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Editor’s Page: Live and Learn

Old- and new-school lessons.


Photo: Adam Jung 

Something about April finds us mulling over meaning-of-life issues. Maybe it’s a balance point: We’re launched firmly into the year, yet still enough months stretch ahead that we can reach goals and seek new adventures.


April is also traditionally the month that we take a closer look at our public schools. As part of a staff dominated by graduates of Hawai‘i public schools, I assure you that we take seriously the concept of “Grading the Public Schools.” We come not as finger-wagging outsiders but noting the critical importance that education plays in the vitality of our community. In addition to the chart that compares the schools, this year we’ve included additional stories to help families find the most relevant information in considering the right schools for the children in their lives. 


We also examine 20 Hawai‘i charter schools. They’re designed to foster independence and innovation. Are they fulfilling that promise? Senior editor Don Wallace found both solid successes and ripped-from-the-headlines scandals when we asked “Do Charter Schools Pass the Test?” The autonomy that allows schools to set a custom course of education also can provide opportunity for the less-scrupulous. That’s evidenced by the shutdown of one school—Hālau Lōkahi—in the wake of the arrest of three school officials on charges of theft, money laundering and illegal business activity linked to the school’s finances, as well as other examples. Don talked to families, teachers and officials about the opportunities and challenges of these schools now, 20 years into the charter experiment. He also looks into a promising grassroots education initiative that aims to empower schools using many of the methods of charter schools.


We also take a different kind of journey with writer Kim Steutermann Rogers in “How Hawai‘i Charmed Mark Twain.” This story follows the trek of a 30-year-old named Samuel Clemens who planned to spend a month here 150 years ago writing a series of newspaper dispatches to send back to California. Twain stayed four months but the trip ignited a lifelong romance with the Islands. Rogers, who is writing a book on Twain, explains why.


And we note the end of a distinguished journey for Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell, who died in February at the age of 90. Throughout his long career, he earned a reputation of caring for others as an advocate for health, in general, and Native Hawaiian health in particular. Though his legacy endures, our community feels a little less sunny without him. 


Photo: courtesy of uh medical school 


I was fortunate to know him both as a respected news source, and as a very kind and generous man, a cousin on my mother’s side. When I was in college and my dad was suddenly hospitalized, Kekuni got word and called the doctors to learn details of his condition and treatment, then regularly called my mom and me at home to translate the medical jargon into terms we understood, bringing us great comfort and understanding at a confusing and stressful time. And he did this even though nobody asked him to. We never forgot that kindness and know that he would often reach out to others in the same way. When I was a government reporter and he’d be advocating for an issue, he would occasionally spot me from across a long hallway. Without hesitation, and with that big smile, he’d call out: “Cousin!” While I have spent most of my reporting career trying to observe unobtrusively, I always felt that swell of pride and affection when he called out, even when everyone stopped to stare! Wishing a fond aloha to him, to his daughter, Dr. Nalani Blaisdell-Brennan; his son, Mitch, and their whole ‘ohana.




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Honolulu Magazine June 2020
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