Archive for the ‘Vol. 4: Fall Essays 2013’ Category

October 24th

Butterscotch cake with frosting so white

 eleven wicks lit in celebration

while the other twelve remain untouched

But where have you gone?

Maybe away to your job

as an entomologist

Capturing insects to feed and study

Under your keen eye through your microscope lens

Maybe you’re a sheriff

Looking out from under your wide brimmed hat

The gleam of your badge

blinding your criminals with justice after arrest

Maybe a race car driver

you won so many tickets

from that game at Fun Factory that day

but the wax runs down and stains the pure white frosting

like slow, single teardrops in your absence

eleven wicks waning in grief

while the other twelve remain untouched

 

flames dwindling like eyes slowly closing

for an eternal slumber so many years ago

flames…turn to smoke

on this rainy Friday afternoon

I miss you.

Happy Birthday

cake

My Father’s Softness

Taking a break from studying, I make my way into the kitchen

I find my father barefoot, as usual,

standing next the stove in his worn out, faded

red tank top and khaki cargo shorts.

“What’s for dinner, Dad?” I ask.

His eyes stay fixated on the pan before him

“My adobo!” he announces.

His voice a melodic warmth

that dances towards the sky from his grin

as he stirs the carne baboy with a large wooden spoon.

They cheer as I hover over them,

inhaling the salty scent with a smile.

“Mmmm,” I say.

I look at him, his brow furrowed in concentration

yet lined with a hint of that smile

The smoke envelopes his face

with nothing but the sound of sizzling pork surrounding us

I watch him in comforting quiet

as I do every day, in near silence.

Father never does say much.  But I still hear him.

It is in his softness where he speaks the most.

When he talks in Ilocano,

telling my brother and I

to wash our dishes and sweep our floor.

Never forget where you come from

As he washes our clothes

and hangs them up to dry

one

by

one

Stay warm and healthy, my children

When he carries those heavy boxes of perishables

from the airline caterer to his transport truck and

into the airplane

at hours on end.

In the cold and heat.

You will not be hungry

When he thought I was in deep sleep

walking into my bedroom

placing a tender kiss on my forehead

as he would leave for another day

of “heart” work at 3am.

 

I love you

 

Written for Dr. David N. Odhiambo’s ENG 313: Creative Writing

schoolIn 2009, as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, President Barack Obama introduced his signature educational reform called Race to the Top (RTT). Like its predecessor, President Bush’s No Child Left Behind act (NCLB), RTT aims to improve education in America’s schools. Bush’s NCLB introduced standardized testing nationwide in order to assess the effectiveness of schools. Obama’s RTT builds upon Bush’s NCLB standardization of America’s education system by instituting a common set of standards and benchmarks along with teacher and school assessments.  These educational reforms will help to determine, as Obama puts it, “whether [states] are ready to do what works” (Obama).

As a student currently working towards my Bachelor’s in Education with the goal to someday be a teacher, I am concerned with whether or not RTT will actually “work.” I question whether a set of Common Core standards and increased testing along with teacher and school penalizations if students don’t pass their tests will effectively improve teaching and learning in America. Through my studies and time spent assisting teachers in the classroom at both Waianae Elementary and Ewa Makai Middle School, I’ve learnt that no two students are alike. Not every child learns in the same way; utilizing a variety of approaches in teaching allows all students to grasp the concepts. In many ways, this reform act limits differentiation and innovation in the classroom as well as solidifies and limits what students will study – ultimately affecting their understanding of the content; instead of focusing on providing a quality education, the current and RTT proposed system aims at teaching students to pass a standardized test. I am convinced that in implementing a highly regulated and conformed system, rather than aiming for an engaging and supportive learning environment, RTT will only damage education in America rather than improve it as Obama claims. In this essay, I will examine the ways in which Obama’s Race To The Top fails to address and solve America’s diminished education by disregarding state’s educational rights, implementing Common Core standards and teaching systems that fail to encourage student thinking and development, continuing with incompetent standardized testing, failing to properly assess teachers and schools, and employing under-qualified teachers.

The Race To The Top reform was introduced in 2009 as a competition among states in which the federal government awarded the winners with financial grants. “Rather than divvying it up and handing [the grants] out [evenly],” Obama said in a July 2009 speech introducing RTT, the grants will be competed for in an effort to “incentivize excellence and spur reform” (Obama). The contest itself was based on states’ efforts to meet the national standard benchmarks that were introduced. The benchmarks that states were to assimilate, as listed in the RTT Program Executive Summary, are adopting Common Core standards that have been “proven to work” (Obama), developing and collecting teacher assessment data in order to determine and improve the effectiveness of teachers, and intervening in schools that don’t perform and produce.

In conducting a contest with the promise of grants to those who best adopt and adhere to the set benchmarks, RTT can be seen as nothing other than a bribe by the federal government to take control over a state’s right to govern its own educational system. The total grants offered by RTT were $4.35 billion. In the end, all of the grants were won by only 11 different states and Washington D.C. (“Nine states”). Federal funding is something many states rely on to support their education systems. By withdrawing funds and instead offering it on a conditional basis and in the form of a highly competitive contest, many states are forced to conform and adopt the misguided standards and systems imposed by RTT.

RTT impedes upon a state’s right to govern its own educational system and instead forces a singular system for all of America. As Linda Darling-Hammond points out in a video discussing international education, “America is a highly diversified place” (“International Competition”). Darling-Hammond mentions how, when measuring student performance, there are states that currently match up with the top countries in the world, yet there are also states that do no better than the lowest performing countries in the world. I am concerned that Obama’s RTT oversimplifies and generalizes the problem with our educational system. By introducing a singular system with rewards for states that conform, RTT may bring all states to only a middle ground of average performance as compared with the exceeding performance in some states before reform. Rather, a more effective system would allow states already at the top to continue with their systems and federal funding and instead focus on reform in only the lower-performing states. But even in those states needing reform the most, RTT will offer little for improvement.

