Friday, February 8, 2019

VARUN SIKAND

From: Varun Sikand
Date: January 25, 2019 at 16:15:11 EST
To: "Fitzhugh@tcr.org"
Subject: Update

Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,

I hope this email finds you in good health, and that all is well with your wonderful organization. Sorry for the delay in my reply. I had a successful first semester at Yale and have thoroughly enjoyed my extracurricular pursuits thus far. 


I am in the Directed Studies program, an intense interdisciplinary humanities program for select first-year students that combines 3 seminars in historical and political thought, philosophy, and literature. These discussion-based, peer-driven seminars are taught by top Yale faculty and are centered around fundamental texts in the western tradition. The program is writing heavy—every week I write a 5-page paper. It goes without saying that the skills I acquired writing for the Review have certainly made this extremely challenging program much more approachable. The ability to communicate your thoughts into a concise, effective argument is a trying—often frustrating—but rewarding task.

Your attempt to make known the dying art of writing among high school students is noble project, and I'd love to contribute a piece to your blog about how my experience in writing a paper for the Review has helped me succeed in the most demanding writing program in the entire world for first-year college students. It is no surprise that I have met other Review authors here at Yale, including my good friends Shaurya Salwan (Spring 2018) and Justin Weaver Lilley Jr. (Summer 2017), both of whom have either completed or are currently in the Directed Studies program that I am in. I would be honored to host a dinner here in New Haven with you and other Yale-TCR authors if you would like.

Carrying out the mission of The Concord Review, I inspired my brother, Rohan Sikand, who is a junior in high school and a computer science wizard, to take up an independent study in historical research. For the past year, my brother has embarked on his own journey to complete a historical manuscript with the hope of joining me as a published Concord Review author one day. He is in the final stages of editing his essay, and is preparing to submit the paper in just a few weeks.

To these ends, I have decided to donate my Emerson prize money in support of The Concord Review. Thank you for awarding me such an esteemed prize; it is my highest academic honor to date. By supporting TCR, I will continue to promote your mission of encouraging secondary students—like my brother—to write for your organization and realize the gift of historical inquiry.

Again, I am sorry for my late reply and I hope to keep in touch with you from Yale. All my best.

With Gratitude,

Varun Sikand
[Yale Class of 2022
Emerson Prize 2018]
[His 19,000+word paper on the Knights of Labor was published in the Summer of 2018 (28/4), and he included five papers published by his peers in The Concord Review in his endnotes and bibliography.]

Saturday, January 12, 2019

RIGGS INTERVIEW

Education News
 
An Interview with Charles Emerson Riggs: 

Editorship of The Concord Review

December 18, 2018 by Michael F. Shaughnessy EducationViews Senior Columnist



1) Sir, I have just heard that you are about to take over the Editorship of The Concord Review. How did this come about?


Will Fitzhugh, TCR’s founder and longtime editor, had been in contact with a former professor of mine from Harvard, asking her whether she could recommend any Harvard history grads with editorial experience, an entrepreneurial bent, and an interest in being his “understudy.” She put us in touch initially. Will and I struck up a correspondence; when we met, about a year ago, we immediately hit it off, strategizing the future of the Review and its mission of encouraging and celebrating student academic achievement. I was still in the thick of graduate school, and so Will gave me a year to wrap up my dissertation before going to work for him.


2) For our readers, can you tell us a bit about your 

background and 
education and experience?
 

I’ve spent most of my life between North Carolina, where I grew up, and Massachusetts. I attended high school at Milton Academy in Milton, MA and then college at Harvard, where I majored in History and graduated in 2010 [summa cum laude]. I’m currently in the late stages of completing my PhD in American History at Rutgers University. My work experience has mostly been as an editor: for a small publishing house in North Carolina, for the budget travel guide company Let’s Go, and for a non-profit in Malden that commissioned me to coordinate and edit a book on American immigration history. My main focus for the past seven years, however, has been historical research and writing. My PhD dissertation is about liberal Christianity, psychoanalysis, and existentialism in mid-twentieth century American thought, with a focus on the German-American theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich. I’m hoping one of these days, if I can find the time amid my work for TCR, to turn my dissertation into a book on Tillich.

3) What lured you to take over the most prestigious journal 

in the world for high school writers?

