Back to school part 1

It’s not long now till the school bells ring. Public school teachers go back to school tomorrow and students return July 29. The summer flew by, didn’t it? Parents, children, and those who teach them: I hope that you all had a chance to relax, and also exercise your body and mind with adventures and creativity.

Things we learn by experience become part of our vast subconscious, and are stored for an extremely long time, being able to be called upon by memory when necessary. Can you imagine trying to describe a beach to someone who’d never been there? But once a person’s been there, experiencing sand, sun, rolling surf, dancing clouds and peoples’ excitement, it can be recalled. It’s good to have as many experiences about as much as you can, because you’ll never know when you might need it in the future.

Around middle school years, the experiencing of the world begins to take on a new factor. Now we begin to think about our place in this world and it keeps revising for as long as we live, because we gain more information and insight about the world. We first start thinking about what we’d like to do in the world that would pay our way of living in it. As we get older, we think about how we can help make it a better place for ourselves and our loved ones to be in.

We need tools to make it so and hence the need for education. The dictionary definition of education is basically the process of giving and receiving instruction. It’s the purpose or goal of the education that is the most important part to consider. The true purpose of education is to prepare the students to find their place in society. That purpose defines everything else.

In fact, in our country there are goals for each grade and subject that the educational powers that be have decided that American kids need to achieve for minimum competency (ability to do something successfully), and also higher levels of competency. The big three are reading, writing and math. If you think about it, it would be very hard to function in our society if you didn’t know these. You’d be dependent upon others who did, and their being honest with you.

There is some leeway with implementation at the state level. In 2010 Hawaii adopted its version of the U.S. Common Core standards. You can learn a lot about the Hawaii Common Core Standards at the Hawaii Department of Educations website:

Or Google Hawaii DOE standards, and it will come up.

You can learn a lot from this website. If you click “read the standards,” you can see what you (or your child/loved one) will be expected to learn this year, per subject. I looked up the eighth-grade math standard. I found an example of a standard: “Understand and apply the Pythagorean theorem.”

Now under each standard are goals that must be achieved to demonstrate that the student does understand the standard, and in this case the Pythagorean theorem. One read, “Explain a proof of the Pythagorean theorem and its converse.” Another was “Apply the Pythagorean theorem to determine unknown side lengths in right triangles in real-world and mathematical problems in two and three dimensions.” The student meets the standard by being able to do the above tasks.

One of the reasons that the new standards were adopted was because colleges have had to increase tutoring for freshmen students who are not prepared for college, and employers say that our graduates are not prepared for work. So new standards were generated that are clear, consistent, rigorous and relevant. Governors and state education chiefs met and collaborated even with input from countries more successful than the U.S. to come up with these standards, which have been implemented in 44 states. Hawaii has its own, and now some states are rejecting the core standards.

I was curious about our students’ academic standing in the world. I read that every three years 15-year-olds from 60 nations across the globe take the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The last one was in 2014. We came in 36th! I would like to say, “I can’t believe this.”

But I saw a video clip of a recent beauty pageant and the contestant was asked if math should be taught in schools. She stated that she wasn’t sure, because some people weren’t really sure it was true. Google beauty pageant dumb answers to see others. Jay Leno used to have “Jay Walking,” which demonstrated that we had a terrible knowledge of geography in particular, but also relevant American history.

Let’s hope that the students coming up with the new standards will be better prepared and do better on the international tests. I know that the U.S. doesn’t deny education to anyone, and that includes many students of foreign countries who are learning English as a second language, and children with special needs. Hawaii has a large population of ESL students. We just must keep placing the star high enough for our smartest students, the visionaries and scientists of the future.

There’s another area of education that is much less defined. It is socialization, the development of positive character traits. Schools are expected to teach children how to act appropriately in the greater society, outside of their homes, which may have their own unique way of interacting. Some years ago, these were on the walls in every classroom, including mine. I Googled the Hawaii DOE site, and couldn’t find them.

I have my copies and will list them here because kids will be going to school the day that Back to School part 2 comes out, but I will go into greater detail in next week’s column. I will also review Hawaiian values. The ability to manifest good character traits and values demonstrates a high EQ, which stands for Emotional Intelligence. Research shows that a high EQ is a better predictor of success than a high IQ (intellectual ability).

Obviously it is essential in learning how to get along with peers, family, friends, bosses and teachers.

I was a little sad when I read a quotation from Kimo, age 10, in the Honolulu Institute for Human Services newsletter “Ke Ala Kupono.” “I like Summer Fun (program) because people here aren’t like people at my school. We are all friends and we all try to work together.”

So I’m assuming his classroom isn’t friendly to him. It’s been proven that kids learn better when they are happy and at peace in school. If they are stressed, or bullied, or feel unliked, they don’t learn as well. These character traits would help create a kind environment.

Good character traits are: Respect, responsibility, compassion, cooperation, friendship, self-discipline, perseverance, sharing and honesty.

It’s good to know them for every grade and every business. It’s just good to treat ourselves and others this way. If you can remember the golden rule of treating others the way you want to be treated, you’ll be OK.

And sadly, I guess I have to add this part, because a lovely little girl I know experienced the horrible bullying event of six boys coming after her, and even striking her. She asked them nicely to stop, but it wasn’t until she shouted loudly, “Sssttttoooopppp!!!”that the playground keeper came over and intervened. It is not tattling to tell on another person (at any age) if they hurt you, either physically or emotionally. What they are doing is wrong. They must be stopped.

May everyone have a great first day and year at school. Remember that the first impression you leave on someone had better be the one you want them to keep, because it takes a minimum of four times seeing you act differently from how you were at the first impression for them to think of you otherwise. And some people may not be able to get over something if you are too outrageous.


Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at For more information about Hale ‘Opio Kauai, please go to


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