Education: Much Pilikia, Many Huhu

In a blacksmithing class, the teacher watched one Hawaiian boy vigorously whaling away at cold metal. Then he asked: "Why don't you heat it, Joe?" Replied exhausted, exasperated Joe: "Heet it? I heet it so hard, I bust my arm."

For two generations, Hawaii's teachers have struggled to make their students learn English, and haven't succeeded yet. Most of Hawaii's polyglot population—Hawaiians, Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, Puerto Ricans—prefer pidgin English, the nearest thing to a common language in the Islands.

In easygoing pidgin, one word does the work of 20, a shrug or grimace the work of ten. It ranges from the simple...

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