“It is very upsetting to think that the Hawaiians must be unsure of their national identity” (w26s1, Comment 2).

“I never knew the history of the United State’s occupation of Hawaii and now that I do, I am somewhat bothered” (keithjagger, Comment 11).

Checkbox (quoted in the title, Comment 9) concisely summarizes an historical dynamic. Pedagogically, I am trying to operate on several levels, simultaneously modeling practical writing skills, laying groundwork for (a chance of) spontaneous dialogue, and enacting both a lived/living (organic) relationship among students and teacher (who is also a learner), and between the university setting’s “container” and the public sphere (i.e., the rest of the real world).

Aisforastronaut describes the learning activity:

“We are all researching to fight for something,” is an interesting and powerful post if you know the context. We learned about Hawaiian Independence in class through a film, and the freshman writing students had to post comments about it. Our job (the juniors) is to figure out what else Steph’s post might mean. There is a lot that can be taken out of this. Right now, Steph’s two writing classes are working on research papers. Through this post Steph showed how to take other people’s words and using them to develop an argument and present information by using citations (by crediting them). Steph just took words and ideas (research) from students’ comments to make a meaningful post that ties many possibilities together (Comment 5).”

Relevance of Good Research

At the practical level, balderdash found it “interesting how the post created a conversation with student blog posts instead of factual documents upon which usual arguments are based” (Comment 27). Students noticed specific skills and conditions necessary for writing a good research paper:

“To write a good research paper we also need a lot of resources,“ says pylee (Comment 31), a sentiment echoed in the vernacular by treschouette as the “need to do ‘hella’ research” (Comment 21). This means “you need to know the facts!” (anon136, Comment 1), “[recap] everyone’s opinions” (ajch, Comment 26), and be selective by “pick[ing]the best line” (unknown29, Comment 19). E388 summarizes: “With every argument, there are different sides, and with that comes the different reasonings why we each favor one side over the other” (Comment 22). “In this type of a situation, an informative argument,” explains mjollnir89, “…conciseness and accuracy are the most important aspects. The arguing party is in charge of garnering massive amounts of information and sifting through it to obtain the useful facts and combining them into a logical train of thought” (Comment 29). The most pithy argument of the need for good research came from confusioniseasy:

“You need to understand information on all levels and sides,

so if something is thrown at you, you are

not squashed like a bug and look like a fool”

(Comment 15).

Adding to a Conversation

With respect to laying a foundation for further dialogue, students’ respond by summarizing and reflecting on the specific example of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s case to the World Court, displaying different points-of-view, as well as critique the case (debating the merits of the Hawaiian nationals’ argument) and the activity (its effectiveness as a teaching tool). Beginning with the critique of the pedagogical method:

“[The DVD] was hard for us to watch…because it was assumed that we had more information than we did” (redsoxfan218, Comment 23). Keithjagger presented a different side: “the DVD on Hawaii was good in the fact that it showed us there is something to be learned from the manner in which the Hawaiians argued their case” (Comment 11). From the dvd to the blog was another layer that evoked comment: yepp0628 admitted that the transition “slightly overwhelmed me. I had to read the blog two times to fully comprehend and see the connection in the arguments” (Comment 30), while redbeardthewriter expressed a starker reaction: “I don’t really understand if Steph is looking for something in particular or looking for me to dredge up another idea on the matter” (Comment 17).

It remains to be seen whether an actual dialogue about Hawaii’s status will develop from students’ responses, but the range of perspectives necessary to provoke new thinking is present. w26s1 describes the situation as a “catastrophe” (Comment 2) – from the context I do not know if w26s1 refers to the Hawaiian nationals’ successful case in The Hague or the US takeover of Hawai’i. ““50 states, after all,” says rocketsredflair, “is an even number that has fit nicely on the US flag” (Comment 4). Carmella confessed to a state of “turmoil as to the relevance to Hawaiian independence” (Comment 8).

Oddity33 observes: “its amazing how many people can have such different opinions and ideas of one text” (Comment 7).

“The fact that more than a hundred years have gone by and Hawai’i has not given up their kingdom (well not entirely) and that they have recieved international recognition as a Kingdom and not a state of the U.S. is incredible” (hippo86, Comment 13).

“[T]he Larsen’s team comes up, the people in the team try to fight back the United States. They become the first one to speak for Hawaii kingdom and people” (winglsammi, Comment 28).

