Saturday, April 30, 2011
ALBERT SHANKER 1990
"The achievement of The Concord Review’s authors offers a different model of learning.
Maybe it’s time for us to take it seriously."
New York Times, June 3, 1990
Where We Stand
by Albert Shanker
American Federation of Teachers
History By and For Students
The Concord Review
People who are hungry for a little good news about what U.S. schools and students are achieving—and that’s most of us—should take a look at The Concord Review. The Review publishes history essays written by secondary students from all over the English-speaking world [945 from 39 countries so far], but most are from the U.S. and fully half are by students attending public schools.
If you picked up a copy of the Review and started reading, you probably wouldn’t realize that its lively and substantial articles come from students in high school—or even junior high. An eighth-grader contributed the readable discussion about the future of Richard Nixon’s reputation to the Winter 1989 issue. And in the same issue, the balanced treatment of 19th-century theories about African-Americans that contributed to the founding and development of a society to return former slaves to Africa came from a student in grade ten. The essays in The Concord Review suggest what students can do when they find a subject that engages them and they are encouraged to run with it.
Will Fitzhugh, a former high school history teacher who used his own savings to found The Concord Review in 1987, sees the journal as a way of recognizing—and fostering—achievement. When a student writes an outstanding essay, the only reward a teacher can offer is a top grade. Like many good teachers, Fitzhugh felt that the grade was somehow not enough. So he designed the Review as an extra recognition—a history’s student’s equivalent to winning a varsity letter or getting a prize in a science fair. But of course it does much more...
The Concord Review deserves support—and contributing a subscription to a local school library might be a good way of showing it. It is also worth thinking about as we consider how to reform our education system. As we’ve known for a long time, factory workers who never saw the completed product and worked on only a small part of it soon became bored and demoralized, But when they were allowed to see the whole process—or better yet become involved in it—productivity and morale improved. Students are no different. When we chop up the work they do into little bits—history facts and vocabulary and grammar rules to be learned—it’s no wonder that they are bored and disengaged. The achievement of The Concord Review’s authors offers a different model of learning. Maybe it’s time for us to take it seriously.