Ethnic Studies Department

Ethnic Studies Faculty

Ethnic Studies > Faculty

Noel Kent, Ph.D Political Science
Faculty
Office Location: George Hall 338
Phone Number: 956-6963
Fax Number: 956-9494
Email: noelk@hawaii.edu

Background:

A New Yorker by upbringing, I have been around UH Manoa so long that there are vague memories of once glimpsing a brontosaurus (or was it a stegosaurus?) on the campus mall. I continue to view the university as that all-too-rare place where intellectual and personal growth and transformation are possible, where human creativity and discovery can be actively nurtured. Over the years, the realization has dawned on me that most of what I really do of value at UHM is engaging students in the life of the mind and their becoming independent, intelligent, caring people. This university has been good to me. I am profoundly grateful to it for providing me with an intellectual home (not to mention the ability to support my family). All of this encourages me to critique the university administration when I think its policies are misguided (a not infrequent occurrence). In 2010, I am especially concerned about the ongoing budget crisis being used by our overpaid administrators as an excuse to cut more faculty and student classes, raise tuition dramatically and undermine liberal education. I like to think of myself (is this too pompous sounding?) as a "public intellectual" with a history going back to the Sixties of being involved in struggles for greater democracy and social justice. I am somewhat politically active in Hawai'i, testify on issues before thelegislature, work with pro-union and community groups and campaigned for John Kerry in '04 and Barack Obama in '08 in the swing state of Ohio (which was itself a real education).

Teaching:

I enjoy teaching and regard it as a craft needing constant attention and re-imagining. My orientation (thanks to the privilege of teaching 300 and 400-level courses with enrollments of around 15-25 students) is towards highly interactive classroom dynamics utilizing lectures, films, problem solving in small groups, role playing etc. The goals are to enhance literacy, problem solving, critical thinking and team working skills but also to create a sense of a community of learners engaged in common endeavor. l also consider it vital that students learn to understand the importance of historical and other contexts and make connections between various kinds of disparate social phenomena and information. The mantras (to steal from the realtor set) are “context, context, context” and “making connections, connections, connections.” The ideal classroom features a modicum of rigor, intimacy, relevance to the lives all participants and mutual respect. I try to conduct a class in the spirit of both free inquiry and respect for all participants and viewpoints.

A definite strength of the courses I teach is the service learning commitment required of all students. In their journals and evaluations, students discuss their work in homeless shelters, public housing computer centers, with immigrants seeking naturalization, with high school students "greening" their schools, as wonderfully educational and spiritually uplifting. Old stereotypes get discarded for more complex realities. There is a larger sense of the complexity of our world So I've become something of a “true-believer” in the efficacy of community- based education in melding theory and practice (praxis) in university classes. Over the last decade or so, we have partnered with teachers in two Honolulu high schools in offering "Project Citizen" programs which aim to immerse students in issues of relevance to them which they can actively analyze and impact. I had a wonderful opportunity during the summer of 2007 to do a resident directorship in Mendoza, Argentina, his first journey to South America. It was marvelous and I really came to appreciate the graciousness and gutsy stoicism of Argentines who have a difficult historical legacy to overcome. In the fall of 2010, I did a semester teaching Study Abroad in Paris, which expanded my own horizons.

Course Syllabi:

Advising:

At this (late) stage of my career, mentorship is very important to me and I am involved in counseling any and all students who might be interested in talking with me. I would enjoy doing more of this. I especially enjoy talking with the leaders and students in the Freshman Seminar classes I supervise.

Research:

My interest is in interdisciplinary scholarship in both the social sciences and history with a special focus in the areas of ethnic and race relations and conflict, contemporary U.S. history and the dynamics of globalization and social movements. A book, America In 1900 (M.L. Sharp, 2000) explored the U.S. at the turn of the twentieth century focusing on economic and political inequalities, racial/ethnic divisions and American global expansionism. My more recent writing has been in analyzing racism in the American university, and exploring the power of service learning for university students. The current project is studying the year 1965, a critical year in the evolution of the civil rights movement, the buildup for the Vietnam War and the developing youth movement(s). I would hope to make this year come alive for a variety of readers. One focus is the domestic and foreign policy decisions made by the Johnson administration and their impact for the future of the United States. Another is the splintering of the civil rights/Great Society coalition at its moment of greatest triumph. I am also attempting to answer the question of how the events and decisions made in long ago '65 impact us today. I am writing a series of articles around this topic. In the future, I should like to research other areas of U.S. history and ethnic/race conflict.

Interest(s):

"An aged man is but a paltry thing" A tattered coast upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing" W.B. Yeats Sailing to Byzantium

My main enjoyments are reading, bicycling, swimming, walking my dog, films, hiking, and sharing life with family, friends, and students. The prognosis for our species does not seem bright and I fight the easy inclinations to denial, to depression, to give up. I will try to do whatever one can (within my modest abilities and means) towards stopping our destructive trajectory. Meanwhile, the notion of trying to live each day as well as I can, with a little wonder and some humor and generosity of spirit sounds about right for now.

 

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