When Will first told me about what The Concord Review was, I immediately saw the brilliance and logic of the idea: a journal by, and for, high school students that celebrates the best historical writing being done at the secondary level. I wish I had known about such a thing back when I was a History nerd in high school; I would have been keen on getting published myself. And so, I am very much in awe of what Will has built and honored to have the opportunity to carry on his legacy. I can hardly think of a more important, and more widely neglected, task than identifying and encouraging talented young people, fostering their historical consciousness, and giving them a platform to show their stuff.


4) In your mind how important are writing skills and 

doing research at 
the high school level?
 

They are absolutely essential. Both in the instrumental sense that without research and writing skills it will be difficult for students to make their way in the world; colleges—to say nothing of employers—care about these things. But also because their lives will be impoverished if they never expand their horizons by engaging the immense wealth contained in the world of books, especially History books.

5) How do you see critical thinking skills and critical writing 

skills
 as overlapping?


Good writing is an aid to—and a sign of—good thinking. But good writing is only possible when you have something to say and good thinking is only possible if that thought has actual content. Having something to say, in turn, is helped immeasurably by reading—widely and adventurously. And so TCR’s educational philosophy—which is nothing new—is simply to put good History books into the hands of smart kids, to let them read following their own curiosities and interests, and to provide a structure and incentive for them to write. Eventually, if they are enterprising, they will get to the point where their writing is a natural expression of what they have learned and of what they want to share with others, rather than an exercise being foisted upon them for the sake of “critical thinking” in the abstract.



6) What challenges do you see in front of you?


There are a lot of obstacles to TCR’s central mission of encouraging student reading and writing:


Institutionally, American secondary education is more interested in social engineering than in student academic achievement, notwithstanding the good work being done by many individual teachers. Within the classroom, teachers are so hard-pressed for time and crowded with curricular mandates that they increasingly don’t even assign the kind of substantive research papers that we publish and that we believe are the best outlets for student research. 

Politically, history education has become a battleground for rival ideologies. 


Economically, there is a perception—in my opinion both misguided and a little contemptible—that studying history is irrelevant to the main task of getting a good job, especially compared to “harder” fields like science, technology, or economics.
 

Technologically, the proliferation of smart phones and screens of all kinds has led to a general fracturing of the attention span that affects everyone (myself included), but that seems to be having an especially pernicious effect on many young people in their ability to read entire books and undertake serious research projects.

 All those are big-picture challenges. 

On a more practical level, TCR has to raise money to keep the organization alive and growing, to elevate the visibility of the Review, to encourage submissions, to get more subscribers, to make connections with history teachers and professional historians who are on board with what we’re doing, and to continue preaching the gospel of the substantive historical research paper to anyone who will listen.



7) What have I neglected to ask?

About my new ideas for TCR! In the next couple months I intend to launch a podcast where I will interview student-authors about their work, to commission a study on the state of academic summer programs in the humanities (TCR runs several such programs), and to begin work, under Will’s supervision, on a book about reading and writing in American secondary education.

Friday, December 21, 2018

PERSONALIZATION


That’s why Fitzhugh’s project has always been so alluring. Allowing passionate learners to pursue a historical topic that enthralls them and then have them pen an extended, extensively-researched, clearly-written essay on that topic is the best kind of personalization.


FORBES


December 21, 2018


We Can At Least Encourage The Crazy Ones


Frederick Hess Contributor

Education—I write about policy and practice in K-12 and higher education.

For the better part of two decades, school improvement has been focused on narrowing “achievement gaps” by raising the reading and math scores of low-performing students. While this charge has undeniable merit, it also carries some real costs. Among these are a lack of attention to students who are performing passably but are eager to pursue learning that stretches beyond the corners of state academic standards.

For those concerned about the failure to adequately challenge these students or push their intellectual horizons, this state of affairs has been disheartening. William Fitzhugh, founder of The Concord Review, the world’s only quarterly journal for academic research papers by high school students, is one of them. Frustrated by decades of mostly-ineffectual efforts to persuade high schools to prioritize long-form, rigorous student work, he recently offered a suggestion that’s half tongue-in-cheek but wholly worth pursuing.


As Fitzhugh puts it:


One of my favorite scenes in the movie Hoosiers is when the coach first drives into the town early in the morning or late in the evening, and he passes the HS senior shooting hoops. This student is the one who defends the coach and puts up the winning shot in the state championship.