The Common Core set of standards that are supposedly “proven to work” are highly criticized for the government’s lack of evidence and authority in making such claims. For example, some of the Common Core standards developed were not created with the consultation of experienced educators. According to Edward Miller and Nancy Carlson-Paige, in a Washington Post article on Common Core standards, the early childhood (grades K-3) Common Core standards were developed without input from any early childhood educators, those who would have the most experience and credibility in creating such standards. Miller and Paige write, “There is no convincing research, for example, showing that certain skills or bits of knowledge (such as counting to 100 or being able to read a certain number of words) if mastered in kindergarten will lead to later success in school” (Miller). These standards, which measure children’s success in their ability to count to 100 and learn a set number of words, are straightforward tasks and can be easily achieved with straightforward and directed instruction. Miller and Paige go on to say, “direct instruction can actually limit young children’s learning,” referencing two studies involving preschoolers and their interactions with a toy (Miller). The studies found that children who were not directly instructed in how a toy works but rather were left to their own curiosity to figure things out on their own were better able to master the toys (Gopnik).

In order to obtain actual improvements in student performance, Common Core standards should challenge students to think critically through a system that encourages discovery and discourages direct instruction. Darling-Hammond points out, “In the top performing countries such as Sweden, Finland, and Singapore, it’s not just the standards, but the entire system that is very different to the approach we have here in America” (“Internationally Competitive”). Darling-Hammond goes on to identify how the top countries are performing best in the PISA, an international standardized test that “actually addresses higher order thinking and performance skills” (“Internationally Competitive”). These “higher order thinking and performance skills” are taught in Finland and Singapore primarily through project-based learning that builds scientific inquiry and research skills. Whereas here in the states our education relies heavily on lectures and memorization, overseas students are putting the scientific method to use. Darling-Hammond continues, addressing how our science curriculum has disappeared and transformed throughout our schools: “What was once a process of inquiry and investigation has turned into a task of memorization” (“Internationally Competitive”). RTT has given precedence to developing mathematic and language art skills over scientific processes as shown by a lack of common core science standards in Hawaii’s own standards toolkit (“Hawaii Content”). There is presently a lack of understanding of many concepts and an inability to properly evaluate given situations among students in the United States as evidenced by the PISA test scores. Surely proficiency in these skills should be valued highly among students, but instead RTT focuses on improving test scores in state tests that measure memorization and reading and math skills alone, rather than one’s ability to think critically.

Not only do curriculum and standards that actually promote student learning of critical thinking skills need to be implemented, but also the use of state assessments that actually test these skills. In the 2012 PISA tests, otherwise known as the Program for International Student Assessment, the United States placed 17th in reading, 21st in science, and 26th in math out of 34 total countries (Goldstein). As previously mentioned, Darling-Hammond identifies how the PISA tests for “higher order thinking and performance skills.” Darling-Hammond also mentions in a talk given on performance-based assessments that the PISA uses “little to no multiple-choice questions,” instead relying on free-response questions which allow students creativity in addressing a question thoroughly with supportive reasoning (“Performance-based”). In comparison, our own state assessments consist almost entirely of multiple-choice questions. Our state assessments, heavily laden with multiple-choice questions, fail to measure critical thinking skills and instead test students on their ability to regurgitate knowledge. For example, in Darling-Hammond’s talk she provides a sample question from the NAEP, a national state assessment, which asks the multiple-choice question of “What two gases make up most of the Earth’s atmosphere?” (“Performance-based”). This question is heavily dependent upon a student’s ability to memorize textbook facts. While a correct answer may indicate a student’s proficiency in the American classroom where lecture teaching is highly used, it does not measure a student’s scientific inquiry abilities in any way. If our nation’s own state tests do little to assess students’ critical thinking, then the standardized tests which are so heavily implemented under NCLB and RTT reform fail to achieve their purpose of identifying our low-performance schools.

Poor performance of schools and students within the current form of standardized testing is not only seldom indicative of student performance but can also cost teachers their jobs. Recall that one of the benchmarks measured by RTT is a state’s ability to provide assessments of teachers in order to improve their effectiveness. The RTT Executive Summary outlines that states should “differentiate effectiveness [of teachers] using multiple rating categories that take into account data on student growth (as defined in this notice) as a significant factor” (US Department of Education). The “data on student growth” which is so important to teacher assessments is most easily collected from standardized tests (tests which are already mandatory under NCLB to determine low-performance schools). While it is understandable that only teachers who can produce positive results among their students should be employed, the form of these assessments offers little correlation between teacher effectiveness and student performance. There are many factors to consider besides a teacher’s ability when assessing standardized test scores such as a student’s focus and motivation to perform. These variables can account for significant drops and rises in students’ scores. Additionally, as shown previously, these standardized tests mostly measure students’ memorization skills, an ability where proficiency is usually inherent rather than taught among individuals. Teacher assessments should serve to encourage teachers to inspire students with innovative and engaging lessons. Instead, out of fear of losing their jobs, teachers and schools may begin to implement lessons aimed at accruing the highest scores in tests that, again, fail to measure critical thinking and performance skills.

Besides failing to achieve higher student thinking and development as well as continuing the use of poor assessments, RTT will lower the overall quality of teachers in America’s classrooms. Elaine Weiss sums up the problem in her evaluation of RTT:

“[RTT] encourages states to make it easier for those who want to teach to do so. While some RTT states have used this component to develop innovative ways to bring credentialed and experienced professionals to hard-to-staff subjects and schools, the majority have not. Instead, alternative teacher certification programs, such as Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, which offer only minimal training and preparation for new teachers, have become major suppliers of teachers for high-needs schools.”

RTT has introduced new ways that make it easier to become certified to teach. Individuals with degrees in areas of science, math, and English etc. can now get a teaching license with only 5-6 weeks of training. While allowing those who desire to teach to do so easily and readily will help to combat America’s decline in teachers, it is fair to say that those certified this way will lack the experience and education in comparison to those who have been studying education and teaching in classrooms the majority of their college years. A focus on increasing the professionalism of teaching should be implemented in America rather than just a focus on increasing the number of teachers. If the field of teaching is held to higher standards of education and adopts higher salaries for its professionals, then it’s very likely that the short supply of qualified teachers – whose positions are now filled by under-qualified, 6-week certified college graduates – will surely be filled due to an increased appeal and desire of studying and working in the education profession.

