Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I notice The Boston Globe has scholarships for student-athletes.

Does it have any for student-students?

Will Fitzhugh

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tianhao He

June 19, 2010

Will Fitzhugh, Founder
The Concord Review
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776

Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,

It has been a little over a year since I first heard about
The Concord Review in March 2009. As my Junior year draws to a close, I can proudly say that the publication of my essay in this prestigious journal has been one of the highlights of my school year. From reading scholarly articles under the mid-July sun to plowing through Alexander Hamilton's lengthy economic reports while snow was piling up outside my window, my journey in writing my research paper on Hamilton for The Concord Review was one of tremendous growth and opportunity.

In many ways, completing this independent research project was much like building a house, in terms of the personal initiative and industry that it took. From a mere list of ideas on a sheet of notebook paper to an 11,200-word essay within the pages of
The Concord Review, I was able to craft a product that was unique and that reflected the insights I had gained from an enormous (to me) amount of research and analysis. What was truly remarkable about this opportunity was that it allowed me to combine my passion for writing with my passion for subjects like history, economics, and government. From a (HS) student author's perspective, the rigorous process of researching, writing, and revising that this project entailed was an active learning experience that allowed me to improve my skills in critically analyzing academic material and in drawing my own conclusions supported by evidence. The countless hours I spent on this project were all worth it. The beauty of it all is that the skills I gained through this experience carry over not only to the classroom but also to all of the future academic endeavors upon which I embark.

But most importantly, writing a research paper for
The Concord Review was FUN! I found great joy in learning new things from every page I read, and it is this genuine passion for learning that I think The Concord Review so effectively cultivates in budding scholars. Whenever anyone asks me about my paper after seeing my picture in our school's library of our principal and me holding the Spring 2010 issue of The Concord Review, the first thing I tell them is that I spent so much time writing this paper because I enjoyed it and because it was fun.

The Concord Review has opened many paths for me, all of which I look forward to exploring with enthusiasm. The opportunity for students that is afforded by The Concord Review is simply invaluable, and I would like to offer my sincerest gratitude for all that you have made possible for me and for so many student authors over the past 20 volumes of this unique journal.

With great appreciation,
Tianhao He, Class of 2011
Walter Johnson High School
Bethesda, Maryland

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jay Mathews, The Washington Post

"Why don't we unleash the creativity of educators, parents, and students and find ways to improve schools without more spending? Here are seven ideas I came up with, in consultation with teachers I know...

#5...Have every high school student read at least one non-fiction book before graduation. I am not talking about textbooks. Will Fitzhugh, publisher of The Concord Review, a journal of high school research papers, has been campaigning for nonfiction school reading. I was surprised, when I looked into it, how overloaded high school reading lists are with fiction. Non-fiction, with all those facts, is often more challenging for this age group. Good. If every English teacher substituted one non-fiction book for one novel on the required list, schools would improve without any extra expense.

Monday, June 14, 2010

SchoolInfoSystem.org; Madison, Wisconsin

Incomplete Standards

Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review

The new national standards are too timid to recommend that high school students read complete history (or other nonfiction) books, or that high school students should write serious research papers, like the Extended Essays required for the International Baccalaureate Diploma.

Even the College Board, when it put together “101 books for the college-bound student” included only four or five nonfiction books, and none was a history book like Battle Cry of Freedom, or Washington’s Crossing.

For many many years it has been taboo to discuss asking our students to read complete nonfiction books and write substantial term papers. Not sure why...

In fact, since the early days of Achieve's efforts on standards, no one has taken a stand in recommending serious history research papers for high school students, and nonfiction books have never made the cut either.

Since 1987 or so it has seemed just sensible to me that, as long as colleges do assign history and other nonfiction books on their reading lists, and they also assign research papers, perhaps high school students should read a nonfiction book and write a term paper each year, to get in academic shape, as it were.

After all, in helping students prepare for college math, many high schools offer calculus. For college science, high school students can get ready with biology, chemistry and physics courses. To get ready for college literature courses, students read good novels and Shakespeare plays. Students can study languages and government and even engineering and statistics in their high schools, but they aren’t reading nonfiction books and they aren’t writing research papers.

The English departments, who are in charge of reading and writing in the high schools, tend to assign novels, poetry, and plays rather than nonfiction books, and they have little interest in asking for serious research papers either.

For 23 years, I have been publishing exemplary history research papers by high school students from near and far [39 countries so far], and it gradually became clearer to me that perhaps most high school students were not being asked to write them.

In 2002, with a grant from the Shanker Institute, I was able to commission (the only) study of the assignment of history term papers in U.S. public high schools, and we found that most students were not being asked to do them. This helped to explain why, even though The Concord Review is the only journal in the world to publish such academic papers, more than 19,000 of the 20,000 U.S. public high schools never submitted one.

