Friday, December 21, 2018


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.


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.

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;;]

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


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


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."