As a student teacher, from what I’ve learned through both my studies and teaching experience at Waianae Elementary and Ewa Makai, I strongly oppose many aspects of Obama’s reform plan. With the intentions of improving education, RTT will only accomplish higher standardized testing scores. The singular, nationwide system imposed by RTT comes with the cost of diminishing many aspects of an effective classroom and hindering differentiated learning. By adopting standards that are untested and created without the consultation of experienced teachers as well as the further implementation of faulty standardized testing to assess not only student’s proficiency but teacher’s performance as well places unnecessary burdens that make it difficult to innovate in the classroom. By forcing teachers to “teach to the test” in fear of losing their jobs, students will lose out on classroom time that could be spent engaging in non-tested subjects and a curriculum that challenges and promotes critical thinking along with higher level performance. As a future teacher, I feel that RTT will impose upon many of the freedoms that I would otherwise have in forming a curriculum that will truly develop my students to take on the many opportunities and challenges of life after graduation.

Works Cited

Darling-Hammond, Linda. “Linda Darling-Hammond on Becoming Internationally Competitive.” YouTube. YouTube, 09 Feb. 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

—. “Linda Darling-Hammond on Performance-Based Assessment.” YouTube. YouTube, 07 May 2009. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

Goldstein, Dana. “American Kids Whiffed the PISA Exam. What Should That Mean for School

Reform?” Slate Magazine. Slate Magazine, 3 Dec. 2013. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

Gopnik, Alison. “Preschool Lessons: New Research Shows That Teaching Kids More and More, at Ever-younger Ages, May Backfire.” Slate Magazine. Slate Magazine, 16 Mar. 2011. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

Hawaii Content & Performance Standards: Standards Toolkit. Hawaii State Department of Education, n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

Miller, Edward, and Nancy Carlsson-Paige. “A Tough Critique of Common Core on Early Childhood Education.” Washington Post. n.p. 29 Jan. 2013. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

“Nine States and the District of Columbia Win Second Round Race to the Top Grants.” U.S. Department of Education. n.p., 24 Aug. 2010. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

Obama, Barack. “President Obama on Race to the Top.” YouTube. YouTube, 24 July 2009. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.

U.S. Department of Education. Race to the Top Program: Executive Summary. n.p., Available at: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/executive-summary.pdf. Nov. 2009. Accessed: 12/9/2013

Weiss, Elaine. “Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Educational Improvement.” Economic Policy Institute. Economic Policy Institute, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

 

Written for Cara Chang’s ENG 200: Composition II

UnbenanntSexual agency is a person’s ability to make unrestricted choices about whether or not they wish to engage in infinite forms of sexual expression. In Dirty Dancing, Baby’s sexuality is defined by the choices she makes herself, not by the discernments of others, thus showing that Baby is an individual with her own desires and motivations. In her article “Dirty Dancing Is a Subversive Masterpiece and Here Are Four Reasons Why,” Lesley Kinzel points out that Baby’s father cannot envision Baby in such an adult way, and how this coming-of-age film is as much about how parents handle their children flourishing into adulthood as it is about Baby herself.

In the beginning of the film Dirty Dancing, Baby starts out as a father’s stereotypical ideal of what the perfect daughter is, meaning she comes across as well-mannered and fitting perfectly into the upper-classes’ ideal of what a blossoming young woman should be. Baby is portrayed as very much a daddy’s girl. However, we the viewers know that Baby is very opinionated and down to earth in her egalitarianism, making her undesirable by her own class’s definition. Kinzel does not mention this point, but I found it to be relevant. The point is that at the beginning of the film Baby is seen as someone incapable of being an individual and therefore could not possibly have any sexual agency.

Later in the film, once the plot unfolds, Baby, who wishes to help everybody, finds herself heroically volunteering to take Penny’s place as Johnny’s new dance partner when Penny needs to get a secret abortion. Due to this, Baby gets to spend time with Johnny whom she has been objectifying as an exotic object of desire. Baby is clearly fascinated by Johnny early on in the film when she first sees him dirty dancing, which Kinzel points out in the article. During their rehearsals Baby and Johnny bicker relentlessly while Baby is trying to learn the dance routine.  Kinzel notes, “Johnny more or less holds Baby at arm’s length, unwilling to trust her not to screw him over, until the night of the performance.”

Throughout this portion of the film where Johnny is trying to teach Baby the dance routine, we the viewers start to notice physical manifestations of Baby’s sexual agency blooming. For instance, before Baby started spending time with Johnny, she wasn’t so worried about her appearance and seemed to be quite modest with her choice of apparel. However, after dancing with Johnny, Baby starts to do her makeup or at least making it more pronounced, in the sense that she is using it to make herself more sexually attractive. Not only that, but her attire begins to become more and more revealing, and she ends up becoming very comfortable being scantily clad around Johnny. This is yet another point that Kinzel did not explicitly discuss in her article that I would have found compelling.

After the dance performance happens, Johnny begins to see Baby as a sexually desirable woman whom he can perhaps trust. Kinzel mentions how far Baby goes to prove that she doesn’t think herself any better than anyone else, in contrast to the other privileged resort guests. We first get to see Johnny’s change of heart during their car ride back to the resort. During this scene, Johnny steals surreptitious glances in the rearview mirror of Baby changing clothes in the back seat, which illustrates his growing attraction to Baby, as Kinzel thoughtfully points out in her article. This is important because it’s a scene in the film that shows young girls that they can be sexually desirable to men by simply being themselves, even if that means you’re not conforming to society’s mainstream ideal of what beauty is. In Kinzel’s article she states, “This is actually one of the scenes that most fascinated me as a kid — I think because I was mesmerized at the way Johnny seemed to like her even though she wasn’t really trying to do anything special to make him like her.” This suggests that Baby can be something desirable without being overtly sexy, furthering Baby’s sexual agency in the film Dirty Dancing.

Later in the film comes the illegal abortion during which poor Penny is butchered, and Baby has to rush to her father for help. During this time, Baby’s father realizes that she has been spending her time with the resort’s dancers and that the money Baby borrowed from him was for Penny’s abortion. This betrayal angers him to no end. His baby girl has betrayed his trust and tarnished his image of the idyllic daughter he had placed so high up on a pedestal.  Baby’s father is also convinced that Johnny must have fathered the unborn child and is now pursuing Baby. Because of this betrayal, Baby’s father forbids her from seeing the dancers again, thus attempting to undermine her individuality and ability to make decisions for herself.

