In the early years, after the arrival of the first American Protestant missionaries, the Hawaiian language came to be the universal mode of education.
Common schools (where the 3 Rs were taught) sprang up in villages all over the islands. In these common schools, classes and attendance were quite irregular, but nevertheless basic reading and writing skills (in Hawaiian) and fundamental Christian doctrine were taught to large numbers of people. (Canevali)
It soon was apparent to the missionaries that the future of the Congregational Mission in Hawaii would be largely dependent upon the success of its schools.
Recognizing there were a limited number of missionaries to teach the chiefs and maka‘āinana (common people), the missionaries effectively set up a school in Lāhainā to teach teachers.
With the main facility at Lahainaluna, the Mission then established “feeder schools” that would transmit to their students’ fundamental reading, writing, and arithmetic skills, and religious training, before admission to the Lahainaluna.
In many of the mission schools the focus was educating the head, heart and hand. In addition to the rigorous academic drills (Head), the schools provided religious/moral (Heart) and manual/vocational (Hand) training.
This method of learning started with the training of the missionary ministers. While they had extensive training in academics and religious studies, because missionaries were often in isolated locations without services, the early missionary ministers had training in manual arts, as well – this philosophy continued into the schools the missions formed.
Foreign Mission School
The object of the Foreign Mission School was the education, in the US country, of heathen youth (those that do not know God), so that they might be qualified to become useful missionaries, physicians, surgeons, schoolmasters or interpreters, and to communicate such knowledge in agriculture and the arts, as might prove the means of promoting Christianity and civilization. (ABCFM)
Once enrolled, students spent seven hours a day in study. Students studied penmanship, grammar, arithmetic, Latin, Greek, rhetoric, navigation, surveying, astronomy, theology, chemistry, and ecclesiastical history, among other specialized subjects.
Academics were balanced with mandatory outdoor labor. Students were tasked with the maintenance of the school’s agricultural plots and assigned to labor in the fields “two (and a half) days” a week and “two at a time.” Additionally, the school enforced strict rules for students’ social lives and study times.
They were also taught special skills like coopering (the making of barrels and other storage casks), blacksmithing, navigation and surveying. When not in class, students attended mandatory church and prayer sessions and also worked on making improvements to the school’s lands. (Cornwall)
Under the leadership of Reverend Lorrin Andrews, Lahainaluna was established by the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions “to instruct young men of piety and promising talents”. It is the oldest high school west of the Mississippi River.
The Mission then established “feeder schools” that would transmit to their students’ fundamental reading, writing, and arithmetic skills, and religious training, before admission to the Lahainaluna.
Hilo Boarding School
In 1835, the mission constructed the Hilo Boarding School as part of an overall system of schools (with a girls boarding school in Wailuku and boarding at Lahainaluna.) The school was operated to an extent on a manual labor program and the boys cultivated the land to produce their own food. (The boys’ ages ranged from seven to fourteen.)
More than one-third of the boys who had attended the school eventually became teachers in the common schools of the kingdom. In 1850 the Minister of Public Instruction, Richard Armstrong, reported that Hilo Boarding School “is one of our most important schools. It is the very life and soul of our common school on that large island.”
O‘ahu College – Punahou School
“The founding of Punahou as a school for missionary children not only provided means of instruction for the children of the Mission, but also gave a trend to the education and history of the Islands.” (Report of the Superintendent of Public Education, 1900)
The school was officially named in 1859 and it was initially called the Oʻahu College. It is not until 1934 that the school name was changed to Punahou School, the name we know it as today.
The curriculum at Punahou under Daniel Dole combined the elements of a classical education with a strong emphasis on manual labor in the school’s fields for the boys, and in domestic matters for the girls. The school raised much of its own food. (Burlin)
The head, heart and hand education continued. On April 1, 1886, Reverend William Brewster Oleson was hired from Hilo Boarding School to become the first principal of the Kamehameha School for Boys.
At Kamehameha, “Each student will be allowed to carry out 12 hours a week of manual labor. For industrial arts, two hours a day, and five days a week. Military drilling and physical education will be a portion of the curriculum everyday.”
“Arithmetic, English Language, Popular Science (Akeakamai,) Elementary Algebra (Anahonua,) Free-hand and Mechanical Drawing (Kakau me Kaha Kii,) Practical Geometry (Moleanahonua,) Bookkeeping (malama Buke Kalepa,) tailoring (tela humu lole,) printing (pai palapala,), masonry (hamo puna,) and other similar things, and blacksmithing.” (Kuokoa, June 28, 1887)
Missionary ‘Head, Heart & Hand’ Model Makes it Back to the Continent
Hilo Boarding School was the model for educating students at Hampton Institute in Virginia and Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. (KSBE)
With the help of the American Missionary Association, Samuel Armstrong, son of missionary Richard Armstrong, established the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute – now known as Hampton University – in Hampton, Virginia in 1868.
The Institute was meant to be a place where black students could receive post-secondary education to become teachers, as well as training in useful job skills while paying for their education through manual labor.
Hampton University’s most notable alumni is Booker T. Washington. “I was born a slave on a plantation in Franklin County, Virginia. … As nearly as I have been able to learn, I was born near a cross-roads post-office called Hale’s Ford, and the year was 1858 or 1859.”
After coming to Hampton Institute in 1872, Washington immediately began to adopt Armstrong’s teaching and philosophy. Washington described Armstrong as “the most perfect specimen of man, physically, mentally and spiritually the most Christ-like….” Washington also quickly learned the aim of the Hampton Institute.
Washington rose to become one of the most influential African-American intellectuals of the late 19th century. In 1881, he founded the Tuskegee Institute, a black school in Alabama devoted to training teachers.