innovation

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Paul Turnbull

 

Throughout his career, Paul Turnbull has helped create learning environments that encourage students to thrive. As President of Mid-Pacific Institute, he champions project-based learning and embraces innovation and technology in education – values that he brought with him from his experience at California public schools.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, July 1, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

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In my world, in the preschool through twelfth grade world, I look at the … the defining characteristic of many schools is the old adage that you have to be a certain age before we can expose you to some sort of academic concept or subject. And all of us anywhere have probably been the recipient of a very pejorative: You’re not quite old enough to understand this yet. And while that may have been delivered with good intentions, most of the time, it’s just flat-out wrong.

 

He’s the president of Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu, and he believes that students should be able to pursue subjects that fuel their interest. Paul Turnbull, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. In 2013, Paul Turnbull became the president of Mid-Pacific Institute in Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawai‘i, one of the largest private schools in the State with an enrollment of over fifteen hundred students from preschool to the twelfth grade. As the head of a school already known for its innovative approaches to education, Dr. Turnbull continues to move the school forward with project-based learning. He embraces the use of cutting edge technology for the students, and he pays close attention to how the changing job market will require very different skillsets, so that teachers can prepare the students. He says family and education are at the center of his life, and this native Canadian combined both when he decided to apply for U.S. citizenship. He enlisted the help of his fifth grade daughter and her class. This took place in 2015, two years after he took the reins at Mid Pacific Institute. The educator became a student again, with grade schoolers learning alongside him in preparations for the citizenship test, which he aced. For Paul Turnbull, the journey to Hawai‘i and U.S. citizenship began up north.

 

I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. So, the eastern side of Canada. And my parents are really interesting individuals, and they worked really hard to sort of move us up, and we moved around the Toronto area for quite some time. And then, ultimately, over a period of years and going to different colleges, I wound up on the West Coast, just outside of Vancouver.

 

When you say your parents tried very hard to move you up, what does that mean?

 

Well, Mom and Dad both were high school graduates; they didn’t have college degrees. And so, Mom was in banking, Dad was in the telephone company. So, Mom started as a teller, a bank teller, and you don’t make a lot of money as a bank teller. And Dad was climbing telephone poles for quite some time. And ultimately, what ended up happening is that they each found that, I think to their own credit, they were more intelligent than perhaps they gave themselves credit for. And because of that, they worked their way up the ladder, each corporate ladder. So, in the telephone industry, telecommunications, and then in banking. And as that happened, we moved from one neighborhood to the next, and it was sort of the Canadian version of the American Dream where, you know, you realize that all kinds of things are possible.

 

Were they explicit in giving you advice, or did you learn by example?

 

Both. In my mom’s side of the conversation, I ultimately learned that the restrictions and sort of the barriers that are put in front of you, either from a societal level or from an industry level—she was a woman in a man’s world in banking, finance. She ultimately ended up becoming the only woman on her floor in the corporate office. So, in Toronto, Bay Street is the equivalent of Wall Street in New York. Only woman on her floor, so that was difficult. And I learned from her that barriers are both real, but they’re also what you make of them. And if you disagree with them and you just apply yourself, and you continually show that you can outwork anybody around you, then things will move. So, she moved very large mountains. Yeah; she did not agree with being told that she couldn’t do something because of her gender, so she just went ahead and did it.

 

And what about your dad? You said he rose in the ranks as well.

 

M-hm. So, the funny thing about Dad is that he’s the smartest guy in the room, but he manifests his intelligence into jokes. So, he’s a practical joker. And ultimately, he went from climbing telephone poles to managing a crew, and then ending up overseeing and engineering department in the corporate office as well. So, they ended up actually about two blocks away from each other on Bay Street. And you know, when I was in high school, they were both there.

 

And that was the equivalent of Wall Street in Toronto.

 

Correct. Yeah. And even as a high-schooler, you know, you’re jaded, and you think parents are so lame, when you’re in high school. But they would go and have lunch together. And Nathan Phillips Square is the city hall in Toronto. And right in front of Nathan Phillips Square is this very large fountain, but in the wintertime, they freeze it, and it’s a skate rink. And they would go skating at lunch. I mean, even as a high-schooler, I thought that was kinda sweet. So … yeah; they had the nice ability to come together on multiple levels.

 

Did you have brothers and sisters?

 

I’m an only.

 

So, they poured everything into you?

 

Yes and no. Mom made sure that I didn’t turn out to be representative of the stereotype, that everything is for me. Although my family every so often has to remind me at Christmas that all the presents under the tree are actually for everybody else.

 

While your parents were both working, you were actually really applying yourself. You did, what, four sports. What sports did you play?

 

In high school, so I played football, basketball, rugby, track and field. And I was lifeguarding on the side, so every so often for the swim team, they just needed points, so they’d throw me in for like, a fifty-meter freestyle.

 

So, you loved athleticism.

 

Yeah. If I was not moving, I was not a pleasant person to be around, so athletics was a very good thing for me, because it just made sure that I was occupied.

 

How did you do in school?

 

High school, I could have done much better, mostly because I was, you know, either in a pool, or I was on a field somewhere, or on a basketball court.

 

Paul Turnbull certainly applied himself in college, earning three degrees, with a fourth, a PhD to come later. He says his mother made sure he was grounded.

 

My mom reminded me—of course, you know, Mom was always around. My mom reminded me after my third degree that all those letters don’t yet spell J-O-B, so it was time to get a job teaching. So, I did that.

 

And by the way, how did you decide to be a teacher?

 

You know, honestly, it had everything to do with my teachers in high school. They clearly loved their job, they loved being together. They were inseparable. It was funny; they were like kids themselves. You know, they were always playing together. We were either playing basketball together, or I would see them going out and camping, and they started an outdoor camping club. So, I learned how to go camping in the snow in high school, and those kinds of things. And it just sort of hit me. I was in physiology class, and Dave Kaye was the teacher. And it just was the most matter-of-fact, I’m gonna be a teacher moment.

 

Was it a voice you heard, or just this overwhelming thought?

 

It was just a thought. It was not a voice; it was just, I’m gonna do that.

 

And then, you stuck to it.

 

Yeah. Yeah. My family refers to me as Even Steven. You know, if you try too hard to do some things, I think people in life probably have learned for the most part, if you try to force a square peg into a round hole, it doesn’t work. But if you just follow your passion, and you allow things to move with fluidity, that it all works out.

 

Paul Turnbull followed that sudden realization in physiology class into teaching English and physical education, coaching football and girls’ basketball in British Columbia, Canada. He found he had a passion for teaching. And at a teacher training conference in New Mexico, Dr. Turnbull would find a different kind of passion: the love of his life. Three children later, he can still get a little mushy, just thinking of meeting the woman he would marry.

 

I was teaching in Canada in Vancouver. My wife was teaching in Costa Rica at an international school. We both were teaching international baccalaureate English. And so, the IB organization is this amazing worldwide organization, and they’re known for rigor and fantastic academics. But one of the requirements is that you have to go to an IB training. So, we were both sent to this conference in July in Montezuma. We had no desire to go individually, of course. And we both went. I was sitting in the Albuquerque airport, looked up. That was it.

 

Attended the training, didn’t say anything. And then, you were at the airport?

 

So, we were there for a week, and we ended up in the same class, and it was brutal. I mean, I just … you know, when you fall in love, you fall in love. And, you know.

 

It was brutal to fall in love?

 

No; the ability—it’s happening right now. I can’t speak.

It’s just funny. When you … for me … oh, jeez.

 

You’re thinking back to that time?

Wow; you’re still in love, aren’t you?

 

Yeah. I think … the ability for us to understand that, you know, there was a great distance geographically between the two of us. And in those days, you know, internet and email, and all of those things were not readily available. So, it was an old fashioned letter writing correspondence.

