Public Schools: The Education

Chapter 21 -- Part 2

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Education in Hampton began, as it did probably everywhere in the colonies," as "readin', writin', and arithmetic." Education was seen then as part of a spiritual as well as a practical need. As Reverend Roland D. Sawyer, writing of the town's early schools in the Hampton Union, wrote, "It was in 1649 that the states voted that every town having 50 families or more should maintain schools that the young be taught to read and write, and to cipher if they desired."

"The motive then," he added, "was religious; they must be able to read their Bible, and to write to protect a title to property."

If the curriculum was a narrow one, the tools were primitive. Another Hampton resident, E. P. Young, was about 80 in 1899, when he wrote of his memories of school days in the 1830s. He described the "daily practice of writing during which they wrote with pens the teacher made of goose quills."

By the late 1800s, however, the curriculum in Hampton schools had expanded to include a variety of subjects.

In 1886, the course of study at Hampton Academy and High School included language (reading, grammar, composition, rhetoric, English literature, Latin); mathematics (arithmetic, bookkeeping, algebra, geometry); natural science (physics, chemistry, physiology, and hygiene); geology; astronomy; physical geography; and miscellaneous (United States and English history, writing, spelling, civil government).

At least one of these courses was new. In his report ending February 29, 1885, Superintendent W T. Merrill noted that physiology had been introduced that year into the Hampton schools.

In the year ending March 1895, a course in "good citizenship" was introduced into Hampton's primary schools. The report for that year also noted that physical exercises in some form had been introduced into most of the schools.

One of the most significant new courses for Hampton schools came in 1898. That year, according to the school report ending February 18, 1899, music "was introduced into the schools."

In that same report, Superintendent Merrill recommended a new role for Hampton schools, a role that might have seemed unusual at the time but that today is regarded as a normal one for all schools. The recommendation was to "establish an evening school for those who have passed beyond the high school age."

One of the highlights of school reports in the late 1800s was an accounting of new textbooks, such as a new book on physiology and Barnes's Geography, which was introduced into the elementary school curriculum. In the Hampton school report for the year ending March 1, 1884, Superintendent Horace Lane noted that the Progressive Speller, in use the previous 20 years, had been exchanged for Warren's Classword Speller.

By 1900, the books used in the Grammar and Primary Schools in Hampton, as noted in the report ending February 8, 1902, covered the "basics" of a public education, with an emphasis on reading, writing, and arithmetic and a bow to history and physiology. These books included Baldwin's Reader, Judson's Young America, Frye's Geography, Wentworth's Arithmetic, Colbum's Mental Arithmetic, McMaster's History, Higginson's History, Metcalf's Grammar, Blaisdell's Physiology, American Word Speller, and Ginn's Vertical Writing Books.

In high school, the subjects taught were algebra, Latin, English, general history, and physical geography the first year; algebra, Latin, French, English, Greek, and physics the second; geometry, Latin, French, Greek, English literature, and chemistry the third; and geometry, Latin, botany, civics, Greek, astronomy, geology, and bookkeeping the fourth.

The generous donations of alumni made possible more effective teaching of some of these courses. The school report for 1907, for example, referred to the "kind aid" of Edward Tuck, Esquire, in providing money with which to buy equipment for use in the chemistry and physics courses.

Much of what took place in Hampton schools from 1900 up to the present involved building upon an established curriculum and established school interests, such as in music. Courses such as physiology were strengthened. At the same time, new courses were added steadily.

Also unchanged was the often-stated invitation in the school reports for parents to visit Hampton schools, or at least to take an active interest in the town's educational system. In the school report for 1889, for example, Superintendent Merrill noted, "Parents and citizens owe our schools something more than means of existence. They should personally inspect them frequently to see that the teachers are skilled in their vocation," and that "their work and influence are in harmony with the life and teachings of a good home."

Another common theme in the town's annual school reports was the desperate need for more money, especially in the early years of Hampton Academy and High School. And still another theme throughout the early 1900s was the mention of the great number of pupils who were tardy or absent during the year. In the school report for 1916-17, for example, Superintendent Albert T. Lane referred to the 852 cases of absenteeism and tardiness, "surely an unnecessary and altogether disgraceful record, one that casts reflection on the home and on the mental fibre, the incentive and the uplift given the pupil by the home."

However, while much remained basically the same, there was after 1900 a sharper recognition that the schools had a responsibility for the whole person, including the physical health and the physical and aesthetic education of the schoolchild. The trend in education, as reflected in the Hampton schools, expanded from the "basics" to encompass not only scores of other courses designed to fit the student mentally for the world outside the classroom but also other programs designed for his or her physical welfare. The Greek ideal of a sound mind in a sound body became the ideal for American schoolchildren.