Could we provide more high school students with an incentive to spend part of their spare time on Independent Study History papers, with no teacher time required—as in the shooting hoops case? This should help with the problem everyone cites—that teachers have no time to guide students on serious term papers . . .


Fitzhugh’s notion seems especially well-suited as we enter 2019, a time when concern about the degree to which testing mania has fueled a lowest-common-denominator mindset, and when talk of “personalized learning” is inescapable.


Of course, the downside of “personalization” is that it can be an invitation to empty-calorie education, undermining rigor and leading to the problems of anything-goes instruction. That’s why Fitzhugh’s project has always been so alluring. Allowing passionate learners to pursue a historical topic that enthralls them and then have them pen an extended, extensively-researched, clearly-written essay on that topic is the best kind of personalization.


As Fitzhugh observed in a note which was accompanied by a remarkably accomplished student essay, “This 21,000-word paper was written as an independent study, and I have reason to believe the teacher didn’t even know about it. This kid is applying to Harvard—We could at least try to reach and encourage the crazy ones.”


This runs contrary to how many schools and school systems approach their work today. Even as the enthusiasm for test-based accountability recedes, discussions about success tend to focus on movement in reading and math proficiency for various student demographics. There is little reward or support for the time teachers spend encouraging the crazy ones.


This can be rectified. That may require retooling teacher evaluation to place more weight on teachers who provide extraordinary opportunities for students and who make it a point to nurture student learning that extends beyond state standards or isn’t captured on state tests. It may mean creating room in the schedules of high school students for things like Concord Review-style essays, and perhaps even providing coaching or giving some teachers a period to mentor and support such work. It may call for partnering with educators who have a track record of supporting extraordinary student efforts, as is the case in math instruction with the remarkable Art of Problem Solving.


Our schools have never been as good at encouraging the crazy ones as we might like, but it’s safe to say that things have gotten worse on this count over the past two decades.


Now, despite some overheated claims that No Child Left Behind-style accountability or test-based teacher evaluation were motivated by a villainous enthusiasm for “shaming and blaming” educators, the problem was not the intent of these efforts. The goal of ensuring that all children should, at a minimum, be proficient in reading and math was admirable, and it’s tough to quarrel with the insistence that teachers and schools should do their part. The problem, rather, was with the ill-conceived machinery and the lack of appreciation for how these policies would ultimately change teaching, learning, and the culture of schooling.


One costly consequence was that teachers felt far less free to devote time and energy to encouraging the crazy ones. Making it a point to reverse that state of affairs would be a healthy resolution for school improvement in 2019, and beyond.

Contributor
Frederick Hess 


I write about policy and practice in K-12 and higher education. I’m director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where I study K-12 and higher education. My books include "Spinning Wheels," Common Sense School Reform," "The Same Thing Over and Over," "Cage-Busting Leadership," "The Cage-Busting Teacher" and "Letters to a Young Education Reformer." My work has appeared in scholarly outlets such as Urban Affairs Review, Harvard Education Review and Social Science Quarterly, and popular outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, National Review and The Hill. I’ve edited academic volumes on topics including education philanthropy, educational entrepreneurship, college costs, educational research, the Common Core and the politically correct university. I’m a former high school social studies teacher and teach or have taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Georgetown, Rice, and the University of Virginia. I hold an M.Ed. in teaching and curriculum and a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University.

 
[The Concord Review; tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org]

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

ANA MUNDACA

Original research is a pillar of any well-rounded education, and it points to a huge flaw in our education system that humanities research and writing are not more emphasized in high school.

18 December 2018
Truth in American Education
 
Harvard Freshman Points Out Huge Flaw in K-12 Education System


December 18, 2018   By Shane Vander Hart

Will Fitzhugh with The Concord Review forwarded me an email he received from a Harvard freshman, Ana Mundaca, who contributed to his publication when she attended Sidwell Friends School. With her permission I wanted to share that email in part with our readers because she offers an excellent insight into a flaw with the K-12 education system:


==================

I am just wrapping up my first semester at Harvard College, and I am really enjoying it so far. As I’m sure you remember from your time here, there is a mandatory college writing class all first year students take either in the Fall or the Spring. I was lucky enough to be enrolled early in the Fall class, and was struck by how easy the collegiate level writing in the class was for me. I don’t mean to say I didn’t have to apply myself or that I was any smarter than my peers, because that would not be true at all. However, I found the writing that I did in that class (and in all my humanities classes so far) has closely paralleled the writing structure of the paper I submitted for TCR a few years back. 



