Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why Gridiron-to-School Pipeline?

Football for Polynesians is not only a sport, but a way of life. The player is not the only one who journeys through the sport. As family being the central concept of Polynesian life, football has been adopted into their cultures to obtain social mobility, capital gain and educational attainment. However, I am aware of the stereotypes football has created for Polynesian males, but what I am proposing is to use football as a tool for Polynesian males to obtain and sustain an education.  I am also proposing the same for Polynesian females in the sports they engage in. Sports should be viewed as resource in obtaining education, despite the stereotypes. Football allows for Polynesians to obtain social positions where their voices can be heard. Football also provides opportunities for Polynesians to be in position to challenge inequalities specific to their culture and create pipelines other than sports. For this is why the gridiron to school pipeline challenges and is an alternative for keeping Polynesian males out of the school to prison pipeline.

Gridiron-to-School Pipeline

Sports have served as a vehicle for steering Polynesian youth from the school to prison pipeline. For females sports like volleyball, softball and basketball have been the greatest impact. For males it has been American football, rugby and boxing. Sports have not only provided a pathway to success in school, but also provide spaces where their identities can be expressed without resentment and their cultures valued. In the state of Utah it is not uncommon to view sports rosters across high school and collegiate teams and find Polynesian names or players. For example, this year 28 Division 1 college football scholarships were given to Utah players with 18 of those to Polynesian players (Goldman, n.d.). I will specifically look at football and the success Polynesian males have found socially and academically. American football is a recent phenomenon in Polynesian communities. Despite football being prevalent in American culture Polynesians have adopted the sport and embraced it. With the recent exposure to the sport, Polynesians have gained a great amount of success on all levels of the game. Many football critiques and scholars attribute the success of Polynesians to their physical features and abilities. To be a successful player there are distinct attributes applied to specific positions. The attributes that are associated as natural abilities for Polynesians are size, strength, explosiveness and quickness. Due to these attributes football coaches and recruiters have great interest for Polynesian players.  Another aspect that contributes to success for Polynesians in football is cultural similarities. I would like to apply the framework of Gloria Landson-Billings culturally relevant pedagogy as a platform to describe how Polynesian and football cultures have similarities. Cultural relevant pedagogy is a form of teaching practices that consist of the educator accompanying aspects of student’s culture and identity with the traditional school curriculum as a method to produce an alternative way of learning for diverse student populations. Football offers this approach for Polynesian male students. In Polynesian cultures family is central.  The family is put before the individual, which creates respect, love, sacrifice, selflessness, passion, pride and loyalty. These are also central emotions and perceptions asked by a football coach from his players. Polynesian culture, like football needs a brotherhood type environment.  Many Polynesian male athletes associate football with school. With football being central to their education, this promotes motivation to do well in school to remain academically eligible for football and creates a pipeline to college. A reason for continual success of this gridiron to college pipeline is the amount of value Polynesians place in being successful in sports. For many, football has become part of the Polynesian American experience. As Polynesian parents find ways to customize their families to living in America, many parents are starting to recognize the issues their children face in their new land. The pathway of using football to reach their American dreams is strongly encouraged at home.  These aspects of Polynesian cultures and football counter the school to prison pipeline and create the gridiron to school pipeline.


Goldman, T. (n.d.) Polynesians make life out of football. Samoa observer.

Landson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American
     educational research journal, 32.Retrieved from 

