Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Investigating the Educational Foundations of Doe versus Kamehameha Schools Lawsuit, 1887-2007

Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Investigating the Educational Foundations of Doe versus Kamehameha Schools Lawsuit, 1887-2007

Article excerpt


Today the Kamehameha Schools are widely known for excellent education. In part this is due to the almost $9 billion dollar value of the Bishop Estate that funds and controls the schools. Unfortunately, its success has led to non-Hawaiians challenging its admissions policy, which has since its inception been based upon admitting Native Hawaiian students by preference. In June 2003, on the behalf of an unnamed non-Native Hawaiian student, identified only as John Doe, a civil-rights lawsuit disputing Kamehameha's admissions policy was filed.

The Doe versus Kamehameha Schools lawsuit, which challenged the Kamehameha Schools' admission policy, is just the most recent of a history of educational controversies surrounding the Kamehameha Schools. Since all previous controversies relate to the policies at the Kamehameha Schools, involving educating an historically disadvantaged group, this investigation demonstrates the connectivity of the controversies to issues of White supremacy, subordination of People of Color, and the myth of American meritocracy. This study relies on the Critical Race Theory (CRT) to achieve its purpose.

CRT involves examining "the entire edifice of contemporary legal thought and doctrine from the viewpoint of law's role in the construction and maintenance of social domination and subordination" (Grenshaw, Gotunda, Peller, & Thomas, 1995, p. xi). One aspect of CRT that is pertinent to this study is its assertion that White supremacists in their efforts to continue the subordination of People of Color have re-designed the meaning of equality in order to maintain their power in America. White supremacists have developed tactics based upon an ideology of equal opportunity and American meritocracy. CRT advocates believe in the "absolute centricity of history and context in any attempt to theorize the relationship between race and legal discourse" (Grenshaw et al., 1995, p. xxiv). CRT is concerned with "theoretical accounts of racial power that explain legal and political decisions which are adverse to People of Color as mere reflections of underlying White interest" (Grenshaw et al., 1995, p. xxiv). Finally, CRT asserts that White supremacists appeal to color blindness in order to create an ideological strategy that obscures efforts to redress historical acts of discrimination in order to sustain hierarchies of racial power (Grenshaw et al., 1995).

In order to provide the educational foundations for this controversy, this article investigates curriculum, admissions, and discrimination controversies involving the Kamehameha Schools from its inception in 1887 through the Doe versus Kamehameha Schools lawsuit, which was settled in May 2007. The earliest controversies centered on the curriculum of the Schools. The Kamehameha Schools were founded as manual training schools during the latter two decades of the nineteenth century (Beyer, 2007). As such, the curriculum was designed to prepare its students for employment, not advanced studies; it was often debated whether this was the best curriculum for Native Hawaiians. Due to the fact that the Kamehameha Schools were founded at a time when Christianizing and "civilizing" Hawaiians was still a major goal of schools for Hawaiians, religion and religious education were important to founders of the schools. Consequently, the policy that all employees of the Kamehameha Schools and members of the Board of Trustees had to be Protestant Christians led to controversies charging the Kamehameha Schools with discriminating against non-Protestant Christians. The one controversy, however, that continuously re-appeared throughout the entire history of the schools was the admissions policy.

This article is divided into four other sections. The first section deals with establishing the Kamehameha Schools, which includes establishing the impetus for founding the schools as manual training schools, the will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, and the operation of the schools. …

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