Monday, January 17, 2011

Diane Ravitch

Brooklyn, New York
15 January 2011

Dear Will,

I applaud you for your dedication to improving education, lifting genuine standards of accomplishment, and maintaining your high ideals for our youth. Almost alone, you have fought to improve the teaching of history, while encouraging young people to write thoughtfully and clearly about the meaning of the past. Your devotion to history, to good writing, to serious reading, and to the potential of young people should be an inspiration to us all. I wish you the best as you continue to promote sound ideas about education.

Diane Ravitch
Research Professor
New York University

[Professor Ravitch (
@DianeRavitch) is the author of, among others, The Great School Wars, Left Back, The Language Police, and The Life and Death of the Great American School System]

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The New York Times

"Journal Showcases Dying Art of the Research Paper", by Sam Dillon

SUDBURY, Mass. — William H. Fitzhugh, the cantankerous publisher of a journal that showcases high school research papers, sits at his computer in a cluttered office above a secondhand shop here, deploring the nation’s declining academic standards.

“Most kids don’t know how to write, don’t know any history, and that’s a disgrace,” Mr. Fitzhugh said. “Writing is the most dumbed-down subject in our schools.”

His mood brightens, however, when talk turns...
[click to read the entire article at NYT]

Friday, January 7, 2011

Joe Nathan Column

Helping The Concord Review honor and promote “Varsity Academics®”; 7 January 2011, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Will Fitzhugh lives and works with a powerful, provocative philosophy: He believes “that the pursuit of academic excellence in secondary schools should be given the same attention as the pursuit of excellence in sports and other extracurricular activities…

Varsity athletics and athletes are celebrated everywhere. We celebrate Varsity Academics®.” (Fitzhugh’s emphasis) I’d like to help spread his ideas and work.

Since 1988, former public school teacher Fitzhugh has published The Concord Review. ( This quarterly journal contains one thing: outstanding research papers in history, written by high school students. According to Fitzhugh, “The journal has published [84 issues with] 923 such essays, [from 39 countries] averaging 5,500 words, including endnotes and bibliography.”

So today, I am offering the first five high schools that contact me a small amount of money to work with Fitzhugh. Here’s how.

You agree to pay half of the $40 one-year subscription rate of The Concord Review, and I’ll pay the other half. This is open to schools, parents, community groups—if you pay half, I’ll pay half.

Fitzhugh believes, and I agree, that writing a research paper is not just for those planning to be professors. Reading and assessing sometimes conflicting opinions and versions of events helps young people learn how to gather and evaluate evidence and reach informed opinions. Those are vital skills in a democracy.

The current issue includes essays on Theodore Roosevelt, the Battle of Gettysburg, Sinn Fein, election battles between Henry Cabot Lodge and John F. Kennedy, and several others. Students have written on a vast array of subjects, such as the history of the “Ferris Wheel,” whether Abigail Adams really was a feminist, legacy of medical practices in the Civil War, and efforts to suppress The Wizard of Oz.

Minnesota and Wisconsin high school students have published essays in TCR. The current issue contains essays written by students in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, as well as Canada and Korea.

High school students from the U.S. and other countries have written these essays as part of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, independent study and other challenging classes. TCR essays have helped students be admitted to places like Harvard, Yale, MIT, Princeton, Macalester, Stanford, etc.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have praised the journal. His work has been commended by the late American Federation of Teachers president Al Shanker, historians David McCullough and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr and in letters from hundreds of students, teachers and parents.

Fitzhugh, now in his 70s, has made this his life’s work. What a wonderful contribution to young people, and this country.

So many groups promote high school sports and varsity athletics. And sports can be very valuable. But how about promoting what Fitzhugh calls “Varsity Academics®?” Will you, or a group you know, please help?

Joe Nathan, former public school teacher, administrator, PTA president, parent of 3 public school graduates now directs the Center for School Change at Macalester College. Reactions welcome,

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Singapore American School

So, I passed out The Concord Review at the beginning of class.

I didn't say anything except: "Take a look at this."

Here it is 10 minutes later, as I type this, and everyone is reading it and not saying a word.

Amazing! What a powerful tool. Great idea, Bill [Bill Rives]

Rick Bisset
Singapore American School
History Department