 

That befits two teachers.

 

Which does, especially English teacher; right? So, it was just one of those things where … just like the teaching, when I decided I was gonna be a teacher, it was the most matter of fact, don’t have to contemplate this moment. This is just the next step.

 

But again, there were logistics issues. You were living in different countries.

 

Yes. So, at the time, Leslie grew up in Santa Barbara, and so, her parents were currently there. And they weren’t doing very well with their health, and so, it was the right thing to do. So, we moved to Santa Barbara to be closer to them.

 

That’s a beautiful place to live, too.

 

Unbelievable. Yeah; absolutely. So, I moved from snowy Toronto to beautiful Vancouver, to even more beautiful and warmer Santa Barbara.

 

But you did face a little obstacle with jobs; right?

 

Yeah. So, the difficulty about, you know, immigration is that when you go through the process—and it’s a very interesting, very involved and complicated process. Initially, you get two years. And so, it’s sort of a trial period, as a probationary landed immigrant or resident alien. I showed up, and I have a social security number, so I was able to apply for a teaching jobs. And unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a job teaching English, which is my first love and my first passion. But an administrative opportunity arose, and I was really lucky to be chosen for that.

 

But many teachers would not like the idea of moving to administration. They are two different fields; related, but different. Right? Different skills.

 

M-hm.

 

So, were you really happy?

 

You know, I was. So, as a teacher, in my mind, I could have an effect on thirty students in a classroom. But if I were an administrator, and if I had empathy for all the teachers with whom I worked, and I understood some of the barriers that were just, you know, frankly annoying as a teacher, if as an administrator, I could do something to remove one or more of those barriers, then that meant that I could affect how many students in a school.

 

Did you ever look back? Did you ever say: I want to go back to my first love, teaching?

 

Frequently; yes.

 

Oh, is that right?

 

Yes.

 

But you remained an administrator.

 

I did. It was the path that I was on, and we were together, and we had a family, and you know, sometimes life gives you something that is probably a better course than you think.

 

Is Santa Barbara where you earned your PhD?

 

It is; yeah, at the University of California Santa Barbara.

 

So, you were working and going to school at the same time.

 

Yes; exactly right. And that’s another reason why I am absolutely just head over heels in love with my wife, because man, did she hold down the fort when I was going through my degree. It was a lot of very intense work.

 

You eventually became the head of a school district, one of the school districts in Santa Barbara County.

 

M-hm; that’s right. Yeah; I was the superintendent of the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District.

 

How many schools did that cover?

 

It only had two schools. That’s the interesting thing about California. So, there are a thousand school districts, generally speaking. My particular school district was small by the number of schools and students, but my geographical area was fifteen hundred square miles.

 

Paul Turnbull married, with three children, and then living in Santa Barbara, California, earned a lot of respect in the role of district superintendent, working with more people in and outside of the school communities. He did not expect to relocate. But in 2012, he received a call that would take him and his family thousands of miles away, to Hawai‘i.

 

Living in Santa Barbara was a great thing, and I got a call from a search consultant, who asked me to consider Mid-Pacific. And I frankly said: You know what, I have a great life. My wife is working at UC Santa Barbara, and our kids are here, and it’s fine.

 

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

 

Exactly right. There’s no reason to move. So, I said: Thank you, but no, I’m good. And then, I got a call a couple weeks later and said: No, you should really look. So, we looked; but we look as parents first. Our sons were in boarding school, so that was okay. Meaning that if we had moved away to Hawai‘i, that they’d be fine. So, when we started looking at Mid-Pacific, we were thinking about our daughter, who would have been in fourth grade, had we made the move. And everything that we looked at was great. I mean, it fit our beliefs and our philosophy as a family, it fit, I think in terms of the academic opportunities and the approach to learning that our daughter would have enjoyed. And then, having satisfied that aspect, we started looking at the community, instead of the administrative spot. The community fit very closely with Santa Barbara. And then, I looked at it as a job. And from there, I didn’t see a thing I didn’t like.

 

As the head of Mid-Pacific Institute now, what were some of the things that surprised you that came along? ‘Cause you know, you had certain expectations moving locations. Anything that surprised you, something really that you didn’t expect?

 

The community at large, it was just such a welcoming, wonderful … family-centric, individual … kind of place. And California sometimes can be that, and sometimes can not be that. And it’s a very fast-paced “me” kind of place, depending on where you live. Honolulu didn’t strike me as that, and it was a refreshing breath of fresh air. So, that was the first component. As far as the school is concerned, my office is sort of right in the middle of campus, and you can go up to the Kawaiahao Seminary, the old building which is now our center for the arts, and you can go down to the technology centers and you can see the middle school, and then the elementary school. I can have a bad day, and I can go in any direction, be around kids. Easy.

 

Sometime after you got here, and I know you were received with open arms and things were going very well.

 

M-hm.

 

You made another huge decision, which was actually to leave your Canadian citizenship.

 

So, I’m allowed to have dual citizenship.

 

Do you have it?

 

Yes.

 

Okay; got it.

 

Yeah. So, the United States no longer asks you to renounce and remove all other citizenships. But you do have to denounce all potentates, which I think is hilarious, ‘cause who says potentates.

The idea that I wanted to become a citizen really came out of just the fact that I don’t believe that being a member of your community is a spectator sport. I think that we should be active, we should be involved. I had been doing that at the local level in Santa Barbara as a Californian, but I had never been able to vote, the last remaining step on the hierarchy of things to do.

 

What’s it like learning the civics of the United States? ‘Cause I believe you had to go through classes.

 

Yeah. So, ultimately, the civics test is ten questions that they ask, but it’s based on a set of a hundred questions possible. And so, the test that you get comes from a guide.

 

Oh, so you studied up; it wasn’t classes.

 

Correct; yeah. I didn’t have to go to classes, per se. But what we ended up doing was working with my daughter’s class in fifth grade.

 

At Mid-Pacific Institute?

 

At Mid-Pacific; yeah. So, at Mid Pacific, the teachers in fifth grade were great. We have two classes in the fifth grade. I asked them if they’d be willing to help me out. And it was pretty cool. The kids put together like a video study guide for me.

Using the questions from the guide itself, and I had multiple choice options. And I remember sitting in the classroom, and all the kids were on the floor, and the big screen on the wall with all these questions. And every time I got a question right, this sort of piped-in applause would happen.

It was pretty cute.

 

And your daughter was the springboard for this?

 

Yeah. We talked originally, and I said: You know, what do you think? ‘Cause she’s a dual citizen, so she’s the daughter of a Canadian and an American, born on American soil. So, she can go to Canada with a Canadian passport, she can stay in the U.S. with a U.S. passport. So, I said: What do you think; should I be like you? And yeah, she seemed … like as a fourth-grader then prior to taking the test, I think she had a little bit of this moment of like: That’s pretty cool; you know, like I’ve got something over Dad.

 

And I can help him become like me.

 

Totally.

Yeah; exactly right. And it was great. She was able to help, the class did a fantastic job. And then, when I got my citizenship, after passing the tests, which it’s always nice to pass a test, we were able to go and go as a class for the ceremony. So, you know, a real lesson in civics for the kids. ‘Cause I don’t know how many people really get to see a citizenship ceremony.

 

Paul Turnbull feels he’s become a better member of the community because he gained a greater appreciation for the United States and its values through the preparation process for U.S. citizenship. As the president of Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu, Paul Turnbull places a heavy emphasis on project-based learning and innovative approaches to education that have the potential for real world applications.

 

Mid-Pacific Institute has really gotten a lot of great press for technological advancements. But it’s not just being able to use tools; it’s what you do with them. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re doing at Mid-Pacific?