Immediately after this, Baby walks straight to Johnny’s cabin, where, in Kinzel’s words, “she freaking seduces him.” This is important because it illustrates her ability to think for herself and her go-get-it-done attitude. She clearly goes to Johnny’s cabin intending to seduce him, and her weapon of choice is dirty dancing. This is mind-blowing like Kinzel states, because it is socially assumed that a female virgin does not initiate sexual intercourse. Kinzel states that, “EVERYBOBY KNEW that if you were a virgin then your task was to wait around for somebody more knowledgeable to come and deflower you – not roll up on the guy your dad just told you not to see and start sexy-dancing all on him until he takes off your shirt.” This is important because this scene in the film truly beats Baby’s sexual agency into you. No one can argue that she doesn’t deliberately defy her father and consciously makes the choice to seduce Johnny into having sexual intercourse with her. She knows very well what she wants (Johnny) and how she is going to get it (Johnny). In this scene he is the object of sexual desire, and we the viewers are seeing him as prey or something that can be possessed. This is interesting because in films men are typically the ones to initiate such interactions. Kinzel states, “Johnny is the one who is at first reluctant to pursue things in that direction.” This statement suggests reversed gender roles, thus emphasizing Baby’s sexual agency.

Baby and Johnny are considered summer lovers, continuously having romantic escapades that would make Mick Jagger jealous (and me). After Johnny divulges his attraction to Baby, things really heat up. Baby and Johnny continue sneaking around to see each other and dance for their pleasure. During this time, Baby teases Johnny. She mocks him using words that he once scolded her with during dance practices. This is a fun flirty scene in the film because it is clear that she doesn’t mean any of it. This is something I believe Kinzel should have mentioned in her article but fails to. I believe this scene to be relevant because it further emphasizes Baby’s control over her sexual agency.

However, society tries to squander Baby’s sexual agency and her individuality. When her father finds out about her and Johnny, he tries to put an end to it. This is best illustrated in the scene where Johnny says “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” and liberates her from society’s oppression of her individuality. Johnny leads Baby to the stage where they dirty dance in front of everyone for the first time, thus expressing Baby’s individuality and sexual agency. Baby finally preforms the lift, which in my opinion symbolically represents Baby taking full control of her life as an individual. In that moment, she transforms into the woman she always knew she was, accepting her sexual agency completely. Now the whole world can see it. I believe that this is something important that Kinzel should have mentioned in her article to further support her argument that “Dirty Dancing Gives the Sheltered 17-Year-Old All the Sexual Agency.” Overall, however, I believe Kinzel makes a convincing and persuasive argument.

 

Written for Dr. Carmen Nolte-Odhiambo’s ENG 196: Basic Composition Skills

boardKailua is a sleepy bedroom community located on the Windward coast of the island of Oahu. It offers you a contradiction to the hustle and bustle of Honolulu and Waikiki. The main parts of Kailua consist of a few blocks of trendy little boutiques, popular restaurants, and local hangouts. This is my hometown. Large mainland chain stores and restaurants are now poised to replace all that is familiar to me. In recent years, Kailua has been transformed from “my town” into a barely recognizable tourist attraction destination. Our beautiful white sand beaches have become congested with tourists, primarily Japanese, and on rentals of kayaks, canoes and windsurfing equipment. Spots that were once havens where locals would gather for family outings, or just sit to contemplate life, are now just another place that the tourists have taken over. Kailua town and beach was once “our” little secret haven. It felt like a place that we could call “locals only”. However, the mass media coverage of Kailua challenges the existence of our sleepy bedroom community. Newspaper coverage, brochures, coupons and word of mouth advertising has attracted the Japanese tourist and others to not only visit by day, but to rent the mostly illegal and a few legal Bedroom and Breakfast inns that are growing close to the beach lots. Ironically, these illegal inns are being supported by one of our City Councilmen, who is supposed to uphold the law, because he says that the illegal income illegal is good for the economy of Kailua. Therefore, Capitalism is showing its ugly face through the neo-colonization of Kailua.

During the mid-19th century, most of the land in the area known as Kailua belonged to Kalama, Queen Consort of Kamehameha III and later Queen Dowager of the Kingdom of Hawaii. She and Judge Charles Coffin Harris began a sugar plantation, but she died in 1870 and the plantation failed in 1871. By the late 19th – early 20th century Harold Kainalu Long Castle, a descendant of prominent businessmen and missionaries in Oahu was accumulating much of the east side of the island (Nellist). Kaneohe Ranch, the name of Castle’s land management company, with its centrally located office was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It sits on the makai or oceanside corner of the intersection of Pali Highway and Kamehameha Highway, and it stretches from He`eia pier up to the present Windward Community College and on to Mount Olomana.

Many of the original missionaries who had come to Hawaii to save the souls of the heathen natives ascended to prominent business positions. Haroldʻs father, James Bicknell Castle, rose to serve as a director of his fatherʻs company and as a partner of Alexander & Baldwin, another “Big Five” company and ironically the same company that has just purchased a large portion of Kailua town. This purchase is the thesis for my essay, The Neo-colonization of Kailua town.

The newspaper media coverage of anything to do with Kaneohe Ranch was not very admirable at that time because most of the working class families owned only small lots of land, if they owned any at all. Kailua was mostly wetlands and the majority of the Windward population resided in Kaneohe. Kaneohe Ranch changed much of the face of Kailua by the mid 20th century while at the same time changing the way that the media, and therefore the working class, looked at this evolution. While developer Joe Pao and Bishop Estate were transforming their portion of Kailua by filling in the wetlands, so too was Kaneohe Ranch doing the same. Kaneohe Ranch, originally a religious settlement, saw fit to donate a one-mile stretch of property, along Pali Highway that runs into Kailua town, to churches of various denominations. Our three public high schools that are located in Kailua and Kaneohe sit on property that was donated by Kaneohe Ranch to the City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii for the purpose of furthering education of our Windward residents. Prior to the opening of Castle B. High School Kaneohe residents, such as my mother, had to travel to Honolulu to attend either Farrington or McKinley High School. Hawaii Loa College, a private, four-year, Liberal Arts College in Kaneohe, has since been taken over and was renamed Hawaii Pacific University in 1963. It was the Christian College of the Pacific run by a consortium of four Protestant church denominations and built on land owned by Harold K.L. Castle. But Kaneohe Ranch was not done with its image makeover. In the mid 1950ʻs, the Windward Community Association had begun a campaign for a hospital to be established somewhere in Kaneohe or Kailua because the nearest hospital was Queens hospital in Honolulu. So on January 16, 1963, Castle Memorial Hospital opened its doors on ten acres of land located on Pali Highway that was donated also by Harold K.L. Castle. This venture is directed by the 7th Day Adventist Church. In the 1960ʻs, Kaneohe Ranch was doing a lot to give back to a working class community that had enabled them to become very prosperous landowners, but the ultimate action of providing truly affordable housing for the average family is what truly curried the working classes favor. They accomplished this by filling in previously unusable wetland and introducing a seldom used reduced cost ownership possibility known as “leasehold ownership” (Cain).