The Clash of Cultures

Since the initial Mormon influenced migration, Tongans and Samoans make up majority of the Utah Polynesian populations of today. The LDS church constructed educational institutions throughout Polynesia. The LDS operated higher education facility BYU-Hawaii being central. This greatly influenced the pipeline from Polynesia to mainland U.S. Upon arrival many Polynesians resided in communities of color and low socioeconomic status. This was the beginning of the clash of cultures. As newcomers to the U.S. and wanting to obtain the American dream, many Polynesians were oblivious to the dominant discourse of whiteness that was embedded in American life. The American dream for many Polynesians is to obtain economic and educational opportunities not only for themselves, but for future generations. As Polynesians strive to reach their goals, issues arise that become barriers that are historically well-known amongst minority groups prior to their arrival.One significant barrier is poverty. In Utah 1 out of every 4 Polynesian student lives in poverty.  When comparing to the rest of Utah, 16.1% of Polynesians under the age of 18 live in poverty while the rest of Utah is at 11.4% (Utah health department, n.d.). Poverty also restricts their social mobility and resources. Another barrier Polynesians face is educational attainment. For many Polynesian cultures it is prestigious and honorable for children to graduate high school and go to college. However, similar to other minorities of color, lies implicit and explicit institutional policies and curriculums that feed the school to prison pipeline rather than high school graduation or attending college. Currently Polynesians make up .8% of Utah’s population, but have a school dropout rate of 6.1%. Due to the dominant White, male, middle class discourse prevalent in school curriculum and policies that cater to it, many Polynesian students reject the system in similar ways as their African American and Latino neighbors have. Examples of similar forms of resisting are expressed through music such as hip hop and reggae. Another form is to become very in tuned with their Polynesian heritage. Many Polynesians obtain an identity of being Polynesian American and being Polynesian. This creates a concept of what African American scholar W. E. B. Dubois calls “double consciousness”.  Double consciousness describes how an individual’s identity is divided into several facets (Bruce Jr., 1992). Dubois used this concept to describe the dual identities African Americans obtained due to their treatment by White American society. The identities were socially constructed. An individual would view himself/herself in terms of what it means to be American from their own understanding and the other identity was to view him/her through the perspective of another.  Dubois concept speaks to an identity issue many Polynesians live with. For Polynesians, this concept can be applied to describe the managing of anga fakatonga (Tongan way) or faa samoa (Samoan way) with anga fakapalangi or fie palangi (Western or White way). In many Polynesian homes, children are taught to live by their native culture at home. When outside of the home, they are then taught to apply their American identity, specifically when at school. This causes a complex identity problem as children become confused and abandon one or the other depending on what is accepted, if accepted at all.  In school, the Western or White way is what is accepted. This leads to the clash of cultures.

In the Utah media Polynesians have gained attention for reasons other than sports.  Polynesians have been marked as Utah’s biggest and most violent gangs (Sullivan, 2005). Due to this negative attention Polynesians have been stereotyped as physically large, violent, unintelligent and deviant. These descriptions have become a method of criminalization and accepted in educational institutions to funnel Polynesians into the school to prison pipeline.


Jr, Bruce, D. D. ( 1992). W. E. B. Du Bois and the idea of double consciousness. American Literature, 64 (2), 299-309. Retrieved from

Sullivan, T. (2005, August 8). The gangs of zion. High country news. Retrieved from

Taylor M. J. & Rodgers, P. L. (2002). Table 2: Utah 2000 drop-out rates and educational
     attainment rates by ethnicity. In Utah State University: Center  for the School of the Future.,  
     Increasing graduation rates for minority and other at-risk students: The high school
    completion study. Retrieved from

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010, August 16). Utah. State and county quick facts.  Retrieved from 

From the "Rock" to the "Mainland": Polynesian Pipeline

Polynesians have been migrating to the U.S. since the late 1880’s. Polynesians are very family oriented and assist each other in their journeys, thus creating specific areas where they are highly concentrated. Today, majority of Polynesians reside in the western United States. These states include Hawaii, Utah, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Arizona, Nevada and Texas. There are populations in the east coast of the U.S. such as Florida, North Carolina and New York where Polynesians have recently expanding to. However, the most populated U.S. state with Polynesians besides Hawaii is Utah. The reason for this is LDS influence in the Pacific Islands. The LDS church found success in converting many Pacific Islanders, specifically Polynesians. Polynesians found many correlations between their cultures and LDS teachings. In 1889, Polynesians of Hawaiian, Tahitian and Maori ancestry departed from Hawaii to Utah to participate in the building of the Salt Lake Mormon Temple (Goldman, n.d.). Thus a Polynesian pipeline was initiated.