 

Sure. We really took a look at why we needed to get into different versions of technology, and what they could do as tools. And my predecessor, Joe Rice, with whom you spoke on the show, was really the beginning of all of that. In the late 90s, he opened one technology center, then in the early 2000s we opened the Weinberg Technology Center as well. And thanks to the Hartleys, Mike and Sandy Hartley, the Math and Science Complex that we have at Mid Pacific is host to a center that is really like a scaled-down version of the MIT Media Lab. And in that lab, you have the ability to have engineering and digital storytelling, and design, technological design all together, so that the School of the Arts kids and the engineering-minded kids can work together and find different ways to apply these tools. So, that’s the philosophy behind how we approach technology. The tools that we use indirectly are amazing. I mean, they’re just so much fun. We were the first school in the State to use a one-to-one iPad program, so all of our students, right down to kindergarten, have the ability to have a mobile tablet. Because we believe that the application of that technology brings the classroom from the inside to the outside. And now, your real world, much like my citizenship, becomes more than an academic exercise, but it’s something to be learned and valued, and trusted. We’re the only school in the world right now using, I believe, and I’ve done as much looking and research as I can to prove it, using 3D laser scanning. So, Lidar scanning for historic preservation. And that means that our high school students and our middle school students are using an engineering grade level of laser scanning to go out and digitally capture and restore artifacts in our local community. So, we have a museum studies course that’s a humanities course, and a historic preservation class. They have gone out and scanned, for example, Kaniakapūpū, which is King Kamehameha II’s summer retreat, now dilapidated. And when you look at any very old building, there are no as-built drawings, or certainly they don’t meet code today. But if you scan them, and the integrity of those scans is down to the millimeter, anything that happens from that point forward, we can actually help to rebuild them exactly as they are. But ultimately, all technology will go by the wayside. It will evolve. And if it’s viewed as anything other than a simple tool, then we’re getting the message wrong. Problem-solving, the ability to analyze, the ability to use creativity, collaboration, the ability to bring together in groups problem-solving for the real world. So, how can you actually apply all of your learning. So, if you can do all of that with empathy, and you have analytic abilities to approach new learning or new situations with different types of learning, if jobs go away, we’re not lining students up so that they can only be, in my mom’s case, a bank teller, or only be, in my father’s case, a linesman climbing up a telephone pole. They’re gonna have access to technology and problem-solving skills that allow them to be fluid as the market changes.

 

At the time of our conversation in late 2017, Mid-Pacific Institute president Paul Turnbull said it was still the only school in the world, and the only organization in Hawai‘i, utilizing 3D laser scanning for historical preservation. Much like Paul Turnbull’s inclusion of Mid-Pacific’s fifth grade in his citizenship process, it’s an example of how education and the real world can come together. Mahalo to this leader in education, Paul Turnbull, a transplant from Canada and the U.S. West Coast, who has embraced Hawai‘i, and who has been embraced by Hawai‘i. And thank you for joining us for this edition of Long Story Short on PBS Hawai‘i. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

It’s important to give back, and it’s important to realize that there were a lot of lean times when we were growing up, there were a lot of times where we grew into abundance as well. But in the times of abundance, it was clear that I was responsible to find out whatever percentage of things that I had available to me, and then to give them away. So, it was important to be part of the community.

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Kamuela Enos

 

Kamuela Enos’ vision for his community of Waiʻanae on West O‘ahu considers his deep regard for ancestral values, as well as an appreciation for contemporary innovation. He serves as director of social enterprise at MAʻO Organic Farms, a non-profit that aims to connect Waiʻanae youth to the land, while fostering in them workforce and life skills.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Apr. 29, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

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Transcript

 

The poverty we see in our community—and I say this a lot, was recent and learned behavior.  Our ancestors weren’t poor, we were taught to be poor.  Like anything that you’re taught, you can unlearn too. So, it became like, well, how do I unlearn this, how do I find a way to restore, you know, that sense of purpose, that sense of connection.

 

He comes from an ohana of cultural practitioners who turned to the wisdom of the past to create a better future for their struggling communities. Kamuela Enos, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawaii’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kakou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Kamuela Enos is the director of social enterprise at Mao Organic Farms in Waianae, Oahu, a low-income area where he offers internships to teenagers and young adults.  They work on the farms in exchange for a stipend and college tuition assistance. After a few stumbles of his own, Enos found his path to his calling in life: serving others, while perpetuating Hawaiian ancestral responsibilities.  Kamuela was born into the Enos ohana of Waianae.  His father, Eric Enos, is a cultural practitioner and activist who co-founded Kaala Farms years before Mao with a similar mission to heal at-risk youth by having them connect with their roots.

 

I knew it was special.  I think part of what I think the reality was, is to be raised in a family that was doing something that was in front of a curve.

 

Meaning?

 

My father was Eric Enos, one of the founders of Kaala Farms, was doing aina work, restoring traditional practices, what is now an actual industry.  It’s a thing; aina-based education, right?  It was borne out of this idea reclaiming land and identity as a response to the Hawaiian renaissance, of having had that part of our identity kind of been told explicitly to step away from.  You know, it’s important for you to assimilate into contemporary American society, and to, you know, be a good American, and to take all the vestiges of your ancestry, your language, your practices, and put that behind you.

 

When did your father start reclaiming the land?

 

You know, I remember that, ‘cause I was really young. And he, you know, was from Waianae, he went to Kamehameha Schools, and then actually, he went to college.  And going to college at UH in the late 60s, early 70s, you can only imagine, like, colleges across the campus, you know, that was the heart of the civil rights movement, and the birthplace of the Hawaiian renaissance too, when you started actually learning your history and realizing that we weren’t allowed to understand our ancestry from a place of strength.  He was coming of age, and he was heavily radicalized, and he got a job teaching at Waianae High School, where he got a chance to really see it, from how I understand it, his stories.  He’s one of a few men who was of Hawaiian ancestry from the community actually teaching, and he was able to hear how teachers were talking about kids from Waianae. So, he often tells me like, he had to quit, or he would have been arrested.  [CHUCKLE]

 

He was so angry at the messaging.

 

And just like, the disregard and the blatant racism that he saw behind the scenes.  And then, he took up work with an organization that worked directly with at-risk youth.  And it was from that point that … it was called The Rap Center, where he began to take students—young adults, actually, not students, that were kind of out of the system, hanging out at the beach parks, walking in the mountains, to kinda get them away from where they would just hang out and associate, and do all the things that were leading to their delinquency, back up into the mountains to kinda understand, take them out of their environment and put them in a new environment.  And there, he started seeing all the remnants of the taro patches.

 

How did he come to acquire the land?

 

That’s a really interesting question.  I think back in the 70s, it was just like: You know what?  We’re just gonna clear this place out, bring water down, and reclaim it.  And if people don’t like it, then they can come and talk to us.

Was it abandoned land?  Who owned it?

 

It was in the back of the valley, and …

 

Probably State-owned?

 

State-owned land.  And they just decided to have these youth repurpose their time at this—[CHUCKLE] I don’t know what they were supposed to be doing, but what they ended up doing was cutting, clearing out haole koa, and putting in PVC pipes and bringing water back down.  And then, learning from people on the east side of Oahu who were still doing traditional taro farming, like, how do we grow this.  And I think that was a really important thing for me to understand.  Like, he wasn’t just trying to reclaim ability to grow food, but he was trying to reclaim the ability to grow people, and therefore, the ability to regrow community.  You know, I was raised in the context of growing up with an activist parent, where I think the things he was doing, none of my peers that I grew up with, their parents did.  My mother was always very much a fan of reading, and a big fan of education.  So, she would just make us read, so we had our noses buried in Tolkien when we were like, fourth grade, and then we were just reading Albert Camus in seventh grade.  And she just said: Read, read, read.  So, kind of like embracing like, intellectualism, if you will.