What is the meaning of “hegemony”? According to cultural theorist Dominic Strinati, it refers to “dominant groups in society, including fundamentally but not exclusively the ruling class, maintain their dominance by securing the ʻspontaneous consentʻ of subordinate groups, including the working class, through the negotiated construction of a political and ideological consensus which incorporates both dominant and dominated groups” (Stinati). However, Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci suggests that the working class, or subordinate groups if you will, accept or consent to the ideas, values, leadership, and ideologies of the dominant group not because they are necessarily physically or mentally induced to do so, but because they have their own personal reasons. Simply stated, there is something in it for them (Sim). They would benefit from a much needed hospital on the Windward coast. In addition, establishing truly affordable single-family housing through leasehold ownership was the icing on the cake that swayed any naysayers.

Most cities and locations look forward to having tourists visit and help out the economy, but not Kailua’s residents. The tourists are taking over and we want them to stop coming to visit. I have witnessed tour buses unloading hundreds of Japanese tourist every morning in the parking lot located in the rear of Macys. The subsequent influx of these tourists every morning makes patronizing certain local eateries impossible for locals. I live three blocks away from what was once a local favorite, Boots and Kimoʻs, and I have never eaten there because of hour long waits that persist daily. Cinnamons, located on the opposite side of Kailua from where the tourists get off their bus, is another local favorite that now requires at least an hours wait due to the large amount of tourists that frequent daily.

Kailua is also known for its white sand beaches and laid back atmosphere. It used to be a favorite beach for most of the Windward coast locals to bring their families and lounge on spacious beaches. Now thousands of people from all around the world travel here every year. The media makes sure to give special coverage every year to President Barack Obama and his family vacationing in Kailua. This adds to the congestion of our sleepy neighborhood community because there always seems to be a large amount of visitors cruising around our town trying to get a glimpse of the President. Then we are also faced with the favorable exposure that Kailua receives on Hawaii Five-o that draws thousands more tourists to our already crowded town and beaches. We, the residents of Kailua, want the tourism to stop. The reason is that many of the people who travel to Kailua want to spend their vacation visiting the same spots as we locals. Many of the tourists prefer to rent rooms in bed and breakfasts instead of staying in hotels or beach houses. This means they become neighbors to the locals, and the locals are not too fond of this idea. Many of the tourists bring alcohol, drugs and violence into otherwise peaceful neighborhoods.

The residents of Kailua seem to be split on their feelings about tourism. Many are unhappy about the rising amount of visitors, others say that the increase in tourism has helped to bring money to the area and vacation rental owners, in particular, seem pleased with the increase. Of course, the few who are pleased with the large increase in tourism are the shop owners, sea sport equipment renters and the owners of the illegal bed and breakfast. Even though Kailua is located just twelve miles from Honolulu and getting to the beach from Kailua can range from a couple to a few minutes, Kailua residents are sometimes known to exaggerate the commute and expense of this hip side of the island to visitors in order to keep Kailua local. Kailua needs to find the right balance of tourism that will allow tourists to explore and enjoy the area without changing it or causing trouble for the locals.

Recently, I was greeted by a startling front-page news story in the daily Star Advertiser. Alexander and Baldwin Inc. is buying nearly all the Oahu real estate owned by Kaneohe Ranch Co. and the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation – roughly 650 acres – in a $373 million deal. The sale is scheduled to close by the end of the year and will provide $260 million to Kaneohe Ranch and $113 million to the charitable foundation. A few questions immediately flooded my mind. What future awaits the sleepy Windward bedroom community that I call home? Why now? Had not Kaneohe Ranch recently declined an unsolicited offer to buy all of its real estate holdings on Oahu? How am I going to be affected by this latest event?

With this acquisition, Alexander and Baldwin will be acquiring 70 percent of the commercial-zoned land and 90 percent of the retail property in Kailua. As the dominant landlord for Kailua businesses, Alexander and Baldwin will be in the position to benefit from rising rents and redevelopment is an area becoming more of a regional destination and tourist magnet. Although Alexander and Baldwin say that they are planning to meet with the community members to find out what we need, many of us clearly recall similar meetings in the not too distant past. This stated approach mirrors a similar one taken by Kaneohe Ranch in a major redevelopment effort for parts of downtown Kailua that included establishing a Whole Foods Market that opened last year and a Target store that is slated to open next year. Many Kailua residents welcomed the addition of these national retail chain stores. At least it was palatable because Kaneohe Ranch had historical ties to Kailua as a family business that had turned uninhabitable wetlands into an affordable residential community.

Since Alexander and Baldwinʻs acquisition, Kailua is at a crossroads. Will it be another heartless big tourist town like Waikiki? Or can it somehow preserve its unique character as the small beach town that we call home? The AP reports that Kailuaʻs popularity as a tourist attraction has residents taking a stand against tourism. They want the Tourist Visitors Bureau to stop promoting Kailua as an alternative stop to Waikiki. Kailuaʻs infrastructure is not setup to handle the suffocating increase in traffic. Kailua is no longer the sleepy rural country town that once invited Sunday drives. On any given day hundreds of tourists patrol the streets and beaches of Kailua. They ride around on rental bicycles, disrupting pedestrian as well as local vehicular traffic. Harley Davidson motorcycles and Mustang convertibles further congest our already overly used roads. Kailua has become the new Waikiki or Kaikiki. We can’t limit the number of people coming into Kailua, but we should be able to manage to mitigate the impact it has on the neighborhood.