The early 1900s saw Hampton schools responding to an increased professionalism in the schools and a more intense effort to increase the effectiveness of teaching. The school report for the year ending February 1912 mentioned "steps to more completely adjust our system to the demands of the state Program of Elementary Studies" and noted that the school system was in the process of creating reading and literature courses.

This was followed the next year by the introduction of several new texts, including ones for physiology, civics, and geography. At the same time, the new Palmer method of penmanship was introduced, a method that would "set the hands of hundreds of thousands making circles and slant fines."

New courses continued to be added. A course in nature study was created, but there was also an emphasis on the practical. A domestic arts curriculum began at the academy in 1914, under the terms of the 1913 Betsey Seavey Fund. The curriculum included such courses as cooking and sewing, household goods, and household science. "It might well be," Superintendent Albert T. Lane said in that year's annual report, in a nod to the needs of male and female students, "for Hampton to investigate courses in manual training, woodworking, cooking and sewing."

In the 1915-16 school year, the agriculture curriculum was introduced at the academy, with later support from the income of the C.H. Lane gift of 1916.

The emphasis on music continued, with the statement that the music course "should be continued beyond the elementary grades." The report of the school year ending February 21, 1921, included the first report of music studies in Hampton Academy from Supervisor of Music Helen C. Johnson, who had replaced Carl Akeley.

The schools had always been concerned with the health of the children but more as their health might affect others and also as their health was affected by conditions at school. In 1901, for example, the School Board ordered that all children attending school had to have a smallpox vaccination. In 1914, the argument for a new school with central heating was that it was necessary for the health of the children, since children became sick in wood-heated schoolhouses without proper ventilation, or "germ breeders."

Similarly, in 1916, Irving A. Watson, secretary of the State Board of Health, wrote to the town's Board of Education citing the distance of the outhouse from the school building and the need to extend the boards in the outhouse to the roof.

The introduction of new textbooks in physiology was noted in the school report for the year up to February 15, 1913. "Parents," the report said, "could render this work of incalculable value by some form of cooperation that will insure the practice of correct habits of living ......"

This early interest in the health of Hampton's schoolchildren expanded later to include steps to improve and maintain their health. During the 1920s, this was the focus of health efforts by the school system. By 1921, the annual report included a report from the school physician. In 1923, the school's dental clinic had treated 70 children and five adults at 116 sittings, a "decided success," and a dentist was at Centre School on Mondays and Tuesdays to clean teeth for $2 per student. In the report for the year ending February 15, 1927, Charles N. Perkins noted that "A dental clinic with Dr. F. E. Meader, of Wolfeboro, as the dentist was held from December 14, 1926, to February 11, 1927, for three days of each week. Sixty-one pupils have had work done on their teeth." In this report, the school nurse noted that the dental clinic had been held at the Centre School for the previous three years.

In 1924, 59 pupils were vaccinated and 278 given physicals, with examinations of eyes, ears, hair, teeth, tonsils, throat, and chest, by Dr. Fernald.

At the same time, steps were taken to try to resolve a malnutrition problem among Hampton's schoolchildren. Of 197 pupils examined by the school physician during the year up to February 21, 1921, 19 suffered from malnutrition (ten suffered from anemia, 20 from nervous diseases, 160 had defective teeth, and 141 were unvaccinated without a proper excuse).

In 1920, the schools started giving a midmorning lunch of milk and cookies and a hot lunch at noon but later discontinued this practice. However, they later renewed it. According to the school report for the year ending January 31, 1924, "the recess milk and noon lunch service is proving popular and effective." (By 1926, the schools were giving both a midmorning lunch of milk and cookies and a hot lunch at noon.) That percents also had a role in keeping children healthy was stressed in the 1924 school report, in which the superintendent urged the cooperation of parents so as to "ensure the practice of correct habits of living and the application of the knowledge they may gain relative to the effects of bacteria, to sanitation, ventilation and the care of health." During this year, the school system introduced a new physiology textbook.

At the same time, the next year's report noted "the considerable number of children afflicted with some form of physical weakness or defect. Our aim," the report went on, "should be not merely to pour knowledge into children's minds; it is rather to develop the whole man and the whole woman, to make as useful citizens as we can."

The 1930s saw this emphasis on health not only continue but increase as the Great Depression set in and such epidemics as infantile paralysis continued. In his report ending June 30, 1932, Superintendent Roy Gillmore urged the employment of a competent medical officer who could be consulted about the health of the pupils and occasionally make thorough inspections of the several schools.

The struggle to get every schoolchild vaccinated, a long and discouraging one, continued. In the school report ending June 30, 1931, the school and community nurse stated that many children were still not vaccinated, and that the vaccination situation was still a serious problem. Reference was also made to the "much dreaded scourge of diphtheria," and to the first diphtheria immunization clinic on May 3, 1932, during which 180 pupils were immunized.

