Segregated Education in the Pacific's Microcosm of America: The Historical and Cultural Context of Hawaii's English Standard Schools, 1924–60

Saturday, January 9, 2010: 11:50 AM
Gregory B (Hyatt)
Katherine J.E. Fox , University of Memphis
It has long been held that Hawaii has served as an incubator for racial toleration and cooperation-- two largely unmet ideals throughout U.S. history-- if only because the establishment of a plantation economy shortly after Contact ensured that people of all races wound up on her shores. Beth Bailey and David Farber, for example, in their study The First Strange Place argue that by housing nearly a million U.S. servicemen and women, Hawaii acted as a training ground for Americans to sort through issues of race. So, for the authors, while Hawaii was “the first strange place” for nearly a million Americans who left home for the first time, it likewise served as a “strange place” where a new American society was forged. In reality, though, this new American society looked an awful lot like the old---divided among races and fueled by empty promises of equality for Native, immigrant, and other minority citizens.
My paper explores the notion of Hawaii as a microcosm of American ideals and realities through the less familiar lens of the experiences of schoolchildren. More specifically, I am concerned with the fact that while Hawaiian schools in the period--both public and private, whether aimed at Native or Caucasian--sought to create better citizens, they did so by encouraging separation. Further, I examine the specific ways that education on the islands influenced, emulated, and took cues from the mainland in the period before statehood by discussing how and why the Territory of Hawaii established a system by which children were assigned to public schools based upon their English proficiency.
It appears that Hawaii was a microcosm in the period, but not a microcosm of our ideals, of what we would wish for ourselves, but a microcosm of what we actually were in many cases—divided.