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Segregation by language

Aloha e,

You may be familiar with the history of racial segregation of schools that was practiced on the Continent and the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1954, Brown v. Board of Education, that found the practice unconstitutional. Hawai`i residents, unless of a certain age, are probably unaware that for years Hawai`i schools were segregated, not by race, but by language! In 1924, the Department of Public Instruction created a system of English standard schools in Hawai`i. This decision was the result of pressure by the Haole elite, who felt that their children’s education would suffer if they were instructed in classrooms with local children for whom English was not their first language. This objective was coupled with the desire that their children would learn “American rather than Asian values”.

From the very beginning there was opposition to this “undemocratic” system, opposition that would grow and that finally resulted in the end of English standard schools in in 1960. In an appearance on the Rice & Roses television show, hosted by Max Roffman (circa 1978), AQ observes that the labor movement helped mobilize support in opposition to the English standard school system:

For an excellent overview of this history see the 1993 paper by Judith Hughes, The Demise of the English Standard School System in Hawai`i.

AQ felt that a strong, united labor movement had the ability to address issues benefitting the entire community, not just narrow issues of wages and working conditions. Our documentary about AQ, The Struggle Never Ends, will utilize our substantial film and video archive and feature: AQ, her rank and file brothers and sisters, academics, and political figures.

We hope you will share the website: www.laborhistoryhawaii.org , with your family and friends to create widespread awareness of the Ah Quon McElrath Project. Each month we share an excerpt from the archive, a mini-documentary , featuring Hawai`i history. Check it out and pass it on!

Mahalo Nui Loa,

Chris Conybeare,

Executive Producer

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