However, the school report for the year ending June 1933 noted: "All children of the schools of Hampton are either successfully vaccinated or hold certificates exempting them because of physical conditions."

New courses also reflected the continuing emphasis on the health of Hampton pupils. The 1933 report, for example, mentioned, among other new courses, one for grade 9 girls taught from a text called Home Hygiene and Care of the Sick.

New courses introduced during the 1930s were mostly traditional ones. In 1937, sociology was introduced, with biology recommended as part of the curriculum the following year. These courses were added to a curriculum that included, as of 1930, silent reading, oral reading, spelling, arithmetic, English, geography, history, and of course music. There was also a new course called "American Life," a continuation of the work in social science successfully introduced into grade 7 two years earlier.

In 1935, Hampton Academy and High School introduced a new course that in some ways represented a departure from the established curriculum. It included "15 lessons in the safe driving of automobiles."

During the 1930s, Hampton public school music, although always strong, came into its own. The school orchestra, as the report for the year ended February 15, 1927, noted, continued its excellent work under the direction of Mrs. Esther Coombs. The report also noted that a school band had been organized. In fact, the Hampton school orchestra and band that year entered the New England Conlave in Boston and won four prizes, with the orchestra winning second place and a special award for playing all pieces well, and the band winning second place in its class plus a special prize of $15 worth of music. In 1929, the Hampton School Orchestra went on to win first place in New England; the band won second place.

By 1930, the Hampton public schools had an outstanding music program. "Music in our schools is a strong and very satisfactory feature," said Superintendent Gillmore. The importance of music in the new audio age was also being increasingly recognized. "Now that the radio is entering such a large percentage of homes," stated Gillmore, "I believe it is highly important that pupils should learn to appreciate good music and should become familiar with the well-known classics."

In her annual report ending June 30, 1931, Supervisor of Music Esther Coombs stated that she was "very much interested in piano class work, which I hope I may start in the Hampton schools next year." In addition, Mrs. Coombs had started choral singing in the school, with the girls of the Junior High School presenting the operetta Yankee San, the first ever given in junior high, using the school orchestra. The Junior High School also boasted an excellent Glee Club.

All told, the Hampton public schools had an abundance of musical activities, from the teaching of music theory and joint concerts with other schools to its All-New England Chorus and the academy's Male Double Quartette.

If the 1930s saw music programs flower in Hampton public schools, those years -- the years of the Great Depression -- also saw the beginnings of massive federal assistance to schools and to education in general. The school report for the year ending January 31, 1935, for example, cited a "tremendous growth in the establishment of Adult Education School," with the salaries of teachers and a small sum for materials paid by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.

"The economic conditions of the past two years," the report went on, "have resulted in new and enlarged activities for school authorities." Under the Child Recovery Program, the federal government financed the distribution of free milk and also provided partial financing of hot lunches.

From the Great Depression, Hampton public schools and its schoolchildren went, as did the nation, to World War II and another set of problems and solutions.

But in Hampton the decade started, in at least one respect, with the continued influence of the music department and the melding, to the benefit of both, of two popular educational departments.

In the year ending January 31, 1941, color and verve were added to school sports through the introduction to the band of what Music Supervisor Esther Coombs called "a new departure,) drum majorettes."

The early 1940s also saw a continued emphasis on practical education. In 1941, Hampton voters appropriated $1,500 for a manual training course at the high school. The money would be used to set up a vocational training course at the school, and it was sufficient to install necessary equipment for a two-year course in general shop. According to Superintendent Gillmore, 27 percent of Hampton graduates were entering skilled or unskilled manual trades, and most of them worked at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

With the coming of World War II, the need for other school courses became evident. The annual report for 1942-43 predicted that "the war will bring changes to our schools," and one of these changes was the introduction of a new course called aeronautics, "being taught to eleven boys of the senior class." And, as Hampton parents and children followed the war news, they heard, like other Americans, the names of strange new places. "There is," the school report for that year noted, "a definite need that more time be devoted to geography of the entire world."

During the war, the schools emphasized physical education programs as much as such traditional subjects as science, mathematics, history, and English.

World War II had effects upon education as much as it did on other social forces and institutions. The end of the war brought a new impetus to adult education; the town saw that one way to prepare returning veterans for jobs was to offer evening courses in bookkeeping and typewriting. This helped prepare the way for the later explosion in the availability of adult education courses.

The war provided evidence of the significance of powerful new educational tools. The school report for 1946 noted that training for war had brought an "increased realization of the importance of visual aids in teaching," and that the "moving picture machine," bought for Hampton schools by the PTA, is proving a "distinct teaching aid in classroom instruction."