Breeve, P. W. (1995). A bit of Polynesia remains in the salt desert. Utah history to go. Retrieved from

Goldman, T. (n.d.) Polynesians make life out of football. Samoa observer.  Retrieved from

What is the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Who is Most Affected?

The school to prison pipeline is a phenomena that it plaguing our schools on a national level. School to prison pipeline entails institutional policies and practices that push students out of school and into juvenile detention facilities. This approach stresses importance on students following rules rather than learning.  Many students who fall into this pipeline is largely due to the lack of resources in their schools, especially public schools. The lack of resources can be seen through the lack of funding, over-sized classrooms, less qualified teachers and other services needed to ensure success for all students. Another negative effect of the school to prison pipeline is the disciplinary acts. Many schools have occupied the zero-tolerance policy. This policy allows schools to severely punish students for minor infractions. For instance, I had a brother who once was suspended from school for wearing a t-shirt with the face of Bob Marley on the front of it. The school’s reason for his suspension is because Bob Marley is affiliated with marijuana so therefore he was in conflict with the school districts policy of drug paraphernalia. To mention, the t-shirt did not have imagery or literature related to marijuana in any way. This may be an extreme example, but my point is to show the extremes of the zero-tolerance policy. Due to these minor infractions large numbers of students are pushed into the juvenile system initiating a ripple effect. Once out of school, students fall behind in their course work, engage non constructive activities, loose interest for education or more severe, dropping out (ACLU,2008). Another aspect of the prison to school pipeline is policing within schools. Many schools focus on safety and discipline by occupying the zero-tolerance policy. Schools start employing security officers, hall monitors and even in school police officers, creating a prison-like atmosphere. This allows the schools to perform on sight arrests and direct access to court and juvenile justice services. The issue then becomes greater as many of these students struggle to reenter the school system due to the barriers placed by the school and court systems (ACLU, 2008).  A high disproportionate number of males of color get funneled down the pipeline. The school to prison pipeline affects many students, specifically students who attend public schools. However, the group that has been marginalized the most is students of color. Males of color hold the highest dropout percentage in the U.S. In 2008, statistics from the U.S. Department of Education reported males of color having a dropout rate of 28.6% compared to White students dropout rate at 5.4%. To further describe the significant damage of the school to prison pipeline is in 2009, the U.S. Bureau estimated the U.S. population of 18 years old or younger was 24.3%. In 2008, 43% of that population were juvenile arrests of non white youth. What I am implying here is a connection of racial profiling reinforced by the zero-tolerance policy. Many communities of color or urban areas reside in city spaces of low socioeconomic status. Within these communities also reside struggling public schools that apply characteristics of the school to prison pipeline. There has been research done revealing correlations between racial profiling and the zero tolerance policy. The studies show racial profiling becomes a method for schools to express their authority through individuals or groups who do not fit their perception of a student, in this case students of color. The traditional education system in the U.S. is upheld through White, male, middle class ideology. Students who do not fit this ideology struggle with the system. The only alternative for many students is to resist. The resistance is viewed as deviant behavior and students become labeled as at risk students. Minority students or students of color are most affected by this. The schools then take extreme measures such as over surveillance. Racial profiling also leads to assuming deviance based on race. Educational institutions justify the application of the zero tolerance policy as a method of creating and obtaining a safe learning environment. This is great, but the common practice of the policy has done the opposite. Students who are targeted feel unsafe and alienated. The perspective of this practice is the “one size fits all” approach (Solomon & Palmer, 2006).  As a result students or forced to focus on not getting in trouble rather than learning and loose motivation. The zero tolerance policy marginalizes students of color and promotes racial based markers as a way to determine a student’s success, thus feeding the school to prison pipeline       


