I interviewed the head of Sacred Hearts Academy, Betty White, upon the recommendation of a woman who works with her. The edited version of our conversation appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser in November 2007, but is no longer available online. I’ve included our entire conversation here.

What I’m Reading | Betty White
Head of Sacred Hearts Academy

Q&A with Christine Thomas
r 2007

-What are you reading?

I just finished reading a book called “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time” by Greg Mortenson, and another book called “The Power of Play: Learning What Comes Naturally” by David Elkind. Most of my reading—and I read a lot—but most of it is connected in some way to the school or to girls. I have a stack of books I want to read, but I don’t really get a chance to read for pleasure.

-How did you discover them?

Greg Mortenson presented at a meeting of the National Coalition of Girls Schools this past summer in Baltimore. And then David Elkind comes to Hawai`i quite often, and about eight months ago he was in Hawai`i and gave presentation for especially preschool and early childhood teachers.

-What do you like about them?

Elkind is very adamant that we are scheduling our children too tightly, that they just need time to be spontaneous and do the things they want to do and not to be scheduled in sports and all sorts of after school activities by their families. He thinks that computers can wait, that limiting TV is good. He tells us that if we want to make play dates with our young children, then let them decide what they want to do, rather than us telling them ‘today we’re going to do this.’

Many of us grew up in a time when we were told to go outside and play with the neighborhood kids. These days many kids don’t have neighborhood groups, but even if they do they’re getting home late at night because they have ballet and sports and computer classes and there’s no time for them to relax and do the things they want to do. He also says homework is overdone, that instead of giving a child homework 3 to 4 hours a night they need time to listen to music and do the things they need to do. He plays heavily on the idea that most of the anxiety of children is caused by the parents because they want to get the leg up for getting them into the right school.

I agree with this because I think too many of our children are going from early morning until late in the evening with no time of their own. And then on weekends they have sports and other obligations and there’s no time for them to just relax, lay back and do what they want to do. There’s not enough hours in the day.

-What stands out about Three Cups of Tea?

It adds a humanistic perspective to the war and one of the most impoverished areas in the world. And when I was reading it—at the present time Sacred Hearts is building a $10 million building here on campus and sometimes we get discouraged with fundraising and whatever else we have to accomplish. When I read what Greg Mortenson went through to build a $12 thousand school for girls it really inspires us to keep going.

-Are you also moved by Mortenson’s story because you view such powerful examples as one of the most important teaching methods?

Yes, I think that the story that Greg Mortenson tells would be a beautiful example to bring to any classroom, where a fellow is so inspired to help others that he risks his life and goes across the country to raise money, staying away from his family for months at a time, in order for young girls to have a chance at an education in the world.

Our newspapers are filled all the time with the turmoil of the war and lots of times we’re forming opinions and giving opinions without really knowing the culture. I like this book because it gave me a sense of the many challenges that people are faced with.