Physical education had become important in wartime, so Hampton and the rest of the nation were reluctant to let it slide away. In 1946, Hampton became the fourth town in New Hampshire to institute a physical education program, with a Department of Physical Education, for its students. The program was designed for all students from grades 1 through 12.

By the end of the 1940s, Hampton schools could offer a wide variety of courses, from driver training and music and art to physical education.

During the 1950s, Hampton education changed with the opening in 1959 of a summer school at Winnacunnet High School. The school was host to 79 students from eight different states and reportedly was the first summer school in New Hampshire.

The next decade saw the Hampton public schools reflecting both the traditions of the 1950s, with its "silent generation," and the nontraditional 1960s. The courses offered in 1961 at Winnacunnet High School, for example, included such courses as English, social studies, college math, science, general math, foreign languages, homemaking, commercial and industrial arts, fine arts, and physical education. As the 1960s went on, however, new courses were offered to reflect the changing times. Cooking, for example, was becoming as popular with boys as with girls, so one new elective at WHS was boys' chef Other popular electives included speed reading, advanced foods, and family planning.

That decade also brought more dramatic changes in teaching. In 1963, new materials for teaching mathematics were introduced into Hampton schools -- materials that relied less on rote drill and more on the understanding of mathematical facts. At the same time, district Principal Walter M. Brown noted that "The role of the teacher in our schools is gradually changing .... The teacher is becoming an operator of technical equipment and a manager and organizer of learning experiences, as well as one who lectures and gives assignments and tests." Brown was referring to the new language lab that enabled the pupil to hear foreign languages as well as audiovisual aids and overhead projectors.

Educational traditions that continued through the 1960s were the emphasis on music and sports. Music continued to be a dominant part of Hampton education. In October 1961, the WHS Marching Band, under the direction of Stanley W. Bednarz, made its first appearance before and during the Kennett football game.

An emphasis on sports continued with the construction of Winnacunnet High School. By a vote of 324-80, voters approved a $226,000 bond issue for completion of the high school's outdoor athletic field expansion program. Meanwhile, the U.S. Office of Education selected WHS as one of the "six most outstanding high schools in the state."

The 1970s saw some parents protesting a new WHS course titled "Mystery and the Supernatural," which some dubbed "the witch course." The mother of one pupil asked that the course be removed from the high school curriculum because it was, in her opinion, against her religion. Some 100 residents attended a meeting on the pros and cons of the issue. The course, said Harold Fernald, head of the social studies department, who was teaching the course along with another teacher, Craig Seaver, was about witchcraft, not how to practice it. By a 3-2 vote, the Winnacunnet School Board voted to keep the course in the curriculum.

The 1980s saw continual improvement and expansion in the number of courses offered in Hampton schools. Annual reports noted that the schools had built band and chorus instruction into the regular seven-period schedule and were offering instrumental music lessons to students during the school day.

Hampton schools also had one of the state's widest array of physical education options. In 1984, the activities available to students in the physical education program included football, field hockey, soccer, tennis, lacrosse, cross-country running, physical fitness testing, relay running, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, archery, bowling, and cross-country skiing.

New courses now have joined old ones in addressing the new concerns, trends, and requirements of our times.

One example is computer instruction. In 1984, George Paras, Marston School principal, wrote grant proposals that produced six microcomputers and a color computer for use by Marston and Centre School students. Others were added later, so that by March of 1987, Centre School had seven new computers, Marston School had five Apple and additional Radio Shack computers. A six-week computer literacy minicourse was also added to the grade 8 math curriculum.

The concern that students were not learning basic skills has led to the introduction of special learning courses. In 1984, for example, Hampton Academy Junior High instituted a "study skills" program in grades 5 to 8 to address "our students' lack of skill in being able to know how to study and organize their academic time."

During the mid-1980s, what was called "The Writing Process" was also receiving attention. The report for the 1985-86 school year noted that several of the teachers at the Centre School received formal university instruction in this process, and others were scheduled to receive the same training in a series of workshops sponsored by SAU 21.

In 1985 the academy introduced its Programs for Advanced Learners (PAL) to provide enrichment and to nurture the special talents, interests, and potentials of "our gifted population of students." It includes study skills, student learning styles, right- and left-brain functioning, and reading speed and comprehension. More than 70 students in grades 5 to 8 were selectively identified, invited to participate, and scheduled into the PAL program.

Finally, in recognition of the need for broader understanding in a world drawing closer and closer, a course titled "Introduction to Foreign Cultures" was proposed; in addition, introductory courses in Spanish and French were introduced for seventh and eighth graders.

The Hampton schools also reported outstanding success with their annual class trips to an environmental camp. Sixth graders attend Sargent Camp in Peterborough the week before April vacation each year, where they learn about ecology and the environment, and they attend Stone Environmental Camp in Maine.

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