Benchmarking History Programs: University of Hawaii

Robert Kajiwara is a PhD in History student at Liberty University. He has an MA in History from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and a BA in History, Asia/Pacific focus, from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

This article was written in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the PhD in History at Liberty University.

Benchmarking History Programs:

The University of Hawaii at Manoa v. UCLA

This article will provide a brief overview of the benchmarks and educational practices of the history department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) as well as a comparative analysis with its cross-ocean rival, UCLA. The purpose of this short analysis is to gain better insight into history education at the university level, and UHM, being the only R1 university in the South Pacific Ocean, provides an interesting model to evaluate how effective universities are at teaching non-Western histories, which is something that the American Historical Society has stated should be improved.1 UCLA consistently ranks as one of the top universities in the world, while the University of Hawaii history department prides itself on being strong in the teaching of Asian and Pacific Island histories, in addition to American and European history.2

The Department of History at UHM uses as its motto the Hawaiian saying, I ka wa ma mua, ka wa ma hope; “The future is guided by the past.” The department offers a BA in History, with focuses in American, European, Asia/Pacific, and Comparative/World history, respectively. Regardless of ones chosen focus, a variety of history courses for each area are required for a major. At the undergraduate level there are four Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) that the department sets: 1) Students can explain historical change and continuity, 2) Students can write clear expository prose and orally present their ideas according to disciplinary conventions, 3) Students can identify, interpret and evaluate primary sources and other relevant information, 4) Students can identify the main historiographical issues in a specific area of concentration.3 The SLOs are scheduled in such a way as to allow an introduction to non-majors, some practice to minors, and mastery to majors. A historiography as well as a thesis course are required for majors.

While the department, as well as the university as a whole, has made some progress in moving away from a Western-dominated focus of study in its programs, there remains more to be desired. The majority of the faculty in the history department are not Hawaiian, and do not have local ties to the Hawaiian Islands. An introductory Hawaiian Studies course is required for all degrees offered in the UH system, though it should be noted that this course is offered not through the history department, but through the School of Hawaiian Knowledge, a separate school that was formed specifically to advance the teaching of Hawaiian issues as a result of decades of efforts by Hawaiian educators and community leaders.

The School of Hawaiian Knowledge remains something of a separate entity of the University of Hawaii in spirit. The physical location of the School is somewhat removed from the main campus of the University, several blocks away – a reminder that the School was a distant afterthought for the University. Even more importantly, the values of the University sometimes conflict with the values of the School, such as in the case of the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea, a move which the School of Hawaiian Knowledge, as well as Hawaiians in general, have condemned. The leaders of the University of Hawaii, including President David Lassner, claim to support Hawaiian rights and issues, yet are the chief proponents of the TMT project and have drawn intense criticism from the Hawaiian community at large, including from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. This notable discrepancy between what the University claims its values are, versus what they are in practice, is as stark as the contrast between the University administration and the School of Hawaiian Knowledge.

UCLA requires a similar variety of history courses for its majors compared with UH, requiring two American history courses, two European history courses, and two non-Western history courses. UCLA offers a larger variety of courses than UHM, as well as course-field emphasis in the fields of Atlantic history (between the Americas, Europe, and Africa), and Women, Men, and Sexual history. In terms of Asian histories, UCLA is roughly on-par with UHM. Regarding overall course diversity, the undergraduate history program at UCLA is comparable to that of UHM, which is to say it has some amount of non-Western course offerings, though is still heavily focused on European and U.S. histories. The principle difference is that UHM is based in the Pacific, while UCLA is based in California. UHM should be expected to have a wider array of Asia and Pacific histories due to its geographical location, as well as due to the majority-Asian population of its region.

Though UCLA is by far the larger, more reputable and well-known university, when it comes to Pacific Island studies, UHM offers more specialization at the undergraduate level. Nevertheless UHM has a long way to go before it can truly claim to be a university that represents the people of the Hawaiian Islands and Hawaiian issues. It is necessary for UHM to hire more faculty and administrators who understand Hawaiian issues in order for the institution to live up to its claims and ideals.


American Historical Society. “History in the Colleges.” Retrieved 22 October 2019 from:

Lukacs, John. The Future of History. Yale University Press. 2011.

UCLA College of Social Sciences History. Retrieved 22 October 2019 from:

University of Hawaii at Manoa Department of History.

“Home Page.” Retrieved 22 October 2019 from:

“Undergraduate SLO’s.” 28 September 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2019 from:

2University of Hawaii at Manoa Department of History. “Home Page.” Retrieved 22 October 2019 from:

3University of Hawaii at Manoa Department of History. 28 September 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2019 from:

Why we can’t “share the Mauna”

Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 5.53.33 PM.png
Photo from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, July 20, 2019

By Robert Kajiwara

In response to the outpouring of organic support in favor of protecting Mauna Kea and stopping the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), the TMT project has recently begun airing a paid advertisement on both television and radio.

One of the biggest problems with the ad campaign is its attempt to convince the public that the Mauna is big enough for everybody to share.

Imagine for a moment that an armed thief broke into your home, held you and your family hostage, and insisted that he was going to occupy your house from now on. The thief says you and your family can stay in a small corner of the house, but that he and his gang are going to do with the house as they please. When you resist, the thief says that “the house is big enough for all of us to share.”

What would your response be? Would you agree with the thief, and say “yes, let’s share the house?”

Any sensible person would scoff at this scenario, for a thief has no right to “share” a house that he stole. Rather, the thief must return the house to its rightful owners, pay for damages, and then immediately vacate the premise. So too should the United States do with the Hawaiian Islands.