Iplayball muses, “i am still unclear as to the exact stages of “occupation” that the us is in hawaii. The question that comes to mind is “did the u.s somehow take control of hawaii without permission? and if so isnt it ironic that america fights other countries for doing this exact thing?”” (Comment 20). Adc92388 echoes iplayball’s concern: “The whole ordeal makes us as students consider the role of the government in our daily lives, and how we want to be treated as citizens” (Comment 16). Providing a contrary view, checkbox argues, “The fact that the US was repeatedly invited to participate in these proceedings and chose not to do so is not a confession of guilt but an announcement of indifference” (Comment 9). RandomActofKindness went further, “I’d rather go fishing” (Comment 18).

Metalcircus expresses doubt, if not disbelief, asking, “Is there really any chance….[the U.S. will concede Hawaiian sovereignty]?” (Comment 12) Pragmatically, kmb04 outlines a common dilemma: “even with a deep research your argument can still fail. Sometimes it is not what is being said but who is saying it…. This does not mean that those with no power should just give up, what they say still sticks out in some people’s minds and even if they can’t change the actions of an entire country, they can change the actions on a person to person basis” (Comment 6).

Beyond the University: From Academia to the Real World

“I want to believe that for lasting change to occur, intelligent thoughtful action must be taken.” Likeboldcolors continues, “But it’s so slow. It can be really frustrating to wait and have the patience to stick with the processes necessary” (Comment 14). Like research, actually talking through the differences and making compromises in order to shift out of conflict is painstaking work. I had asked if it is possible for people/s in conflict to “argue peaceably.” Oddity22 suggests such an idea is “an oxymoron. I always believed that a disagreement was one thing and an argument was a completely different thing, an argument was a disagreement gone crazy. Peaceably arguing? i dont know” (Comment 7). Aligirl22 defines a critical factor:

“…both parties have to want to argue in a peaceful manner.

Its much easier to fight with force and anger and hatred…” (Comment 3).

Ciaobella adds a layer of interpretation, speculating as to why and how the activity is useful to me (as teacher/learner):

“Steph uses quotes from blogs that her students have posted in regards to the U.S and Hawaii. She uses these quotes possibly to advance her own knowledge of the current situation and asks us, being her students, to post our opinion creating new thoughts and ideas” (Comment 10).

Yes, my own knowledge is advanced on two levels: in terms of content (the struggle Hawaiian nationals face in gaining US recognition of their claim), and at the contextual (abstract) level of distinguishing discourse (habitual, patterned ways of speaking certain set knowledges) from dialogue – Ciaobella’s generation of “new thoughts and ideas.” Of course, these are some of the ultimate goals of quality research: not only summarizing the perspectives on a particular issue (topic) but also actually adding an observation or recommendation or angle that allows new or different understandings to develop. The process of assigning students from different classes to read each other’s work does seem to inspire a high(er?) quality of interaction: “I can totally see my fellow classmates minds at work. One believes this conflict [between Hawaiian nationals and the U.S. Government] to be peaceful, while another believes that there is no chance for the problem to be solved” (pinkpanther89, Comment 25).

Two updates: The University of Hawai’i campus at Kapiolani will offer “Introduction to the Hawaiian Kingdom,” a 200-level course in Hawaiian Studies, this spring. David Keanu – who presented the slide show in The Hague during the Proceedings of the International Tribunal – has just had an article accepted to be published in the Journal of Law and Social Challenges (San Francisco School of Law), vol. 10, Fall ’08. The article, “A SLIPPERY PATH TOWARDS HAWAIIAN INDIGENEITY: An Analysis and comparison between Hawaiian State Sovereignty and Hawaiian Indigeneity and its use and practice in Hawai`i today,” (available for download as a pdf) distinguishes between the tribal sovereignty granted by the US government to (some) Native American tribes and the independent sovereignty recognized by Great Britain and France (1842) and the U.S. (1849) and reaffirmed by the 1999 international arbitration proceedings at The Hague of the Larsen Case.

A question lingers:

Now what? Does the conversation end with the articulation of varying points-of-view, different capacities for hope, and limits to imagination? Or do we find a way to carry on talking a new kind of talk based on learning the diversity of opinion and complexity of obstacles? Shall we go through the motions, saying all the things that have already been said over-and-over again, or shall we find ways to say things that have not yet been uttered – and keep saying them until they lead to change?

. . . and keep saying them

keep saying them until

saying them until they

saying until they lead

until they lead to

they lead to change

lead to change

to change