The nonfiction readings suggested in the new national standards, such as The Declaration of Independence, Letter From Birmingham Jail, and one chapter (column) from The Federalist Papers, would not tax high school students for more than an hour, much less time than they now spend on Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, and the like. What would the equivalent be for college preparation in math: long division? decimals?

High school graduates who arrive at college without ever having read a complete nonfiction book or written a serious term paper, even if they are not in remedial courses (and more than one million are each year, according to the Diploma to Nowhere report), start way behind their IB and private school peers academically, when it comes to reading and writing at the college level.

Having national standards which would send our high school graduates off to higher education with no experience of real term papers and no complete nonfiction books doesn't seem the right way to make it likely that they will ever get through to graduation.

"The Concord Review provides a splendid forum for the best student work in history...It deserves the support of everyone in the country who cares about improving the study of history in the schools."

Diane Ravitch

Friday, June 4, 2010


Will Fitzhugh
Editor and Publisher, The Concord Review

When was the last time a college history professor made it her business to find out the names and schools of the best high school history students in the United States?

When was the last time a college basketball coach sat in his office and waited for the admissions office to deliver a good crop of recruits for the team?

When was the last time a high school history teacher got scores of phone calls and dozens of visits from college professors when he had an unusually promising history student?

When was the last time a high school athlete who was unusually productive in a major sport heard from no one at the college level?

Not one of these things happens, for some good reasons and some not-so-good reasons.

Before you think of the reasons however, we should be aware that sometimes the high school coach who is besieged with interest from the colleges is the same person who is ignored by colleges as a teacher. And sometimes the athlete who gets a number of offers from college coaches is the same person who, as an outstanding student, draws no interest at all. Not only do they observe this demonstration of our placing a higher value on athletics than on academics at the high school level, but their peers, both faculty and student, see it as well, and it teaches them a lesson.

Now it is obvious that if college coaches don’t scramble for the best high school athletes they can find, they may start to lose games, and, before long, perhaps their jobs as well.

College professors wait for the admissions office to deliver their students to them, and, while they may then complain about the ignorance of those students, and their inability to read or write well, they feel no need to search for high school students who are working hard and doing well in their field. Their jobs do not depend, they imagine, on finding good students to come to their college.

It is difficult to estimate the number of high school athletes who are contacted by college coaches each year, but if there are 3,400 colleges and for example 16 varsity sports, all of them needing players, and if only 16 athletes are contacted at each of the 20,000 high schools in the U.S. (a very conservative estimate), then 320,000 student athletes get contacted by colleges each year.

It is important to remember that National Merit Scholars are selected on the basis of their NMSQT scores, not on any achievement in history, physics, literature, or math. The equivalent process for athletics would be that scholarships were awarded on the basis of a physical fitness test, with no regard for the athlete’s specific achievement in basketball, track, football, baseball, gymnastics, etc.

Not only do coaches make it their business to know who are the best high school athletes they are likely to be able to attract, they know a lot about them. If they are recruiting a basketball player, not only do they know if he is hard-working and scores a lot, they also know the stats on his average minutes of play, blocks, free throws, steals, assists, fouls, field goals, three-point shots, and perhaps other things.

College professors not only do not know who the best high school students are, they also know nothing about their specific academic accomplishments.

College Admissions officers are routinely nagged by coaches on the one hand, to admit good prospects, but on the other hand they can almost never find any professor to take the slightest interest in the college freshman class they are trying to assemble for the coming year.

Anti-academic messages do not come from colleges alone. The Boston Globe has about 150 pages of coverage each year on high school sports, and also three seasonal 16-page supplement sections on local all-scholastic athletes, with photos, data, a few interviews, etc. For all practical purposes, their coverage of high school academic achievement of any kind is non-existent.

Alumni of colleges also take an interest in good high school athletes, and the word “elitist” never occurs to them (or anyone else) in this context. When Lew Alcindor [Karim Abdul Jabbar] was a tall high school senior, not only did he get pursued by the head coach at every major basketball program in the country, but he got personal letters from Ralph Bunche (at the United Nations) and from Jackie Robinson (integrated baseball), urging him to go to UCLA and play basketball, which he did. [The top ten high school history students that year heard from no one at colleges or from any celebrity, and it has been the same every year since.]

Why are these “two messages” important to high school teachers and students? During these times of great public concern over the level of academic achievement of our high school graduates, two messages are regularly and reliably being sent: “Athletics matter; Academics do not.” Both high school teachers, even those who are not coaches, and high school students, even those who are not athletes, get this message in the clear.

We should remember to be thankful for those students and teachers who continue to take high school academics seriously anyway.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

ASPEN International Baccalaureate Teacher

To: Will Fitzhugh

“I enjoy reading your column notes and regularly share them with my colleagues. Thank you for the immense contribution you make to the scholarship of history—for teachers and students...

I have long admired your philosophy about history education and appreciate your recommendations about how to improve it. Your dedication inspires me to do a better job.”

Karen Green, IB Global History, Aspen High School, Aspen, Colorado, May 2010