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Hayashi Interview Provides Teachable Moment

During a visit to Sacramento, Castro Valley High School student journalists and their teacher attempted to interview the assemblywoman on her shoplifting case.

Kids love field trips and this one proved more memorable than most. Strange as it was, an interview with Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi produced interesting lessons for all involved.

Four journalism students and I visited Sacramento on Feb. 1 for a California Newspaper Publishers Association event. Our group heard from the Legislature’s top Democrats and Republicans before splitting up to meet with our own districts’ lawmakers.

For us, that meant Hayashi, an . Carrying some $2,450 worth of unpurchased merchandise, .

Hayashi greeted us warmly when we arrived but looked more nervous than the kids once she saw their notebooks.

“Sorry, what are we doing now?” she asked uneasily.

I was surprised she agreed to meet our school’s young journalists because, as far as I know, she has declined media interviews since her arrest and subsequent conviction. A spokesman said . Her attorney later said . If true, that should mitigate some of the public’s heavy criticism but the about her ability to serve in the Legislature.

Together the kids and I wrote questions that we hoped would lead her to share more about this. Yet the prospect of an interview seemed to take her by surprise, making me wonder if she realized her staff had arranged a meeting with not just students, but student journalists.

Rather than take the kids’ questions, she pointed the conversation elsewhere.  “Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourselves?” she asked. The students obliged. As if we were old friends, she later asked me, “So what have you been up to?”

Hayashi did eventually speak about her laudable legislation to protect student athletes from concussions and another pending bill to improve the first aid training of school coaches. Then an aide insisted she end our 20-minute meeting with most of our questions unanswered and the shoplifting and health issues completely untouched. On our way out the door, she scolded us for taking pictures and recording the interview without permission.

Though odd and incomplete, the interview was quite a teachable moment for the kids, who learned to write polite but challenging questions and got practice conversing with a source more elusive than their fellow students or teachers.

Perhaps the meeting should be a learning experience for Hayashi, too. Most people have no wish to publicly air their embarrassments but public figures give up most of their privacy along these lines when they assume high office. Hayashi’s service in the Legislature has been honorable and distinguished, but the public will have a hard time even remembering that until she puts the unanswered questions about her case to rest.

Sometimes my job involves policing much smaller scandals like secret texting and homework copying. When confronted, many kids refuse to come clean but those who do earn trust and feel better.

Hayashi might find the public remarkably forgiving if she spoke publicly and honestly about her case and health. Doing so would set an example for the countless others who, though rarely caught, commit crimes at least as serious. It might even make Hayashi feel better about herself. I hope she clears the air for her constituents’ sake and for her own. Until that happens, she’s going to face audiences more critical than high school honor students.

Matt Johanson is a Castro Valley High School teacher and local author. For more information on him and his published works, visit mattjohanson.com.

