This flag that now waves o’er our school
Protecting weak and strong
Is the flag that vindicates the right
And punishes the wrong
The John Dewey Society grew out of a series of discussions held in 1934 and early 1935 among 60 or so educators who wanted to found a society to “encourage in every way possible and itself conduct scholarly and scientific investigations of the relations of school and society, with particular reference to the place and function of education in the process of social change.”
Originally called “The Association for the Study of Education in its Social Aspects,” the name was changed to the John Dewey Society in early 1936. The new society was named for John Dewey because the founders felt that in his life and work he represented the soundest and most hopeful approach to the study of the problems of education.
“For more than a generation he has proclaimed the social nature of the educative process and emphasized the close interdependence of school and society.”
“Presumably, without being bound by his philosophy, the John Dewey Society will work out of the tradition which John Dewey has done more than any other person to create. Such an organization is badly needed in America today.” (The Social Frontier, 1936; John Dewey Society)
Hawai‘i’s Department of Public Instruction launched its most ambitious venture in progressive education in the fall of 1927, when its Division of Research decided to create a ‘laboratory school’ to serve as an experimental model for the Territory. (Forbes)
The former Fort Street School was selected for the site for the laboratory school within the Territorial Department of Public Instruction, and renamed the Kawānanakoa Experimental School. (Legislature)
George E Axtelle was a philosopher of education who is best known as the first editor of the Collected Works of John Dewey and president of the executive committee of the John Dewey Society.
What is less known is that Axtelle served from 1927 as the principal of Kawānanakoa Experimental School in Hawai‘i, tasked with the job of implementing and promoting progressive teaching methods and curriculum.
The experiment had mixed results; yet, in spite of the challenges in encouraging teachers to embrace the demands placed on them by Dewey’s pedagogy the Kawānanakoa experiment did achieve results in moving teachers away from methods based on routine instruction and memorization drills. (UH)
The Kawānanakoa Experimental School was explicitly conceived as a proving-ground of Deweyite principles. According to the official DPI publication on the school, Kawānanakoa was dedicated to the only form of “education worthy of the name… character education.”
While asserting that “Kawānanakoa does not belittle the importance of subject matter,” school officials viewed traditional subjects merely as a “means to an end,” the end being the development of the three aspects of the students’ “social or character objectives, namely intelligence, democracy, and art.”
Moving away from methods based on routine instruction and memorization drills, teachers were expected to constantly evaluate the effectiveness of their work in promoting Health, Initiative, Responsibility, Whole Heartedness, Cooperation, and Open Mindedness. (Forbes)
“In the middle forties the anthropologist, John Embree, and (Bernard Hormann) expressed themselves on the subject of pidgin, advocating a more permissive approach to the local dialect in the teaching of standard English.”
“In reviewing acquaintances this summer with George Axtelle, who was principal of Kawananakoa Experimental School in the late 20’s I was reminded by him how the school had succeeded in overcoming the classroom diffidence of Hawai‘i’s youth which today still worries educators.”
“’When people asked me how I got pupils to talk freely, I explained that my teachers encouraged the children to talk when they had something interesting to say, and did not inhibit them by constantly calling attention to their errors.’” (Hormann)
“In 1928, a teacher from Oklahoma was deeply moved at his first assembly recitation as little Nisei boys seriously recalled our Pilgrim forefathers. Each morning’s flag-raising was conducted as an elaborate pageant involving a color guard, drummer, and four students who recited patriotic verses at various points in the ceremony.
The final speaker concluded with the following lines: “This flag that now waves o’er our school, Protecting weak and strong, Is the flag that vindicates the right, And punishes the wrong.”
Among the students who participated in such school ceremonies was Hiram Fong, later Hawaii’s first Senator. According to Fong s biographer, Michael Chou, “Patriotism as taught in the public school system made a profound and lasting effect upon Fong and his contemporaries.”
“Much of the change, from the plantation mentality and the overthrow of the rule of the Republican oligarchy can be traced back to the teaching of American civics and government in the schools of the Territory. Such patriotic ceremonies helped to instill a sense of self-worth in children, like Fong, often so poor that their clothes consisted of “hand-me-downs made from rice bags.” (Forbes)
Kawānanakoa School was built in 1927, in the ahupua’a of Honolulu. The ahupua‘a runs from the Nuʻuanu Pali to Honolulu Harbor and is flanked on the west by Alewa Heights with Pauoa to the east. KMS sits at the foot of the Pali Highway, just mauka of downtown Honolulu. (kilohanahonua)
In 1940, the school was officially changed to Kawānanakoa Intermediate School and served 1,050 students in grades 7 through 9. In 1998, the name changed to Kawānanakoa Middle School.
Currently, the school serves students from grades 6 through 8 with an enrollment of approximately 800 students. (It was named for Prince David Laʻamea Kahalepouli Kinoiki Kawānanakoa, brother of Prince Kūhiō.)