Balance should be the goal these days in response to the tourism and development boom as both visitors and Oahu residents flock to idyllic Kailua. The problem is that different people have different visions of what this balance looks like. Stores, tour operators and rental businesses are flourishing and hiring more local people, but many long-time residents see their laid-back lifestyle disappearing, with some saying tensions are close to a “boiling point.” On a busy weekend, it can take an hour or more to drive the two miles out of Lanikai. Therefore, residents try not to leave their homes on weekends because of the crowds and traffic. It’s almost like being under “house arrest.”

There are many underlying themes behind the competing interests that plague Kailua: jobs, revenue and profit versus Oceanside lifestyles and traditions; newcomers versus oldtimers; traditional stores versus unconventional entrepreneurs plying their wares from front yards or the beach; beautification and development versus preservation and Kailua for Kailuans. Gramsci would say that the working class is developing its own hegemony by gathering support of other groups or neighborhoods and letting them know that what is happening to Kailua town could happen to their town. These counter-hegemonic or competing force groups did not start off as radical or extremist groups. They are merely encouraging people to share their view against hegemony through the use of persuasion whilst raising awareness. The counter-hegemonic group is trying to gain the support of the local residents to somehow change the direction of Alexander and Baldwinʻs plan for developing Kailua to maximize their investment.

I have been to three of these counter-hegemonic (neighborhood board) meetings in Kailua, and while the City Council representatives were always in full agreement with the residents present they’ve always voted in favor of the dominant cultural hegemonic groups. Therefore, Hawaii remains in the corrupt state of “manapua” government. In the old days of colonial Hawaii, if you wanted government approval for development you went to the officials office with attribute of manapua. Currently, manapua has been replaced with cold cash. So, sadly “my town’ continues to be transformed by this process into a barely recognizable tourist attraction destination.

Works Cited

Cain, Cristy L. “Transfer of Kaneohe Ranch.” Pacific Business News. 2009: n. page. Print.

Gomes, Andrew. “A&B buys swath of Kailua town.” Honolulu Star Advertiser [Honolulu] 13 11 2013, A1 &A7. Print.

Nellist, George F. The Story of Hawaii and its Builders. Rowley, Massachusetts: Rumford Press, 1890. pp.448-449. Print.

Sim, Stuart. Critical Theory: A Graphic Guide. Australia: Allen & Unwin Pty. Ltd., 2009. Pg. 36-7. Print.

Strinati, Dominic. An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture. Chicago: Routledge, 2004. Pg. 286. Print.

 

Written for Dr. David N. Odhiambo’s ENG 200: Composition II

Only If I Could

I could scream loudly

if only I had a voice.

I could rage intensely

if only I had an opinion.

I could cry all night

if only I had a heart.

I could laugh all day

if only I had a breath.

I could smile brightly

if only I had you.

But I don’t. I won’t. I can’t.

Feel- you tell me.

If only I could.

chocolateMy Only Weakness 

 A natural aphrodisiac

you intoxicate, hypnotize, and ooze

 all over my fingertips

a warm spread

my lips

widen

to devour

silky thickness

resting on my tongue

lingering down my throat

creamy concoction come

 here again

in my mouth

so you can just melt

so I can drink you

overdose on your sweetness

 semi, dark or white

sometimes bittersweet

but no nut

you are

my only weakness

 

Written for Dr. David N. Odhiambo’s ENG 313: Creative Writing

    

cottonCotton. Seems like a pretty standard thing, right? We all wear it, sleep on it in our sheets, our pajamas, and our favorite blanket that we love to watch movies in. But it’s more than just what is stuffed into our childhood teddy bears; it’s the crop with the world’s highest use of pesticides and insecticides, accounting for many of the insecticides used worldwide. These chemicals cause a variety of harm to our Earth and soil as well as our health. I believe all cotton should be produced and processed organically, for the production of conventional, non-organic cotton is harmful to its consumers or our environment. I will compare organic cotton to conventional, non-organic cotton while discussing these harms and risks and how they affect us.

Ever put on a new shirt straight from the store (you were just so excited you couldn’t contain yourself enough to wash it first, as your mother instructed) and then a little later you began to feel itchy? Woke up with a rash? Maybe you targeted your new lotion as the trigger for the sudden bumps – well, you may now take out your lotion once again, for the chemicals contained in the clothing you were wearing would most likely be the cause. A lot of people are familiar with pesticides and insecticides being used to grow our food, and with this information many people have switched to organic produce to better their health and environment. However, many people aren’t aware of the chemicals that are used to produce what we’re wearing. Cotton is used to produce clothing, sheets, couches, mattresses, towels, etc. It’s everywhere in things that people use every day. So should cotton be farmed using chemicals and GMO seeds that are potentially dangerous to us?

Cotton accounts for 10% percent of the world’s pesticide use and 25% of the world’s insecticide use, more than any other crop (“Cotton”). To put that into some perspective, it took one-third of a pound of pesticides to produce the t-shirt you’re wearing. Pesticides are chemicals that aid in growing crops for the manufacturer. It makes growing the crops easier, quicker and therefore more efficient. However, these chemicals come with a risk: not only are they sprayed onto the crop to prevent bugs and diseases to the plant while causing other harmful effects to humans, but they are sprayed into the air leading to a drift where the chemicals could be inhaled by anyone nearby. A study was conducted in Lubbock, Texas (an area very close to a cotton field where wind blows the sprayed chemicals into the town), and it was reported that more people had cancer in Lubbock than any other area of that population. Curious, isn’t it?

A few chemicals used in the production and finishing of cotton include formaldehyde, caustic soda, sulfuric acid, bromines, urea resins, sulfonamides, halogens, silicone waxes, harsh petroleum scours, softeners, heavy metals, soil retardants, ammonia, and flame retardants. This long list, however, only covers a small amount of chemicals used. Not familiar with what any of those chemicals are? Well, you’re wearing them – your body is being introduced to them every day. People can experience allergic reactions to these chemicals, and they can also increase the risk of asthma, hives, cancer and several different allergic reactions. Flame retardants are particularly special: they are sprayed on your clothing to make the product water, stain, and flame resistant. Flame retardant is made up of perfluorinated compounds (PFC), brominated flame retardants (BFR), and halogenated flame retardants (HFR), which are known endocrine disruptors; they mess with healthy hormonal development and can cause reproductive and development disorders. The Environmental Protection Agency considers seven of the top 15 pesticides used on cotton in 2000 in the United States as “possible,” “likely,” “probable,” or “known” human carcinogens (acephate, dichloropropene, diuron, fluometuron, pendimethalin, tribufos, and trifluralin) (“List”).