Greg Miller February 10, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Thank you. It was a "teachable moment" for all of Ms. Hayashi's constituents as well. It seems typical to discover the arrogance of career politicians that feel no need to answer the public's questions about their crimes while in office. Let us hope that this information is remembered at election time, and will motivate someone worthy to stand up and oppose Ms. Hayashi as a law maker.
Darryl Ray February 10, 2012 at 03:51 PM
What I liked about this article is that it treated this story intellegently. This was (and is) a teachable moment; for Mary Hayashi, for the students, for their teacher, and for us readers as well. While most of what I have read and heard on the news has sensationalized this story, the real story continues to unfold. What really happened? Why can't Mary tell the truth about what happened? Is her political career over? Should her political career end? What does disgrace mean in modern politics? The questions are endless. I hope that Matt's students continue their quest for meaningful answers.
Kathy Jo February 10, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Thank you, Mr. Johanson and Students; I agree with Greg Miller's comment above. It appears that there are laws that you and I must follow, and then there are the laws that those in higher positions don't have to obey - or recieve adaquate punishment for breaking.
Liz Wickham February 10, 2012 at 04:03 PM
An excellent lesson for journalism students! Your subjects will rarely make it easy for you to get to the heart of the story (unless it's in their best interest to do so). You are learning to be respectful, persistent, sometimes necessarily cagey, and always objective. Your subject will always try to control the message - but in this case, by trying too hard to control her message, Ms. Hayashi revealed more of herself than she would like...and it wasn't pretty. Good story, and good work!
Thomas Clarke February 10, 2012 at 05:21 PM
It is a shame that the student journalists failed to do any journalism. They should have persisted with Mary. Perhaps her benign brain tumor is ruling her emotions when she is not out defrauding her constituents by acting like she cares. Good for you to speak to the teachable moment.
Dan Walters February 10, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Great work by the students! I would like to read a Patch story authored by the students with their perspective. Additionally, I hope they follow up with a written request for a response to their questions.
anthony February 10, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Not even a quote from the students, that was disappointing. Just left the Olympian website, those students can write. A fresh perspective on the topic would have been a pleasant change of pace. Personally, I would have bumped up the font size on opinion.
Analisa Harangozo (Editor) February 10, 2012 at 07:52 PM
@Dan: We're checking in with Matt to see if any of the students would be interested in writing their own opinion pieces. @Anthony: They certainly can! Unfortunately we can't change the font of the article's category.
Analisa Harangozo (Editor) February 10, 2012 at 07:57 PM
For those interested in reading articles written by these students in CVHS' student-run newspaper The Olympian, visit http://www.cvhsolympian.com/
Leah Hall February 10, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Excellent! Tip of the Hat to Matt and our CVHS journalists!
Larry February 10, 2012 at 09:15 PM
"Hayashi’s service in the Legislature has been honorable and distinguished" Come on, have you spent any time looking at her record - and not just on the bills she has sponsored but also her voting history? Sometimes a photo says it all. Look at http://www.dailynews.com/ci_15486650 The caption reads "Assembly member Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward) talks to Kelly Jensen, a lobbyist for Sloat Higgins Jensen and Associates, outside of the Assembly Chamber on June 1, 2010, in the State Capitol. Sloat Higgins Jensen and Associates represents major corporate clients including Verizon Wireless, the San Francisco Forty-Niners and Anheuser-Busch."
Mike LeVien February 10, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Hayashi, an ADMITTED FELON, has the nerve to get a paycheck, on us? SHAME on her and us for putting up with this thief.
maria February 11, 2012 at 12:50 AM
I think the teachable moment this provided was that the journalism students failed to do their job. This is understandable, as they are in high school, and probably a bit apprehensive of being assertive, especially to a state-level politician. However, it's obvious Assemblywoman Hayashi wanted to avoid the subject, which she must address to her constituents (of which I am one) sooner rather than later. As journalists it was their 'duty' to attempt to obtain the information. The single most important question to be asked was "If your judgement was clouded by the recently diagnosed benign tumor, which you claim was the cause of the erratic behavior which led to the shop lifting, how can you justify remaining in office where the decisions you makes daily impact, not only you're constituents (which number in the thousands) but the entire population of California?" If the brain tumor is causing her to not thinking clearly, then she owes it to her constituents to take personal leave to deal with her medical condition. If she can't think clearly, it's the least she can do for her constituents.
Thomas Clarke February 11, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Maria, very well said. You might also add that there may be another teachable moment in the praise given to the journalism students when in fact their performance was dismal at best. The real problem with our schools, teachers and community supporters is that they praise students for mediocre or worse performance and reward just showing up as something special. They are actually harming the kids by offering empty praise in lieu of real job skils, such as those you mentioned. The ethics of Mary Hayashi are little better than those of the school's teachers and community leaders.
Tim Holmes February 11, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Mr. Clark I think you are being unfair to the journalism students, teachers, and community leaders, at least to come to those conclusions based on this article. Mary Hayashi is a very skilled politician, I wouldn't be surprised if she were able to manipulate the situation with professional journalists just as well. From the description given in the article, there was little opportunity to accomplish their journalism without a serious confrontation, and while that IS the role of journalism in some circumstances, that doesn't make it appropriate for this circumstance and these journalists.
Darryl Ray February 11, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I agree with you Tim. To equate Mary Hayashi's actions with those of the students and teacher is not fair or correct. A confontation would not have made this a "teachable moment". Learning from it did.
Dan Walters February 11, 2012 at 04:06 PM
You're right, Tim. The best and most seasoned political journalists have not gotten a good interview with her. These students acted professionally. Mary owes us answers... and, I hope she chooses to speak candidly with the students at some time soon.
Thomas Clarke February 11, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Tim, Darryl, Dan you have done an excellent job of expressing exactly what the lost opportunity is. The Teachable Moment, which I applauded Maria for, was that the Moment was Lost, Missed and you have all applauded the efforts of the students, teachers and staff for just showing up and not really doing anything. You all are phoning in the work without really doing it. The Teachable Moment is that there was a chance to do something no one else has done yet and it did not happen. The reasons for failure were mediocre planning, simplistic preparation and no real committment to journalism. The work and the effort is what a C student is awarded. Must average. Applauding average is what is wrong with our schools, our government and our communities. Being average is what has produced our mediocre performance in all areas. We should all be united in our joint pursuit of excellence at all that we do. So far there is no teaching moments that I have seen here, other than a significant effort on the part of the Apologists to do an excellent job of praising mediocrity and acceptance of the status quo and center of the bell curve.
Stephanie September 25, 2012 at 05:30 AM
Hi Greg if you own the home on riffel ct please call me my number is 5106204166. I really need to talk to you.

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