 

So, body and mind.

 

But then, also growing up as a Waianae boy. [CHUCKLE]  And just going to all the public schools, Makaha Elementary, Waianae Intermediate, Waianae High School, where I eventually dropped out. And like, I call it the blessed schizophrenia of trying to reconcile these three separate, completely different worlds; right?

 

Okay; the three worlds were?

 

Like, I mean, being part of restoring our ancestral practices and being immersed in not just taro farming, but community organizing.

 

Okay; that’s one.

 

The other was like, just having a love of reading, and especially like, not just reading to escape, but authors that like, more philosophical bent; right?

 

People who really provoked your thought.

 

Provocative thinking.

 

And the third?

 

The third was having the people I grew up with, and like, who were my best friends, who I love to this day, really living in the realities of poverty.  As good, as wonderful people they are, like, their daily lives was really bounded by struggling to make ends meet and all of the things that happen when you live in that context, with the violence, the drug use, the alcohol.  You know, and like, those three realities kind of didn’t sit well with each other, especially as I got older and my peers became more and more who I identified with, and I started to reject the other two a little bit more.  That kind of took a while to weave those three strands back together into something. [CHUCKLE]

 

Is that why you dropped out of high school?

 

Basically.  I think part of it was the school wasn’t challenging enough for me, and second, I had a pretty poor attitude about things, so I won’t put it all on the system. I don’t know, I just felt disconnected. And non-air-conditioned Waianae room and learn about something, and have them fit into the system.  Versus, how do we flex the system to meet them where they’re strong, and take those strengths and have them from a strengths perspective then move into like, okay, now I gotta sit in a classroom because I’m passionate about this.  Versus, you’re stupid, you don’t know how to sit in a classroom.

 

She also brought air conditioning to her media classes.

 

Ho, man.  [CHUCKLE]

 

At what age did you drop out?

 

I dropped out when I was sixteen.  I started drinking when I was like, a freshman.  But we really started in earnest when I was sixteen, and dropping out, and just hanging out with all my friends.  And it’s all people that I love to this day, and I just realized … you know, we were all doing that together as a way to lift each other up.  It was a fun that was really volatile, and it became un-fun really quickly.

 

Did it get bad, sometimes result in people getting hurt?

 

It’s always the case in Waianae.  But to me, it became something to reflect on, ‘cause it’s not just the thing that happens in our communities, it happens in communities all over; right?

 

Right.

 

How people respond to historical traumas, and what vehicles or mediums are there for them to medicate.

 

So, do you think you and your friends didn’t know it, but you were feeling the effects of historical trauma?

 

Oh, yeah.

 

Of feeling dislocated.

 

Absolutely.

 

And unseen.

 

Right.  Yeah; and you know, if you’re not given a platform, you make one.

 

And you can make a bad platform, as well as a good one.

 

Oh, a heck of a bad platform.

 

Kamuela Enos’ parents did not insist that he return to high school after dropping out during his senior year.  However, they required two things: he had to earn a general education diploma or GED, and he needed to get a job.  Kamuela did so, working minimum wage jobs after picking up his GED from Waipahu High School.

 

There was this older Japanese guy who was handing out the GED diplomas kinda just looked at me and he’s like: What are you doing? I was like: What?  He was like: What are you doing; you shouldn’t be in this line.  He was just like, staring at me.  And I was like …

 

Did he know you?

 

He didn’t know me from Adam.  But he could see the test scores, and he was like: Everyone here is struggling; you shouldn’t be in this line.  I was like, okay.  Then I went from like, I’m going to celebrate getting my GED, to it was a long and reflective drive home to Waianae.  I was like: What am I doing?  I’m in this line; right?  And then, that was further reinforced [CHUCKLE] when the only jobs that I could get was like, working you know, at the fast food restaurants and different places where, you know, people hardly bother to remember your name as staff.  And you’re not there as a calling, you’re there because you have to be.  And what that really lifted up for me was the time I spent in Kaala with my dad.  And that’s when everything made sense.  Like, we’re working in a place where we’re caring for land.  We weren’t making a lot of money, but we had a sense of purpose, I had a sense of love for what I did.  And it was at that point that I realized the value.  Then things came back around.  I was like, you know, not only was I unhappy in the jobs that I was doing, but more important, I felt a lot of people I was working with was unhappy, and I felt like I want to do something about this dynamic.

 

And then, what do you do about it?

 

You go to college, and you drop out of college, [CHUCKLE] ‘cause you realize that you’re unprepared to go to college.  And then, you know, I was lucky enough to have a partner at the time where she basically gave me an ultimatum: You’re gonna go to college, or we’re not gonna be a couple.  And I was like, okay.  [CHUCKLE] So, she had a degree, so I went to college and I was supported.  And when I went to college, I took a Hawaiian studies class.  It was from Glen Kila; he was teaching Hawaiian studies at Leeward Community College Waianae.  Then my brain just broke open.  I was actually learning things I was really interested in, I was learning from a person who respected me as a learner, and I was learning in a space where I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life.

 

Doing what; learning or what?

 

Being part of … making a living, getting a living wage, being engaged with understanding how our heritage, how our ancestry is being deployed in a contemporary way that helps others.

 

Did that mean you wanted to be a teacher, or did you see another way to do that?

 

I still didn’t know, but I knew like, I loved learning about my culture, but I also loved trying to apply it.  And not just learning about it as a museum piece, but then watching my father and the work that he was doing with Auntie Puanani Burgess of trying to create jobs out of ancestral thinking.

 

So, you’re going step-by-step, not really having a direction, but kind of following the clues as you go along.

 

Yeah.

 

And responding.

 

The ancestors leave you clues that you have to pick up.

 

Nuggets along the way?

 

Sometimes it’s a hug, sometimes it’s a swift kick in the butt.  But I think that when … you follow the work, you’ll know when you’re in the right.  I believe your ancestors live in your intuition. And like, there’s something that is telling you, this is what you’re supposed to be doing.  You know, in those moments, you have to listen to that.

 

Like his father before him, Kamuela Enos went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian studies from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  After contemplating several career paths, he decided to focus on a master’s degree in urban and regional planning.  It led him to his true calling, and eventually, back to Waianae.

 

Well, you know, I was really lucky when I was getting my master’s program, that like as I mentioned, I took a class from Bob Agres, who was then the executive director of HACBED, the Hawaii Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development.  And that nonprofit was a network organization that was basically created out of this idea that Auntie Puanani Burgess and others like my dad had pushed on.  Like, how do communities develop their own economic engines.  Like, how are we not dependent on outside jobs that quite often don’t pay as well, and aren’t maybe the best fit for our environment.  How instead of fighting those types of development, how do we be developers of our own jobs.  And HACBED had asked Bob Agres; they had asked him to help create this organization that helped practitioners across the State wrestle with that question.  And I was lucky enough to be in classes where I really found my love and I was interned at HACBED for a while.  And I began to see that I really want to be at the intersect of how we create jobs in using our ancestral thinking so that we’re creating powerful opportunities for employment.

 

Did you know what that looked like at the time?

 

I’d watched my dad try to do that.  I mean, that’s what Kaala was trying to do.  They had backyard aquaculture programs where they would have families raise tilapia in their backyards.