Many people will read this and think, “Well hey, all I have to do is wash the material and the chemicals will be washed away.” Not true. First, these chemicals are in your carpet and mattress, things that aren’t exactly easy to just toss into your load of laundry. But furthermore, washing your clothing or cotton materials doesn’t wash away all of the chemicals that have been used during your favorite shirt’s production. The chemicals that were used are bonding to the material of your shirt or any other cotton product. Some chemicals are washed away throughout your cycle of laundry, but not all of them, such as formaldehyde and the flame retardants.

In “Do You Know What Toxic Chemicals Lurk in Your Clothing?” Cathy Sherman shares her knowledge: “One study, which included an 18-month old baby, found high levels of flame retardants in the subjects’ blood. The results were two to three times the levels that are known to cause neurological damage in rats. . . . Yet US laws require flame retardants be applied to many kinds of children’s clothing.” No one would want to put their children or families at risk of neurological damage or at risk for hives or cancer as previously stated, so why are these chemicals used in the cotton? Pesticides, herbicides insecticides, defoliants and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are used to keep insects from disturbing the plant, prevent diseases, making growing easier and more efficient, and to make the cotton bigger and “better” to generate more income for the companies. It’s cheaper for the manufacturers to use these chemicals that have become accepted as a norm by society. However, no matter how much cheaper or more efficient, it’s not safer, a concept that one would think would play a bigger role in the world. And to some cotton farmers, it does. Organically grown cotton may take a little more work, some tender love and care versus a machine that sprays on poison, toxins, and chemicals with several known and even more unknown health risks. Organic cotton is chemical, pesticide, flame retardant, who-knows-what-else free. This means you could rest easy knowing harmful chemicals aren’t leeching into your body through your pores as you sleep on your 300-thread count sheets in your Christmas pajamas. You could safely snuggle into your blanket without cuddling up to nasty flame retardants at the same time. Most importantly, your constantly-growing child is safe in her organic mattress crib and not exposed to neurologically damaging toxins.

So you know the benefits and harms for you, but what about our environment? What about setting up the world to be safe and usable for our families’ next generations? All of these chemicals used are being absorbed directly into our soil, leeching into our water, getting into our oceans damaging aquatic life and other creatures, all while spreading around towns due to wind. Fifty-five million pounds of pesticides were sprayed on the 12.8 million acres of conventional cotton grown in the U.S. in 2003, ranking cotton third behind corn and soybeans in the amount of pesticides sprayed (“Agricultural”). As if that isn’t shocking already, over 2 billion pounds of synthetic fertilizers were applied to conventional cotton in 2000, making cotton the fourth most heavily fertilized crop behind corn, winter wheat, and soybeans (“Agricultural”). Michael from Care What You Wear says it best:

“Pesticides not only disrupt the balance of nature in the field, but also harm people who come in contact with them.  According to the Organic Consumers Association, the use of pesticides, which includes insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, for conventional cotton production has created serious problems for human health and the environment in all cotton-growing regions worldwide.”

After crops have been sprayed with these chemicals, it’s well known that one should avoid the area for 24 hours. There has been a case reported where a few guys entered the field after only five hours and quickly checked into a hospital, and they face ongoing health problems (“DPR”). Why let something so harmful be put into our soil, land, water and environment?

Organic cotton is not only better for you, as we’ve discussed, but it is also better for our environment. We still get to keep our beloved fluffy cotton, it’s just not deceiving anyone when the farmers follow the USDA Organic regulations for growing the cotton. Michael continues his argument as follows:

“By focusing on managing rather than completely eliminating troublesome weeds and insects, organic farmers are able to maintain ecological balance and protect the environment.  Organic cotton is now being grown in more than 18 countries worldwide.  In the United States, approximately 10,000 acres of organic cotton were planted in 1998 in the Mid-South, Texas and California.”

Less chemicals means happy people and a safer environment. The cotton is also safe from harsh chemicals during processing by following the Organic Trade Association’s Standards which oversees how materials such as cotton are handled after harvesting up to labeling of the product. This includes any bleaching or dyeing that occurs – it’s all watched and regulated in order to earn the approval for using the seal. Meaning producers would no longer be able to add chemicals to aid in preventing color fading or wrinkling.

Although I’m thankful that the organic options for clothing exist, why is this even optional? Why is it not standard that all cotton meet the USDA Organic standards, as well as the Organic Trade Association’s standards? Why is conventionally grown cotton where we are poisoning our land even an option at all? With all the harmful effects that these chemicals are known for, and with the knowledge that we are spreading these harms into our environment, I believe all cotton should be produced and processed organically. We seem to have the means, space, and materials for enough organic cotton to be produced to satisfy the cotton demand. As was previously stated, 18 other countries are growing organic cotton, and many countries have stricter policies than the United States. If other countries can find the means of switching to organic growing, harvesting and processing for the health benefit of their people, we can too. I believe the only thing that would stand in the way is big conglomerate factories or even individual factories that are interested in producing the most cotton while pinching every possible penny, even if health is at risk.

Conventionally grown cotton is dangerous. Maybe it’s more efficient to the manufacturers to treat their crop of cotton with toxins, but it’s not safe. Not safe for humans, animals (any living organism, really), and not safe for the world. Organic cotton is free of harm and doesn’t pose risks of cancer or other scary harms to the consumer.

References

“Agricultural Chemical Usage: 2003 Field Crop Summary.” U. S. Department of Agriculture. N.p., 2003. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.

“Cotton: The Crop and its Agrochemicals Market.” Allen Woodburn Associates Ltd./Managing Resources Ltd, 1995.Web. 5 Dec. 2013.

“DPR Releases Data on 1999 Pesticide Injuries,.” California Department of Pesticide Regulation. N.p., 2001. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.

“List of Chemicals Evaluated for Carcinogenic Potential.” U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. N.p., 2001. Web. 04 Dec. 2013.