While I have since improved my writing, it was a huge relief to me to already have had experience writing high level academic papers as it allowed me to focus on the content of my essay rather than the flow or style of the paper. Consequently, I found the final research assignment enjoyable and enthralling, and will be working on expanding the paper and hopefully publishing it in a music journal in the coming months. I would not have been ready for this rich experience in writing had it not been for The Concord Review.

Original research is a pillar of any well-rounded education, and it points to a huge flaw in our education system that humanities research and writing are not more emphasized in high school. TCR provides an outlet for the type of academic work that we should be encouraging, and the publication is incredibly valuable. Publishing my first work in TCR only inspired me to pursue my writing further, and has led me to declare my major in Economics with a secondary in East Asian Studies in order to continue my research and publication. I will most likely be taking an in-depth course covering North Korea in Seoul this summer, and hope to expand upon the paper I submitted to you as part of my final project.


Ana Mundaca
[Sidwell Friends School, 2018
North Korean Theocracy, Fall 2017 Issue
Harvard Class of 2022]

=====================

This is not a new problem. It was not emphasized when I was in high school either, but the hyper-emphasis on STEM and the poor ELA standards most states have as a result of Common Core I don’t see a fix coming anytime soon. K-12 education needs a return to classical education. 


Anyway, The Concord Review should be commended for providing students with an opportunity many do not receive while they are in high school.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

CHARLES EMERSON RIGGS

December 5, 2018 (Sudbury, Massachusetts) The Concord Review this week welcomed its new editor, Charles Emerson Riggs, to the organization. Mr. Riggs succeeds TCR editor William Hughes Fitzhugh, who will remain Head of the parent organization he founded, The Concord Review, Inc.

Mr. Riggs, who is currently finishing his doctorate in American History at Rutgers University, is a graduate of Harvard College, summa cum laude, in History. He has more than a decade of experience as an editor, researcher, historian, and educator, having worked for Morgan Reynolds Publishing, Let's Go Publications, The Immigrant Learning Center, and Rutgers University. In the summer of 2018, he acted as dean of The Concord Review's summer programs in San Francisco, Boston, and Seoul, a role he will continue to occupy in 2019 and beyond.

A native of North Carolina and a descendent of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mr. Riggs is a scholar of American intellectual history. His Ph.D. dissertation, which he recently completed and will be defending this spring, is about the confluence of religion, existentialism, and psychoanalysis in mid-twentieth-century American thought, with a focus on the German-born theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich.

His first task at TCR will be editing the Review's 120th issue, to appear in the Spring of 2019. Under Mr. Fitzhugh, The Concord Review has published 1,307 student academic research papers in History from more than 40 countries on a quarterly basis since 1987. Incidentally, that is also the year of Mr. Riggs's birth.

Mr. Fitzhugh expressed his congratulations on the arrival of the new editor. "I am very glad that Charles Emerson Riggs has a deep commitment to both History and to academic expository writing, and he understands and believes in the mission of The Concord Review to encourage and celebrate the achievements of secondary students around the world in both areas."

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

READING AND WRITING

 

RealClearEducation


A Simple Page-Per-Year© Formula Could Increase Students’ Ability to Read, Write, and Think

By Robert Holland   November 30, 2018

The never-ending quest for a magic formula to educate all children brings to mind this lyrical lament from a 1980 Johnny Lee country tune: “I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.


Rarely does anything loveable, or even merely useful, come from wandering the maze of government agencies, huge foundations, textbook publishers, and assorted ed-tech or pedagogical soothsayers. A review of a century’s worth of grandiose schemes, designs, and boondoggles—Common Core being the latest—would be hard-pressed to identify more than a few that have succeeded.


By contrast, a spark of inspiration for helping children can emanate from an individual who has no institutional axe to grind and is willing to sacrifice for the cause.


Will Fitzhugh fits that mold perfectly.


Three decades ago, Fitzhugh quit his job as a history teacher at the High School in Concord, cashed in his small pension, and put all his energies into creating a quarterly journal to be filled with the finest history essays written by high school students. His mission was to show students—and the rest of the world—what they are capable of producing.