 

I remember there was a time, was it in the 80s, when practically everybody had a tarp and a …

 

Tilapia, yeah, and aquaculture.  And like, that was an attempt to kind of look at the ancestral practice of fishponds or opelu fisheries, and to have people do it in their backyard as a way to generate revenue.  And I was really fascinated by the idea, and I was able to work at HACBED. And, you know, my younger brother Solomon is one of the founders of Mao.  He was the first intern.  So, I was always tracking what they were doing.  So, right around the time I was finishing up my class, a position opened up. I was working at this other organization called Empower Oahu with Richard Pezzulo and it came out of the EZ Economic Zone initiatives that under, I guess the Clinton administration, where they gave money to communities to be able to start up economic empowerment zones. So, me and Richard was working there, but then a position opened up in Mao as education specialist.  And I was like, I really feel that this is the time to come back to my community.  ‘Cause I had been living in town for ten years while I got my bachelor’s and my master’s.  And as much as I love Manoa, I was getting homesick.  I really felt like I wanted to be back where I could be directly engaged in like, working with my own community, and it’s an opportunity to grow our ability, to be strong again.  So, I took it, and I was working there for ten years.  And while I was doing that, I’d continue to be helping Bob Agres every once in a while in the class that he was teaching at Department of Urban and Regional Planning.  I love both the Hawaiian Studies Department and the Urban and Regional Planning Department, and Leeward Community College as an institution, ‘cause those three places really allowed me to learn who I was and how I serve best.

 

And it’s so interesting that it’s not like you suddenly see your future open up. I mean, you are following, you know, clues along the way, listening for the sounds in the forest, kind of.

 

And getting slaps in the head when I step out of line.  [CHUCKLE] You know, I think it’s never about us; I think it’s always about how people guide us.  And like, you know, we have to learn how to humble ourselves to the fact that we’re put on paths, and kicking and screaming, and resenting it is part of it at times.  [CHUCKLE]

 

Or taking the wrong path.

 

Taking the wrong path.

 

Taking the wrong path.

 

You know, I think there is no straight path.  My dad used to always tell me: You gotta walk the crooked path straight.  It’s like, it’s not a clearly laid out path for you.

 

Kamuela Enos walked the crooked path straight back to Waianae, where he felt he could best serve the community through his work at Mao Organic Farms, an organization that provides college tuition assistance to area students in exchange for their work on the farms.

 

When people hear your title, I think many people, including me, are not quite sure of what it means.  You’re the director of social enterprise at Mao Farms.

 

I know; right?  That’s the cool thing about running your own business; you can make whatever titles you want.  [CHUCKLE] But I think to me, the idea of social enterprise is, we measure two things on a daily basis on our farm. There’s the sales of our product and the GPAs of our students.  And all the revenue from the farm doesn’t go to staff; it goes back into the mission of the program.  And the mission is to make sure that our land is productive again, and the people who are working in the land are empowered.  And that’s, to me, a really important narrative.  When people talk about what does it mean to be a Native Hawaiian business, to me, it doesn’t mean that people have Hawaiian DNA running a business.  To me, it means that to create a product or a service for society without externalizing the cost on people or land.  ‘Cause our ancestors did that.  That was how they ran an ahupuaa.  They were the first social entrepreneurs.  They were able to create tons and tons of kalo, tons and tons of fish without exploiting people or diminishing the land’s carrying capacity.  That’s how ahupuaas work.  So, I feel that’s why it’s really important to root our practices in ancestral thinking.  And that’s why the two things we track on a daily basis is sales and GPAs.  That’s what our ancestors tracked.  And I believe our makahiki ceremony where the chiefs would come and look at abundance of land and fitness of people, those two measures, those two metrics are the same metrics that we’ve translated into sales and GPAs.  The sales of our product is our land is abundant again, GPAs is our people are fit. I mean, it’s not a full measure, of course.  There’s other things we’re trying to add into it.

 

But grade point average is the recognized college standard.

 

You’re reporting to your chief.  Like, that’s what our ancestors did when the chief came and checked on his or her people.  They say: Are my people fit, is the land productive?  My responsibility is to have that happen.  So, if we create our businesses that emanate from that same idea, then I can say the programs that we’re running is ensuring that not only is food being grown, but it’s being grown organically.  And the difference in organic production is that you care about the soil’s regenerative health over annual yields.  What’s more important is that the future generations have the right to grow from that soil.  So, that means that we’re generating revenue in ways that’s caring for the soil specifically, and that the farmer is not someone that’s getting a minimum wage with no upward mobility.  Like, they’re using this opportunity to pay for their college. Which for some people is a pathway out of their community, but I want to focus that as a pathway back into your community as a person who has a degree now, that can advocate.  You know, if you’re given a gift, you better make sure that you are using it to help others.  And to me, as a parent now, like, I wrestle with like, with doing the work that I do now, knowing all the challenges environmentally, economically, socially, politically that we’re facing.  Like, you know, what kind of things am I asked to set up for my grandchildren, so that they can thrive in climate change, thrive in all these different things that are happening, and then be a part of changing it and recalibrating it.  So, I did want to acknowledge that, you know, we do what do ‘cause people invest in us, and invest like at their own expense and provide incredible sacrifice so that we can thrive.  Right? When you work with youth and land, then you’re kind of creating a breaking point in generations of poverty, and you’re with them authentically, working alongside them.  Then, they actually begin a chance to clear that space to actually see their worth.

 

To see things differently.

 

Yeah.  And to apply the things that they learn, and see a future for themselves.  That for me, the big thing I always think about is, I had a really rare childhood.  And that what I just stay awake at night thinking about is, how do I make the childhood I had available to as many students as possible. where you are able to have a deep sense of what your ancestors did in a place from a strengths perspective.

 

And you have your own children now, too.

 

I have two children.  I have an eight-year-old and a five-year-old, who I love dearly.  And like, to me, the fact that I can kind of replicate that experience for them, but also give them more agency in helping to—they can say what they like about it too, and they can give input is really exciting.  One of the joys I get in the work that I do now in Mao which really drives me is the same joy I think my father had when he was doing Kaala, is I get to show up and go to work every day in what people would have considered impossible.  I get to go to a job where young adults from Waianae are running the largest organic farm on the island, while getting a 2.0 in college.  If you would have asked people fifteen years ago we were gonna do that, they would have told you: You are crazy, there’s no way that the largest organic farm on Oahu is gonna be in Waianae.  Much less that kids from Waianae are gonna work there, much less kids from Waianae are gonna work there as college students maintaining a 2.0; that is impossible. So, the fact that I get to work every day in a space of what the other people consider impossible really helps me think that things that people are saying are impossible now, can be possible.

 

In 2010, President Obama recognized the work of Kamuela Enos, and appointed him as a member of his advisory commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Kamuela says he’ll continue to live by the examples of his ancestors, while keeping a focus on modern day problems like climate upheaval and the health and wealth disparities of his community. Mahalo to Kamuela Enos of Waipio and Waianae, Oahu.  And thank you for joining us for this edition of Long Story Short on PBS Hawaii.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

When you work with youth and land, then you’re kind of creating a breaking point in generations of poverty, and you’re with them authentically, working alongside them.  Then, they actually begin a chance to clear that space to actually see their worth.

 

To see things differently.

 

Yeah.  And to apply the things that they learn, and see a future for themselves.

 

[END]

 

 

SAMANTHA BROWN’S PLACES TO LOVE
Shanghai, China

SAMANTHA BROWN'S PLACES TO LOVE: Shanghai, China

 

It’s the most populous city in the world, and full of juxtapositions. Both overwhelming and charming; foreign and familiar; ancient and on the cutting edge of modern innovation. There is a certain mystique about the Far East, and Shanghai is the perfect place to experience it. On this episode, I visit the ancient water town of Fengjing, soak up the Art Deco architecture along the historic Bund, shop at an iconic knife and scissor shop on Nanjing Road, learn the art of paper cutting, and much more. Here’s why Shanghai is a place to love.

