quoted any “rankings” list. It appears, like most “professional propagandist”, Mr. Antonson is well trained in the art of quoting statements out of context. My entire statement was: “In past efforts to renew academic achievement, we as citizens have been relying upon our elected officials and bureaucrats to solve …Hawai’i’s horrendous, substandard academic level, the lowest in the nation.” That is the context in which my statement, that Peter butchered, was made.

Peter admits in his third leading line: “If you looked hard enough, you might find a bottom ranking, but that would be countered by all the ones that aren’t.” That’s true, BUT to be honest, I did not scour “governmental, University, for-profit and nonprofit and political “think tank” researchers” studies. I relied on three sources that are available to every resident on Kaua’i. I relied upon annual reports as published in Hawai’i’s leading newspapers, The Honolulu Advertiser, the Star Bulletin and T.G.I. If I am wrong in my judgment as to the quality of education in Hawai’i, so are they and their national sources. We are all propagandist except for, of course, Mr. Antonson.

Please allow this propagandist/political agendist to add the following “first-hand information” (experience) that seems ever absent in Pete’s articles. Over the past five years I have been an employee of the DOE as a substitute teacher. I have taught in the classroom well over 500 days out of some 750 (approx.) days of actual active classroom instruction. Having taught in every public school on Kaua’i, some are better, a lot better, than others. As a whole, morale of teachers, students, subs, e.a.’s, those that teach our children is very low. (Why are educators leaving the profession? Low morale!)

Effective disciplinary standards are in many cases nonexistent. Large numbers of our children cannot read, write, calculate (the 3 R’s) at grade level and do not even attempt to measure what they understand about their country because it is zip, zero, zilch, nothing. These are my firsthand observations as a former businessman by profession, not an educator, and every teacher that I have shared my thoughts with agrees with them. So, in a way, Mr. Antonson, I have done my own study, my own survey, my own “think tank” researching. How about you, Pete? How many days have you taught in a classroom room full of children with little or no means of discipline available?

The vast majority of students like going to school to learn and socialize and a large number of them achieve high grades. It is the 15-percent to 20-percent “professional rowdies” that create the problems in the classrooms and distract and disrupt the learning process, thus crippling the learner’s efforts to achieve even higher levels of achievement. The “rowdies” are bored sick being there and need to be in other learning environments. It is bad enough being a kid and not know who or what you are, where you have come from (teach them history and they will learn where they came from) or where you are going. For these kids to be put into a classroom where teachers are not allowed to teach, because of bureaucratic agendas to turn teachers into bureaucrats, is truly a form of child abuse.

Peter, I suggest you re-read my article and this time focus upon “my extra credit assignment” I assigned to students in one class. I asked for 10 things they would like to see changed in education for them as well as their children that are destined to go through the system. Remember what the top three “changes” the students mentioned most often?: 1. Get rid of the disruptive students in the classroom (better discipline in classes); 2. Better school facilities (bathrooms that work, better and more textbooks and supplies); 3. Better teachers. As the title of my article suggest, “Just ask the students”.

As for my having a “political agenda,” since I run for office, I would only hope that I do, and I do. That “political agenda” is growing every day, since nothing ever seems to get resolved and renewing academic achievement in education is at the top of that agenda. You see, I have four grandsons who are going through the public school system (two presently attending Kalaheo school), so I have a vested interest in my agenda. I hope to bring firsthand experience to the solving of this problem. Other issues that I have vested interests in involve bringing to Kaua’i a renewable energy system, solving our landfill dilemma and relocating a new landfill, providing tax relief to resident homeowners and small businesses, relieving our traffic congestion as well as our affordable housing /rental dilemmas (using my general contracting background), “caregivers” assistance for those looking after our elderly, and of course creating new jobs for those willing to work and several other issues. See anything you would like to help me campaign for?

Peter, I know Kalaheo is a good school, one of the best. I taught there a couple of times and it was a pleasure teaching there. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for every public school on the island. Two out of 15 is not a good batting average and results in low ratings nationally. Each school is shaped by different needs and conditions that permeate the community. Every school has its positive and negative issues but the one BIG POSITIVE that comes across in every school is the realization that Kaua’i has GREAT KIDS. Once you get to know them, and they you, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better kids. They just need responsible adults guiding them, teaching them, accepting them for what they are and to stop trying to turn them into “generic bureau-cratic cannon fodder.”

Let’s allow the individual child to develop. I close my case.

  • John Hoff is a resident of Lawa’i

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