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PACE Commission Elevating Civic Education and Engagement in Hawaiʻi Schools and in the Community

Posted on Dec 6, 2023 in News & Reports, Press Releases

HONOLULU – The Commission to Promote and Advance Civic Education (PACE), established by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court in 2021, is making significant progress in carrying out its mission to promote civic education and engagement to those of all ages across the state.

Following Gov. Josh Green’s proclamation declaring November 2023 Civics Awareness Month, the PACE Commission spearheaded the launch of a number of initiatives. The Commission, in collaboration with the Judiciary, University of Hawai‘i William S. Richardson School of Law, Hawaii State Bar Association, Hawai‘i State Department of Education (DOE), Hawai‘i Association of Independent Schools (HAIS), and the American Judicature Society (AJS), has moved civic education and engagement to the front burner.

“At a time when there has been growing concerns about government, low voter turnout, and divided communities across our nation, civic education has become even more urgent and relevant,” said Chief Judge Lisa Ginoza, chair of the PACE Commission. “Civic education is a way to re-engage the community, empower every citizen, and restore faith in democracy so that everyone can play an active role in shaping the future of our state and nation. Indeed, with the passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a champion for civic education who founded iCivics – a national entity dedicated to civics – we are reminded that each generation must take up the cause of civic education.”

Rep. Amy Perruso, Vice-Chair of the PACE Commission, added: “Education is a core responsibility of our public education system, and we need to invest in this work throughout our system from pre-K to university, so that our young people are prepared to work collaboratively with others, to problem- solve to address community issues, and to develop the capacity to govern democratically, with aloha. These are all skills that have to be developed, and it is our responsibility to make sure there is adequate support for these efforts.”

Civic Education Speakers Bureau
Judges and attorneys are serving as guest speakers at the Judiciary History Center at Ali‘iōlani Hale, home of the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, and in schools. They are reaching out to hundreds of students as young as the third grade as well as those in middle schools and at universities.

One group that has started to regularly bring students to the Judiciary History Center is the Hawaii National Guard’s Youth Challenge Academy. Coordinated through Family Court Judge Brian Costa, the Academy has brought 60-70 students each time to meet judges, attorneys and others to learn about the court system and the judiciary.

Attorneys also spoke to 500 sixth graders over two days at the pilot Constitution Day at ʻEwa Makai Middle School, one of O‘ahu’s largest and fastest-growing school districts. The school has already invited them back to speak in May 2024. Poignantly, the school is just blocks away from the Honoʻuli‘uli concentration camp, where Japanese Americans living in Hawai‘i during World War II were placed for internment.

Civics Education Survey
The PACE Commission, in partnership with the DOE and HAIS, is conducting a comprehensive survey to capture perspectives from educators at the forefront of civic education in Hawai‘i’s public schools, public charter schools, and independent schools. Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald and DOE Superintendent Keith Hayashi created a joint video underscoring the importance of gathering information about civic education in our state and encouraging educators to participate in the survey. The results of the survey will help to better determine the challenges of educators and administrators, and identify ways to elevate civic education in Hawai‘i and create a more vibrant civic education experience for all students.

Hawaiʻi Schools of Democracy
The Commission, in collaboration with the DOE, is also supporting the innovative Hawai‘i Schools of Democracy (HISOD) initiative. This program recognizes Hawai‘i high schools that are committed to preparing students not only for academic and professional endeavors, but also for active civic participation. To be recognized, high schools must 1) provide diverse learning experiences that foster civic understanding, critical thinking, and community engagement; 2) cultivate an organizational culture that prioritizes student agency in shaping their learning experiences across various content areas; and 3) emphasize the ideals of the Aloha Spirit law and the tenets of Nā Hopena A’o, the DOE’s core values.

Career and Technical Education Partnership
The Commission also celebrates its partners in advancing civic education. The Judiciary History Center is partnering with the DOEʻs Career and Technical Education (CTE) program to conduct a workshop for teachers in the Law and Public Safety Pathway. The Law and Public Safety Pathway is for students interested in planning, management, legal aid, public safety, protective services, and security. As part of the event, teachers will observe court proceedings at Kaʻahumanu Hale and have opportunities to speak with judges and attorneys.

Civics Outreach
Next year, the American Judicature Society, which promotes judicial independence, is launching a grant-funded initiative with the PACE Commission in support of civic engagement and community outreach.

 

For more information, contact the Communications and Community Relations Office at 808-539-4909 or via email at pao@courts.hawaii.gov.

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