Channing Folsom, a pioneer in NH State Education

Men Who Made New Hampshire

Manchester Union, 1937 BY DR. WILLIAM MANDREY

IN FEBRUARY 1937 an honored citizen of Newmarket, aged 89, died in the old family home in which he was born. He was Channing Folsom, a man who had devoted his life to the cause of education; a leader whose untiring efforts resulted in the creation of a richer and better school program for the children of the state. As superintendent of public instruction from 1898 to 1904 he diligently labored to raise New Hampshire’s educational standards. In this struggle he fought against apathy, indifference and strongly entrenched private interests.

THE FOLSOMS were among the first to settle in the state. Because of the active part played by several of its members the family was well known for its leadership. Channing’s father, a country doctor, wanted his son to have an excellent education. From his meager savings he sent him to Phillips Exeter and then to Dartmouth. But the funds were insufficient and the young scholar was seriously handicapped by poor vision. As a result, the plans for college had to be abandoned. Channing decided to be a teacher and for the next three years he taught in Massachusetts, returning to his native state after receiving a position in Portsmouth. Then came a call from Dover to become the principal of the Belknap school. Meanwhile the trustees of the Elliot school in Boston heard of the success of the young schoolmaster and made him an attractive offer which was accepted. For the next five years he served as a master at that famous school.

MR. FOLSOM ENJOYED his work at Boston and in all probability he would have remained at the Elliot school if the superintendent of schools at Dover had not resigned. The school board remembered the excellent work Channing Folsom had done as principal of the Belknap school and asked him to return to accept the position of superintendent. Folsom accepted and for the next 16 years he ably directed the school program at Dover. The years from 1882 to 1898 witnessed many decided changes in both policies and methods and under the capable supervision of Superintendent Folsom the public schools of Dover made noteworthy progress.

IN 1898 FRED COWING resigned his post as superintendent of public instruction. After interviewing several outstanding candidates the members of the state Board of Education were convinced that they could find no educator who possessed better qualifications than the superintendent at Dover. Channing Folsom accepted their offer and with the same patient, persistent effort and sound judgment which characterized his administration at Dover he began at once the task of raising the educational standards of the state.

A NATIVE WHO THOROUGHLY UNDERSTOOD popular wishes, he first attempted to arouse the interest of the people. He realized that many communities could not support the kind of schools they wanted because of their limited resources.

He advocated state aid to these communities. He drafted the so-called “Grange School Law” which called for an annual appropriation by the state of $25,000 for needy districts. His impartial and fair distribution of the funds won the support of those leaders who fought the proposal. He then labored to secure a better system of supervision of instruction in the poorer school districts and set achievement standards which high schools must meet to merit approval.

MR. FOLSOM was no “faddist”; he was a practical school man who insisted upon a mastery of the fundamentals. Realizing that tuition rates and the narrow limits of the curriculum deprived many students of a high school— education, he launched a vigorous campaign to eliminate tuition and advocated courses in business and industrial education. He fought for the enforcement of attendance laws, prosecuted callous employers who defied the child labor laws and encouraged the establishment of evening classes where young and old could learn after working hours. For six years Channing Folsom labored vigorously and tirelessly to raise the educational standards of the state. His gallant initiatives  laid a firm foundation upon which others could build. His courage and zeal did much to develop a splendid system of state wide education.

All Published


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