Michael. “Care What You Wear: Facts on Cotton & Clothing Production.” Care What You Wear: Facts on Cotton & Clothing Production. N.p., 29 July 2007. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.

Sherman, Cathy. “Do You Know What Toxic Chemicals Lurk in Your Clothing?” NaturalNews. N.p., 10 Mar. 2008. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.

 

Written for Cara Chang’s ENG 200: Composition II

st peterI was in the car with my boyfriend, Justin, heading towards our destination, and I bluntly asked if I could interview him about his World Youth Day trip. He was kind of hesitant. He questioned what it was for, and I told him it was for my essay, and sure enough, he said yes. He’s used to sharing his faith journey with others in our church, so it was something we were both comfortable talking about. A couple days later, I went over to his house and interviewed him in his garage. I decided to not interview him in the house because I knew that if I did, he would try to have his mom vouch for him, or his mom and siblings would try to interrupt. I didn’t want that. I just wanted to interview him and him alone. The garage was the perfect place to have the interview. It was quiet and relaxing. With a peaceful environment Justin was comfortable and ready to get started, but before I could ask him about his World Youth day trip, I wanted to know more about his relationship with God before he’d gone on the trip.

I began by asking him what his relationship was like with God, beginning with elementary up until high school. He explained that for the first two years, he was going to private school, but after that he went to public school. While he attended public school he took Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) class, also known as religious class, every Sunday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish. He explained that he was just going through the motions. He went to religious class because he had to go, not because he wanted to. But around fifth grade, he finally told his parents he didn’t want to go to religious education anymore. From then on, until high school, he didn’t want anything to do with church. Then, he explained, he started to have a relationship with God. He thought that God was there, but he wasn’t too sure. He would pray before a meal and during mass, but that was it. There wasn’t a deeper meaning to their relationship. Back then, he explained, he didn’t know what God’s love really meant.

After getting a bit of understanding of his childhood and his faith, I asked him to explain to me what World Youth Day was. I honestly didn’t know what it was. He replied:

“It was made up by Pope John Paul II, and he had a vision that the youth is the future of the church. The youth is very important because if we [the older generation] don’t take care of them [the younger generation], who’s going to take care of us and the church in the future? The older generations serve and serve so much, but sometimes they can’t be serving themselves too much. The older generation needs to pass down the traditions of the church to the younger generation. We’re going to have to learn to serve the youth because of course the youth is the future. We’re going to die when we get old, but if we have the youth then, the ways of the church won’t die. Catholic youth from all over the world got together; Catholics from the Philippines, China, or India, anywhere you can think of. They meet in one area and have mass together, fellowship with one another, and break bread with one another.”

Having a better understanding of what World Youth Day was, I wondered what he did during his trip. He explained:

“The trip was a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place to ask for heavenly aid, and ultimately get to know God better. The route for our journey was from Hawaii to Los Angeles, to Rome, Italy, to France, to Switzerland, and lastly to Cologne, Germany. We visited many churches throughout Europe. I got to spend time taking tours of the many tourist attractions, but we spent the most of our time in Cologne, Germany. We hiked 8 miles to a camping ground that consisted of over 1 million people from all around the world.  We met people from Japan, China, Korea, Samoa, New Zealand, Africa, etc. We got to have mass together with Pope Benedict XVI [in 2005].”

He attended the 20th World Youth Day in 2005 (German: XX. Weltjugendtag Köln). It was a Catholic youth festival that started on August 16 and continued until August 21 in Cologne. It was the first World Youth Day (WYD) and foreign trip of Pope Benedict XVI, who joined the festival on August 18. This meeting was decided on by the previous pope, John Paul II, during the Toronto World Youth Day of 2002. The theme was “We have come to worship Him (from the Bible: Matthew 2:2)

I was in awe to hear that he had had the chance to travel to Italy. I told him that he was really blessed to have traveled in Europe and, of course, see the Pope. Hearing what he had experienced, I got a better grasp of why the WYD trip impacted him so much. I have heard before from Justin that the WYD trip was the turning point in his life. During his trip he got a chance to go into Vatican City in Italy, and as he was describing it, he seemed to be in such awe. He said, “It was magnificent. The art work in the Vatican and looking at the different sculptures and paintings — this is the catholic religion. I believe that was my turning point.”  I asked, “Why?” He explained with a lot of passion:

“Going on this trip really changed my perspective in life. It wanted to do better and be better. Being a rebel you have that ‘I-don’t-care’ mentality, but going on this trip broadened my horizon in life. God opened up my eyes to what he has in store for me. I guess what really got me was thinking about where I want to go when I die. Do I want to go to heaven or hell? Of course I wanted to go to heaven, but in order for that to happen I needed to know Jesus.”

Justin continued to explain that in high school a lot of young guys liked to be rebels and do whatever they wanted and liked.  Justin admitted that before attending the trip, he himself was sort of a rebel. I believe that it had to with his father being away. He admitted that his father being away for deployments in Afghanistan made him feel as if he was “boss.”  He didn’t really listen to adults.  Justin felt like he was better than them, and didn’t need them. They kept telling him how he was supposed to live, and how ignorant he was.  During this phase he didn’t go to church that often. He only went during special occasions, such as Easter and Christmas, but he is a changed man now. The Justin that I know and love attends mass every Sunday and on all the different occasions because he wants to. He also serves during 5pm mass. He either distributes the body of Christ or the blood of Christ. When his father came back, he kept Justin in line, which caused Justin’s attitude towards adults to change. Justin no longer looks down upon them. He will give adults the upmost respect. Most of all he loves God. He puts God first, before family and even me.

I was in awe. I had heard from him when we were dating that he had had the chance to go to Italy, but I didn’t know that being in the Vatican was his turning point. I just didn’t know how he had been transformed by God. I also didn’t know his rebel phase had to do with his father being away, but now I see how he has changed. His heart changed. He found God and his love, and that changed his whole personality and lifestyle in many ways. I just wish that Justin could have mentioned the actual things that made him a rebel, so I could have a clearer understanding of how he really changed. He has mentioned to me before that he used to smoke weed and drink, but I guess he was holding back that type of information. I also wish that Justin went into more depth about why Pope John Paul II created World Youth Day other than his vision. Despite that, I still found out new and interesting things about Justin.

 

Written for Cara Chang’s ENG 200: Composition II