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Tony Wagner

 

As someone who dropped out of high school once and college twice, Tony Wagner has used his negative experiences in the education system to spark change. A Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute at Harvard University and acclaimed author of six books, he now travels the world speaking to educators, community groups and foundations about reimagining the way that students learn in the new age of innovation.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Mar. 7, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Mar. 11, at 4:00 pm.

 

Tony Wagner Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

We’re all born curious, creative, imaginative; that’s the human DNA. The average five-year-old asks a hundred questions a day, and most kindergartners think of themselves as artists. But then, something happens. We call it school. ‘Cause you see, the longer kids are in school, the less curious they become. The more they become obsessed with getting the right answers versus continuing to ask their own questions, curiosity begins to wither. And so, no; we can’t teach curiosity, but we can sure as heck nurture it.

 

He dropped out of high school once, and college twice. But he went on to earn two degrees from Harvard University, and is now one of the leading voices for education innovation. Dr. Tony Wagner, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Tony Wagner, who holds a Harvard doctorate in education, hated school for much of his life. Today, he travels the world, speaking about transforming the way that schools do their job in this age of innovation. As of this conversation in early 2018, Dr. Wagner is a senior research fellow at the Learning Policy Institute at Harvard University. He wants to see students prepare for the challenges of the 21st century through play, passion, and purpose. Wagner authored six books on education, including Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era, co-authored Ted Dintersmith, who was also featured here on Long Story Short. Wagner says he intensely disliked his school experiences throughout his middle, high school, and college years on the U.S. East Coast.

 

My father was a fighter pilot in World War II. He volunteered for the Royal Air Force a year before the Americans got in the war, and he flew Spitfires, and he was a very hot pilot. But he was shot down three days before D-Day, and spent the last year of his life in prison camp. And he told me years later—he didn’t like talking about the war experience, except to say it was the happiest time of his life. Go figure. But he did say that one of the things that sort of kept him going was the dream of having a farm. So, right after the war, he married my mother, and they bought a farm. And that’s where I was born, on a farm; Spook Hill Farm in Upperco, Maryland. And so, I really grew up on the farm.

 

And what were your experiences in school?

 

From a very early age, school and I just didn’t seem to get along. I think partly it began perhaps because I was slow to learn to read. I was sent to a reading tutor for a few years. And you know, it may have just been that I was a boy, and sometimes boys learn to read late. I just never quite figured out why we were asked to learn the things we were learning, and I just wasn’t very interested. But at the same time, I quickly became a very hungry reader, and I just read every single night. I’d read under the covers with a flashlight at night. So, while school and I didn’t get along, I was passionate about reading, and then became passionate about learning other kinds of things along the way. I was going to an all-boys middle school in Baltimore. My parents had moved closer to town by then and given up the farm, so I could go to this boys’ middle school. But I didn’t do much homework, and so finally, you know, partway through eighth grade, they call a conference, and my parents and I are invited in, and I’m told I’m not gonna be invited to come back to that school next year.

 

It was a private school?

 

It was a private school.

 

Where did you go after that?

 

I went to a very second rate boys’ boarding school called Avon Old Farms. And that was worse.

 

And you lived there.

 

That’s why it was worse, of course. You know, people ask me a lot about co-ed, and what do I think about single sex schools. I think single sex schools are great for girls; they’re horrible for boys. Because, you know, boys at that age can be just sadistic, and vicious, and if you don’t have clear guardrails from adults, you know, kids just are mean to each other. At the same time, I was sent to a summer camp, all summer long, for six years. And that was where I really came alive as a learner. And it kind of made up for what school wasn’t. And you know, I learned all kinds of skills, and I learned to love hiking, and camping, and canoeing.

 

Well, that’s survival stuff. You can see the value of that.

 

Yeah; but it was also—they had a full-blooded Cheyenne Indian in residence, so I studied Indian lore and Indian dancing with him, and performed. Another guy, you know, I studied axemanship all year. And it became very influential to me as an educator later, because this camp pioneered the concept that the Scouts later called merit badges. The whole idea of kind of having a certificate of mastery, having mastered a certain competence, was something that I later was kind looking back at that experience and said: Oh, yeah, that’s really what high school should be.

 

Meanwhile, you’re in high school, and you’re getting closer toward college age. How’s it going in high school?

 

It never got better?

 

No. It never got better.

 

Oh … that’s a long time.

 

In fact, it got worse.

 

Why’d it get worse?

 

Well, October of my senior year, I had this gruff English teacher, and really kind of a mean guy. He had this huge four D-cell flashlight. He’d go around campus with the flashlight at night, looking for trouble. So, we called him The Mole. And that was his nickname; but we all were scared to death of him. So, one Saturday night in, I think, mid, late October, I came in about twenty minutes after curfew. We were allowed to go into town on Saturday night. I was late. And sure enough, The Mole was on duty. And he spots me with this big flashlight. And I can’t repeat word-for-word what he said to me, so I’ll have to just kinda fill in a couple words. He said: Wagner, you’re a screw-up; you’ve always been a screw-up, you’re always gonna be a screw-up. Only he didn’t use the word screw-up. At any rate, I had never heard an adult use that language, and applied to me. And so, I left. Next morning, I called a cab. This was in rural Connecticut, outside of Hartford. I took at train to New York. I said: I’m not going back there.

 

Yes, it’s a recurring theme. After dropping out of Avon Old Farms School during his senior year, Tony Wagner decided to enter a boarding school near Baltimore, Maryland so that he could finish high school and graduate. Things didn’t go any better at the new school.

 

It was a tiny little school that was sort of a school for kids who hadn’t made it anywhere else. It was what you call a last-chance boarding school. And it was run by a woman who was a sadist. It was a for-profit school. It was shortly before I was supposed to graduate. I had taken the regents exams. So, she calls me in. She says: Sit down, I have bad news for you; about the biology regents, you got a forty-nine. Meaning I wouldn’t graduate. I rushed screaming out of her office. She yells: Just kidding; it was a ninety-four. Can you believe that? Can you believe somebody would do that?

 

Although Tony Wagner had many dark, dispirited times in middle and high school, he was curious about learning, if the subject matter interested him. There were a few bright spots, and some teachers who nurtured his passion for literature.

 

It began a few years earlier. I had an English teacher in ninth grade whom I liked, and we were reading great stuff. We were reading Steinbeck, and Hemmingway, and Fitzgerald, and all of that, and I was really enthralled with the literature. And he gave us creative writing assignments, and I wrote my first short story. From then on, really interested in writing. And so, then I got to this last-chance boarding school, and for whatever reason, I decided I wanted to be a writer. And so, I kinda looked around, and there was a guy who was one of the other English teachers. He was not my senior English teacher; he was another guy, he was an English guy, totally nice guy. So, for whatever reason, I went up to him, and I said: Will you teach me to write? He said: I’d be delighted. So, every week, we would meet, and he would give me a different assignment. And it was a genre kind of an approach; one week it’d be a dialogue, next week a monologue, a childhood reminiscence, an essay, whatever. And so, every week, I’d bring him this, and he’d sit down and we’d talk. And he’d point to one or two things that he thought I’d done well, and maybe give one suggestion. And it later became the way, in fact, I taught writing as an English teacher. But I was just totally enthralled. And so, I think that experience saved me, in a sense, in school. Because finally had something to go to school for.

 

After graduating from high school, Tony Wagner enrolled at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. And then, he dropped out. He moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and found work as a hotel waiter, with the idea of writing the great American novel. Well, things didn’t go well, and back to school he went

 

So, I got myself into another college, down the road from Randolph-Macon. It was called Richmond Professional Institute; now it’s called Virginia Commonwealth University. This is now September of ’65. And I’m studying, for the first time, because I’ve decided I can’t kinda be jumping around like this.