Operating without the gargantuan grants that fuel the merchants of ed-biz faddism, The Concord Review has published 1,307 scholarly articles under the bylines of student authors from 45 states and 40 countries. Fitzhugh imposes no arbitrary word limit on submissions. Published essays average 7,500 words, complete with endnotes and bibliography.


The Concord Review is the only quarterly journal in the United States [in the world] devoted exclusively to publishing secondary students’ writing about history. The range of topics is eclectic and the writing is engaging. Here is a small sampling of topics over the past year: “Machine Politics,” “Black-Jewish Relations,” “The Scopes Trial,” “Food Guide Pyramid,” “Coups in Pakistan,” “Sino-Soviet Split,” “Roaring Twenties,” “Chinese Feminism.”


Fitzhugh’s blog makes plain how The Review’s essayists have justified his confidence in them. Many students have written him to say they reached a point in reading about history where they strongly felt a need to tell people what they had discovered. 

 
In short, as Fitzhugh put it, “reading and writing are inseparable partners.” When motivation springs from knowledge gained, writing can follow a natural progression of writing, reviewing a draft, revising for clarity and correcting omissions, reading for additional content, and rewriting again.


In other words, The Review’s authors exhibit “all the natural things that have always led to good academic writing, whether in history or any other subject.”


Unfortunately, in most high schools, writing is a heavily regulated and restricted process far removed from the ideal of students being able to express something they have learned. Fitzhugh describes the current practice:


“When teaching our students to write, not only are standards set very low in most high schools, limiting students to the five-paragraph essay, responses to a document-based question, or the personal (or college) essay about matters which are often no one else’s business, but we often so load up students with formulae and guidelines that the importance of writing when the author has something to say gets lost in the maze of processes.”


Learn something then write about it. Now there is a novel concept.


Fitzhugh has developed a Page Per Year Plan© (and even copyrighted it) that, if ever implemented widely, could lead to substantially increased time devoted to student reading and writing.

 
His idea is that all public high school seniors would be expected to write a 12-page history research paper. However, that requirement would not just be plopped on them. They would have written an 11-page paper as juniors, a 10-pager as sophomores, and so back down the year-by-year ladder to a 5-page paper in fifth grade, and even a one-pager on a topic other than themselves in the first grade.


With a Page Per Year Plan© in place, Fitzhugh figures that “every senior in high school will have learned, for that 12-page paper, more about some topic probably than anyone else in their class knows, perhaps even more than any of their teachers knows about that subject. They will have had in the course of writing longer papers each year, that first taste of being a scholar which will serve them so well in higher education and beyond.”

 
It is highly doubtful that a government-run school system would ever adopt anything as rigorous, yet sensible, as this page-per-year© ladder to writing success. Perhaps there are private-sector innovators including homeschoolers bold enough to give it a try.


Meanwhile, anyone looking to find evidence of a love of writing by inspired students will continue to find it every three months in the pages of The Concord Review.


Robert Holland (holland@heartland.org) is a senior fellow for education policy for The Heartland Institute.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

MAYA KRISHNAN

9 November 2018

All Souls College, Oxford


Dear Will,

Greetings from Oxford! It’s been a few years since we have been in touch—I hope all has been well with both you and The Concord Review since then (I was excited to see the titles of the papers in the latest issue). 



I wanted to get in touch to let you know that I recently received the good news that I have been elected to All Souls College in Oxford as an Examination Fellow. This is a position that gives me seven years of unconditional funding to pursue whatever research I choose, while being a part of the community of scholars at All Souls. I’ll plan to complete a DPhil in Philosophy and then work on a book project during these upcoming seven years. 



This opportunity feels like a continuation of the process of doing (and learning how to do) original research that got started for me when I first decided I would try to submit a paper to The Concord Review. To that end, I didn’t want to miss the chance to thank you once more for all the work that you do in order to make it the case that high school students have the chance to experience the thrill of doing original research. If you ever think of anything I can do on behalf of the Review and its mission, please do let me know!



Best wishes,
Maya

[Maya Iyer Krishnan
Richard Montgomery High School, 2011
Socialist Realism, TCR Fall Issue, Volume 21
Stanford Class of 2015
Rhodes Scholar, 2015]