Contrary to popular belief, the United States does not have any legal claim to any part of Hawaii. In 1893 the U.S. participated in an armed invasion of the peaceful and friendly country known as the Hawaiian Kingdom, which began their long illegal occupation of the country that has lasted for the past 121 years. Under both international law, as well as the United States’ own law, territory can only be acquired by a treaty of annexation, of which there is none in the case of Hawaii.

Without a proper treaty of annexation, the United States has no rightful or legal claim to the Hawaiian Islands. This was acknowledged by many Americans at the time, including President Grover Cleveland, who insisted that the U.S. had committed an illegal and immoral crime against a friendly nation, and that the U.S. should immediately leave Hawaii. Unfortunately President Cleveland’s term in office expired, and the imperialist William McKinley took office, ignoring the legalities of the situation, and turning America down a path of overseas colonization and imperialism. This would cause the U.S. to be involved in many regime-change schemes and wars, from the Spanish-American War, to World War II, and lasting to the present day with the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the landmark Lance Paul Larsen vs. the Hawaiian Kingdom case in 2001 the Permanent Court of Arbitration indicated that the Hawaiian Kingdom still retains legal standing as the government of the Hawaiian Islands. In 2018 United Nations independent expert Dr. Alfred de Zayas stated that Hawaii is an independent country and should be recognized as such. The United States government itself confessed to its sins in the 1993 Apology Resolution, though it did not offer any remedies.

Thus the issue regarding Mauna Kea and the TMT has never been about room or space, though this does not change the fact that the TMT would have an enormous footprint on the sacred mountain. The issue is about jurisdiction. The United States does not have the lawful jurisdiction or the moral right to build anything in the Hawaiian Islands, and certainly not on highly sacred land such as Mauna Kea. Only the Hawaiian Kingdom, a constitutional monarchy with officials elected by and for it subjects, retains the lawful right to decide on behalf of Hawaiian nationals what gets built in Hawaii.

This information is not new – Hawaiian nationals have been saying these things since 1893. It just so happens that with all of the commotion surrounding Mauna Kea that these issues have been receiving more attention among the general public.

The United States should immediately return the entirety of the Hawaiian Islands to the Hawaiian Kingdom government, pay full reparations for the damages they have caused over the course of the long 126 year incursion and occupation, and vacate the Hawaiian Islands. This is the only way the U.S. can atone for its crimes and truly become a peaceful, democratic nation. How can America claim to be a land of the free and home of the brave, a country of liberty and democracy, if there remains a major ongoing crime against a peaceful and sovereign nation?

This is also the only way Hawaii can regain its proper place as a world-class nation, how Hawaiians can heal, and how all of the local people of Hawaii can prosper.

For more information about what an independent Hawaii would look like, please visit



Robert Kajiwara is a Ryukyuan (Okinawan), Nahua Hawaiian singer-songwriter, writer, and baseball player. He has been featured in over 60 news and media publications in more than 15 countries, including The Associated PressBBC WorldThe South China Morning PostJapan Times, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and many others. He is president of the Peace For Okinawa Coalition and a Special Envoy of Ke Aupuni O Hawaii (the Hawaiian Kingdom) to the Lewchew Islands (Ryukyu) and China. Kajiwara has spoken at numerous venues, including the United Nations, the United States Capitol Hill, the Japan Diet, Yale University, Okinawa International University, University of the Ryukyus, and many more. For more information, please see his website,

Ph.D. in History – Liberty University (in progress, 2022 expected graduation date)
M.A. in History – University of Nebraska at Kearney (2019)
B.A. in History – University of Hawaii at Manoa (2015)
A.A. in Teaching – Leeward Community College (2014)

Published Writings:
Occupied Okinawa: The United States of America and Japan’s Desecration of Okinawa’s Democracy and Environment (2019)
Ryukyu – Okinawa Impressionism (2018)

Hawaii’s Police Should Follow Okinawa’s Example

Police at Mauna Kea TMT
Police at Mauna Kea Photo from of Hawaii News Now

As the issues surrounding Mauna Kea rage on, Hawaii’s police have been put in a difficult position. Many of them feel it is wrong for them to forcefully remove and arrest Hawaiian protectors of the Mauna, especially the kupuna. Yet they also have families to provide for and can’t risk losing their job.

So what should Hawaii’s police do?

They might want to look at Okinawa as an example.

In Okinawa, which is experiencing something very similar surrounding the construction of a military base at Henoko, the Okinawan police were put in almost the exact same situation. They were ordered to forcefully remove, harass, and arrest Okinawa’s peace and environmental protectors, the majority of whom are elderly.

How did they respond?

The Okinawan police ended up siding with Okinawa’s protectors, refusing to lay a hand on them. Because the Okinawan police force did this as a whole, none of them (to the best of my knowledge) lost their jobs or were punished.

Instead, Prime Minister of Japan sent in Japanese police, who have brutally mistreated the Okinawan protectors.

But that’s besides the point.

The point is, Okinawa’s police refused to harm the Okinawan peace protectors. They did the right thing, and it forced the Government of Japan to further demonstrate their human rights violations, prejudice, and discrimination against indigenous Okinawans. And the Okinawan police were even able to keep their jobs.

Now Hawaii’s police have a choice to make. If they make their choice in unison not to harm Hawaii’s protectors, they may be able to keep perform their kuleana for Hawaii and their kupuna, while also keeping their jobs safe.