 

You’ve gotta get through this.

 

And I started a novel. And so, I’m pretty serious now. But then, in the first week, I see a bunch of students protesting outside the dean’s office. This was, again, September of ’65. These were seniors who’d been told by the college they could not finally come back as seniors, because they’d grown longer hair and beards over the summer. Honor students, refused readmission ‘cause of their hair. So, they’d started this little group called Students for Individual Rights. So, I decided to join; protesting. And from there, I’d kinda learned about a meeting about civil rights, and I actually went to Southern Virginia as a part of a boycott. It was a small town where there was a lot of Ku Klux Klan activity, and so a group of us were volunteering to sort of help organize for this boycott. And it was dangerous and scary. And it left a mark on me, just kind of having that experience. But I came back to campus, and in a little while, I got a note from the dean of students asking to see me. Not asking; telling me to show up. So, I walk in. Finally, he says: Son, we know all about your communistic homosexual drug activities. That’s all he said; that’s all he said. Communistic? No; I was looking forward to voting. Homosexual? No; I was kinda living with a girl at the time. Drugs? I’d tried a little pot, but you know, everybody did that; nothing serious. So, I just freaked; totally. Like, I don’t want to be here; I don’t want to be in the South, I don’t want to be anywhere where, you know, it’s threats and intimidation. So, I dropped out again. Then, I go to work for a civil rights lawyer in Washington, D.C. by the name of Bill Higgs.

 

What did you do?

 

Oh, all kinds of things. I helped to organize the bus boycott in D.C. This is now late fall of ’65, early winter of ’66. I’m working with him, he gives me seventy-five bucks a month, plus room and board, and doing whatever. But I start working on a lawsuit challenging the D.C. tracking system. The D.C. public schools have four tracks. And through this guy Bill Higgs, I met William Kunstler, the now famous lawyer of the Chicago Seven, bla-bla-bla, who was working with Higgs.

 

So, you were in the hotbed of activism.

 

Oh; oh, yeah. Absolutely. And it was through Bill Kunstler that I heard about this brand new small startup college called Friends World Institute, started by the Quakers. Whole philosophy is you study social problems, you study in different parts of the world. And I got excited, for the first time. By that time, I really wanted to understand social problems. I thought maybe I might want to do social work. I still wanted to write, I wanted to be a novelist. So I was more, I guess, focused and purpose-driven.

 

At last, Tony Wagner earned his bachelor’s degree from Friends World College in New York. And that’s not all he came away with. He’d spent a great deal of time doing independent study in San Francisco, Mexico, and Vermont. During that time, he honed in on what he wanted to do with his life.

 

I wanted to be a teacher.

 

You decided that?

 

By that time, I knew I wanted to teach. Because it was it was a mission, it was a social purpose. And it felt like it was a way to combine my love of writing. While I was at Friends World, I’d gone to a war resisters conference, a pacifist conference. And a man was there by the name of Ryan Desai; he was a disciple of Gandhi’s, worked closely with Gandhi. And he was there at the conference. I asked him: What’s revolution; what’s your definition of revolution? And he said: Revolution is the dynamic process of transforming individual virtues into social values. And I wrote that on my Harvard application. I said: I want to become a teacher for this reason, in order to work towards transforming individual virtues into social values. And I think Harvard had never seen a transcript like mine. That’s the only reason I got in. You know, it had no grades, I’d been to all these colleges. And I’d published a couple things by then; I’d published three or four articles at the age of twenty-one or whatever I was then. So, I went for a master of arts in teaching.

 

Did you enjoy Harvard?

 

I hated the education classes. I thought they were miserable. You know, you practiced with a so-called master teacher in the first summer. He was a horrible teacher. He was terrible. He was not a master of much of anything. But half of my curriculum were electives. I loved my electives. And my most favorite class of all wasn’t a credit class. This guy by name of Jay Featherstone, who was then a journalist with the New Republic, writing about education, started a non-credit seminar, where we read a book a week about education. And it was all the 60s guys. And he was a model of good teaching, ‘cause he believed, and said this, that a teacher’s job is to provoke a thoughtful conversation. And so, that’s what he would do. Frame a question or challenge, and sort of keep a few boundaries around the conversation.

 

And did you also later teach that way, as well?

 

I did; very much. Both those teachers very much influenced my own teaching style. I left there with a clear understanding that I was gonna teach, but I didn’t want to teach in a conventional high school. So, I found this small little alternative school within a school in a large public high school in suburban Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, that a group of students had started by walking out of their classes, saying: We want something more relevant. And the school kinda just shrugged its shoulders and said: We don’t know what to do with these kids. So, you know, somehow, they got my name, and they said: Well, let’s hire this guy Wagner and let’s see what he can do with them.

 

So, you had a reputation already.

 

You know, wrote and thought about, you know, wanting to transform education. By that time, I had a sense that education wasn’t working for large numbers of kids, I being one.

 

So, real world education now. I mean, then you have a chance to apply your own ideas.

 

Well, I don’t know how many ideas I had back then. I just knew that we needed to try to develop different models, and the only way I knew to do it was trial and error. And so, my job was to figure out how to engage them. And you know, it was the kind of problem I had as a learner. So, I began by just simply having a conference with a student; every single student, once every two weeks, fifteen-minute conference. And I’d take notes, and I’d simply say: What do you want to learn? You can do anything related to reading and writing. I can give you an English credit, I can give you a social studies credit, but you have to read and write. What do you want to read, what do you want to learn? And whatever they answered, I’d write it down, so I had a record. And you know, they’d come back two weeks later, and I’d say: Well, what’d you do? Uh … I didn’t do that. So, okay; I said: I’ll start over. Tell me something you want to work on, something you want to learn about, something you want to read, something you want to write. And I started a writing seminar, writer’s workshop somewhere, but I learned over five years about the importance of intrinsic motivation. I mean, I knew that in part from my own experience. But I learned that as a teacher, my job is to figure out what that spark is, that spark of curiosity, that desire to learn, that spark of the desire for self-expression, and to, you know, give it life, give it breath.

 

And did they all find what motivated them?

 

You know, nearly every kid did. I mean, it took some much, much longer, ‘cause they’d been more damaged. But what I found was, they knew I was gonna ask them the same question every two weeks, and I was gonna write down whatever they said, and I wasn’t going away.

 

After a decade as a high school teacher, Tony Wagner decided to move into administration, and became the principal of a K through 8 school. The job did not work out for Wagner, and after just two years, he and the school parted ways.

 

Cambridge Friends School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When I received the job offer, I was thirty-three years old. I had a decade of high school teaching experience, no elementary experience, no administrative experience. Total hubris on my part, to think that I could do this job. Disaster. Arguably, probably one of the hardest setbacks of my entire career. Not one of; it was. What was hard was that I heard the echoes of that English teacher from my first boarding school. The echoes of his voice: Wagner, you’re a screw-up. You’ve always been a screw-up, you’re always gonna be a screw-up. So, it was very difficult to overcome that. But I’d become very involved—this was now 1982, in this little group in the Boston area calling themselves Educators for Social Responsibility. There were twenty or thirty of us. And somebody said: You know, we ought to start a national organization. I said: Okay; I’ll do that.

Sheer hubris, again. But you know, I had a few months’ salary in the bank, I could take a risk. We had, you know, a box of index cards of people calling themselves members. Leslie, four years later, we had ten thousand members. We had a hundred and twenty-five chapters, and I had been on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, I’d been on the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour. I was really interested in our being the conscience of our profession. I mean, there was a schism within Educators for Social Responsibility. Some folks said: Want to go the barricades, want to sponsor demonstrations. I said: No, we’re gonna write curriculum, we’re gonna do teacher professional development; we’re gonna become the conscience of our profession about how to teach controversial issues in ways that are responsible.