U.S. Department of Justice. (2009, October 31). Juvenile (0-17) population proportions by
     race/ethnicity and state, 2008. Juvenile population characteristics. Retrieved from

Taylor M. J. & Rodgers, P. L. (2002). Table 2: Utah 2000 drop-out rates and educational
     attainment rates by ethnicity. In Utah State University: Center  for the School of the Future.,
     Increasing graduation rates for minority and other at-risk students: The high school
     completion study. Retrieved from

Solomon, P. S. & Palmer H. (2006). Black boys through the school-prison pipeline: When
     “racial profiling” and “zero tolerance collide”. In Armstrong, D. E., & McMahon, B. J.,
     Inclusion in urban educational environments:  Addressing issues of diversity, equity, and
     social justice  (pp 191-208). United States of America: Library of Congress Cataloging.

National Center for Education Statistics. (n.d). Table 108 percentage of high school dropouts
     among persons 16 through 24 years old by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 1960 through 2008.
    Digest of education statistics. Retrieved from

American Civil Liberties Union. (2008, June 6). School-to-Prison Pipeline.  Retrieved from 

Gridiron-to-School Pipeline: Polynesian Style

The school to prison pipeline has affected many students on a national level. I would like to point out the impact it has on Polynesian youth in Utah schools. I would also like to propose how football can be an alternative pipeline for Polynesian males. In recent years, Polynesians have been greatly noticed for their feats and contributions in all levels of American football, specifically in the media. Polynesian males in regards to football are known for the size, strength and quickness. These are abilities needed to be a successful football player. Not only are their physical attributes used in football, but their culture. Football and rugby teams that obtain players of Polynesian ancestry perform Polynesian war dances as a method of mental preparedness and identity.  Many Polynesian and non-Polynesian sports critics, journalist, academic scholars and students have investigated the connection between American football and Polynesian cultures.  Despite the success Polynesian players have gained through football, there are many issues Polynesian players and communities face that are marginalized. Polynesians are seen to be recent migrates to the U.S., even though Hawaii is a U.S. state.  This is largely due to the influence of the LDS faith, the pursuit of economic and educational opportunities. Once in the U.S. majority of Polynesians reside in areas of low socioeconomic status and communities of color, specifically African American or Latino communities. With these new and non familiar ways of living, Polynesians experience a clash of cultures between their heritage and traditional American school curriculum.  As a new population of minorities amongst minorities, Polynesians face the same inequalities that their minority neighbors do.  In my next posting  I will attempt to describe these clashes of cultures, identity issues and inequalities Polynesians face in the realm of education within the state of Utah. I will also make notion of how football can disrupt the school to prison pipeline and create a different pipeline for Polynesians.  I will investigate these issues using various genres of references alongside my narrative as a Tongan male and ex-collegiate athlete.

Caste Education

Caste education was a concept African American scholar W.E.B Dubois applied to describe the educational injustices his people were given in the U.S. Dubois was an active social activist and scholar for equal treatment of African Americans during his time. Dubois lived during the time when race was not only implicit, but intensively explicit. He lived through the post slavery, segregation and civil rights eras. Due to the views and treatment of African Americans in the U.S. they were forced into living conditions that greatly restricted their resources as American citizens, but worst of all rights as human beings. A caste education is also a result of this. In the time of Dubois, African Americans were in charge of their own education prior to desegregation. When segregation ended issues pertaining to the education of African American children was at the forefront. To Dubois, this forced African American students into an education that would alienate and marginalize them. As the first African American to graduate from Harvard with a doctoral degree, Dubois saw education as a method to liberation and equality. He also sought for education to be a system obtaining interest for the student rather than the institution. Using this framework of Dubois, I would like to apply it to contemporary issues of caste education. The issue I would like to address is the school-to-prison pipeline. Specifically how Polynesians in the state of Utah use American football as an alternative pipeline to school to prison pipeline.   


Dubois, W.E.B. (1973). The education of black people. NewYork: Library of Congress Cataloging.