 

Oh, that’s very much who you are now.

 

Yeah. So, you know, it was very much something that captivated me back then. And I started writing articles; I wrote a number of articles back then about different aspects of kind of developing this kind of idea. What is critical thinking, how do we teach it, how do we assess it. And along the way, I decided to throw an application in at the Harvard Ed School for a doctorate, ‘cause I didn’t know what I wanted to next, but I knew I wasn’t gonna run this organization forever. I didn’t want to do that.

 

Tony Wagner went on to earn a doctorate in education from Harvard University. He continued to write and publish about reimaging education. In this information and innovation era, he has keenly observed how the world has changed, and how schools and education have not adapted to the times. For the last fifteen years, Wagner has traveled extensively, both nationally and internationally, to share his observations and advice with fellow educators and institutions.

 

We no longer live in a knowledge economy. Knowledge is no longer the corner realm; it’s a commodity, growing exponentially, changing constantly, on every internet connected device. It’s like air, it’s like water. There’s no competitive advantage in knowing more than the person next to you, because Google knows everything. The world doesn’t care how much you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know. And that is a brand new and totally different education problem. There are a series of fundamental contradictions between what is required to succeed in the innovation era of an individual, and what school requires. Contradiction number one: schools are all about celebrating and rewarding individual achievement, aren’t they? Not the world of innovation. It’s all about teamwork; innovation is a team sport. The world of innovation is all about iteration; trial and error, rapid prototypes. World of school penalizes you for making any mistakes at all. So, you can’t make a mistake; you’ll get graded down for it, you’ll get the dreaded F-word. So, finally, the world of innovation is interdisciplinary. You can either study, understand, or solve any problem you can name, using a single academic discipline. But back in school, we’re using a compartmentalized system that’s a hundred and twenty-five years old. So, there are a series of very fundamental contradictions between the traditional cultural of schooling, which is a century and a half old almost, and the new culture, and the skills required. ‘Cause they’re the same; the skills you need for learning, for citizenship, and for work have converged for the first time in human history.

 

When would you say that happened?

 

Just in the last twenty years. That’s what’s so extraordinary. And living in the midst of rapid change, we can’t see it. I mean, that’s in a sense all I’ve tried to do in my books, is try to chronicle kind of this is what’s happening in the world, and here are some things we might want to consider as parents, as educators, as community leaders. You know, the problem with the last decade of education reform is that it’s been on the necks of educators. We’ve been blaming teachers. The theory of change, Leslie, is that teachers aren’t working hard enough, so if we make them accountable for improving test scores, that’s surely gonna make them work harder, and that’s gonna solve the problem. Well, that’s ridiculous. The world had changed; that’s not our fault. The education system hasn’t; that’s not our fault. But it is our responsibility. Change is scary, it feels risky. Not changing is also risky, only in that case, it’s our kids who are at risk. So, that’s the context I try to explain. This is not anybody’s fault, but it’s a different world. We don’t have a knowledge economy anymore; we have an innovation economy requiring completely different things from kids.

 

Where do we stand now?

 

We desperately need leadership, and I think that’s where this state has a real opportunity. We need leaders at the top who can clearly say: These are the competencies that matter most in the innovation era. Getting into a good school may be nice and fun, but it’s not gonna be a guarantee of a good job. Schools aren’t failing; they’re obsolete. They don’t need reforming; they need reimagining.

 

Even if leading educators advocate this, there are citizens that are gonna say, no.

 

Well, this is what I meant by community leadership. So, on Thursday, a group of community leaders from all over the state, from all these different sectors, are coming together at the Bishop Museum to talk about, what’s the knowledge, what are the skills, what are the dispositions that our high school graduates need to thrive in the future. That’s unprecedented.

 

And what is your answer to that? What do they need?

 

Well, first of all, I think it’s a community decision. The answer in Hawai‘i is gonna be very different than perhaps the answer in Detroit. There will be some similarities. I can tell you virtually everybody will talk about some version of critical thinking, collaboration, communication skills, and creative problem solving, as well as the disposition of perseverance, tenacity, and having a good character. That’s universal. But you know, in Hawai‘i, it’s all about the Aloha Spirit, it’s all about the sense of home. In Detroit, it’s all about conflict resolution. I can tell you. So, in different communities, there’s gonna be a different emphasis. But what’s important is that we first identify what does it mean to be a high school graduate in the 21st century. Let’s create a high school diploma as a certificate of mastery, not a certificate of seat time served. And then, let’s create the assessments and accountability systems that align with those new outcomes. That’s the really good work that Hawai‘i can and should be doing right now.

 

At the time of this conversation in early 2018, Dr. Wagner was completing a week-long trip to Hawai‘i, talking with both private and public institutions about education in the innovation era. Mahalo to author Tony Wagner of Cambridge, Massachusetts and Sandwich, New Hampshire. And thank you for joining us for this edition of Long Story Short on PBS Hawai‘i. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

I don’t like the F-word. I don’t want to see the word fail, ever again in school. It’s iterate. We learn through trial and error. How do we learn to talk? How do we learn to walk? What if we said to a kid: I’m sorry, you can never bicycle, ‘cause we know you’re gonna fall and skin your knee. Trial and error is how we learn the most important things we learn. And the sooner we recognize that as intrinsic to education, the better we’re gonna be.

 

 

SUPERNATURE – WILD FLYERS
Masters of the Sky

 

Explore the wonder and science of one of nature’s greatest innovations – the power of flight. Cutting-edge camera technology and computer-generated graphics help explain airborne animals’ remarkable powers and how they work.

 

Masters of the Sky
Many animals take to the skies for a split second, but to stay there, the planet’s strongest flyers push the laws of physics to the limit. Explore the extremes of true flight: power, acceleration, top speed, maneuverability and endurance.

 

SUPERNATURE – WILD FLYERS
Crowded Skies

 

Explore the wonder and science of one of nature’s greatest innovations – the power of flight. Cutting-edge camera technology and computer-generated graphics help explain airborne animals’ remarkable powers and how they work.

 

Crowded Skies
The sky is a crowded world where mammals, birds and insects hunt, escape, mate, defend territory, sleep and even die on the wing. Survival up there depends not just on beating gravity and mastering flight, but also out-flying the competition.

 

SUPERNATURE – WILD FLYERS
Defying Gravity

 

Explore the wonder and science of one of nature’s greatest innovations – the power of flight. Cutting-edge camera technology and computer-generated graphics help explain airborne animals’ remarkable powers and how they work.

 

Defying Gravity
Discover the basic principles of flight to see how animals become airborne in the first place.

 

NATURE
Charlie and the Curious Otters

 

Filmmaker Charlie Hamilton James follows the story of three curious river otter orphans in Wisconsin and visits otters all over the globe. Join him as he uncovers the secrets to the otter’s survival with innovative experiments, cameras and CGI.

 

CRAFT IN AMERICA
Nature

 

This edition celebrates the beauty, inspiration and future of the American landscape. Working with wood, glass and fiber as well as new materials, the artists profiled challenge viewers to reassess their relationship to the natural world. Throughout history, the colors, textures, shapes, as well as scents and tastes of the physical world have inspired artists to produce works of astonishing dimension and power. Featured artists include Patrick Dougherty, Mary Merkel-Hess, Michelle Holzapfel, Catherine Alice Michaelis and Preston Singletary.

 

AMERICAN MASTERS
Alice Waters

 

Discover how Alice Waters, who, with her cafe Chez Panisse, became a force behind the way Americans eat and think about food, launching the explosion of local farmers’ markets and the edible schoolyard.

 

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