Friday, May 21, 2021




Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review

May 20, 2021

There is a general consensus among EduPundits that teacher quality is more important than student academic work in producing student academic achievement. That is mistaken. There is a general consensus among Social Studies educators that High School students are incapable of reading one complete History book and writing one History research paper each year. That is also wrong. 

We are not surprised that our High School students can take two years of calculus and three years of Mandarin, among other challenging courses, yet we still believe that they are not intellectually strong or diligent enough to make their way through one complete History book. We don’t seem to think they can write a decent research paper either, which has led to all the college expository writing courses which have sprung up over the years to repair their lack of preparation for college work, but that is another topic. 

As a test of this theory that secondary students are unable to read a History book and discuss it until they reach college (if then), the TCR History Seminar has just concluded an 8-week online course of the reading and discussion of actual complete History books, not by High School students, but by Middle School students. 

Middle School students from the U.S., Hong Kong, and China met online with two seminar leaders to read and discuss: The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough, Churchill, by John Keegan, Miss Leavitt’s Stars by George Johnson, and Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife.

The results of this test indicate that the EduPundits and Social Studies educators are quite wrong in their low opinion of the capability of secondary students to read and discuss complete History books. David McCullough is easier than either Calculus or Mandarin.

So long as the English Departments in the schools, with their preference for fiction and personal writing, have a monopoly on standards and assignments for reading and writing, the benefits of this daring test might possibly be lost. It will be up to History and Social Studies educators to take up the challenge, and to ask their students to read complete History books (not brief excerpts and chapters from the textbook) and discuss them. Not only are they likely to be happily surprised by the capabilities thus revealed, but students will actually be on their way to better preparation for reading college books and writing college term papers. They will also have more knowledge and understanding of History and a better appreciation of the civilization they are inheriting. 

Do try it! We should not keep students away from complete ordinary History books by treating them as if they were Rare Books to be locked away in the Library—too precious for ordinary students to read. For more information contact: Steven Lee at steven@TCR History Camp <>.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021


Richard Pipes, Communism
A Modern Library Chronicles Book
New York 2001, 132-135

        Just as the Holocaust expressed the quintessential nature of National Socialism, so did the Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia (1975-1978) represent the purest embodiment of Communism: what it turns into when pushed to its logical conclusion. Its leaders would stop at nothing to attain their objective, which was to create the first truly egalitarian society in the world: to this end they were prepared to annihilate as many of their people as they deemed necessary. It was the most extreme manifestation of the hubris inherent in Communist ideology, the belief in the boundless power of an intellectual elite guided by the Marxist doctrine, with resort to unrestrained violence in order completely to reshape life. The result was devastation on an unimaginable scale.

        The leaders of the Khmer Rouge received their higher education in Paris, where they absorbed Rousseau’s vision of “natural man,” as well as the exhortations of Frantz Fanon and Jean-Paul Sartre to violence in the struggle against colonialism. (“One must kill,” Sartre wrote. “To bring down a European is to…suppress at the same time the oppressor and the oppressed.”) On their return to Cambodia, they organized in the northeastern hills a tightly disciplined armed force made up largely of illiterate and semiliterate youths recruited from the poorest peasantry. These troops, for the most part twelve- to fourteen-year-old adolescents, were given intense indoctrination in hatred of all those different from themselves, especially city-dwellers and the Vietnamese minority. To develop a “love of killing and consequently war,” they were trained, like the Nazi SS, in tormenting and slaughtering animals.

        Their time came in early 1975, when the Khmer Rouge overthrew the government of Lon Nol, installed by the Americans, and occupied the country’s capital, Phnom Penh. The population at large had no inkling what lay in store, because in their propaganda the Khmer Rouge promised to pardon servants of the old regime, rallying all classes against the “imperialists” and landowners. Yet the instant Khmer Rouge troops entered Phnom Penh, they resorted to the most radical punitive measures. Convinced that cities were the nidus of all evil—in Fanon’s words, the home of “traitors and knaves”—the Khmer Rouge ordered the capital, with its 2.5 million inhabitants, and all other urban centers to be totally evacuated. The victims, driven into the countryside, were allowed to salvage only what they could carry on their backs. Within one week all Cambodian cities were emptied. Four million people, or 60 percent of the population, suffered exile, compelled to live under the most trying conditions, overworked as well as undernourished. Secondary and higher schools were shut down.

        Then the carnage began. Unlike Mao, whom he admired and followed in many respects, the leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, did not waste time on “reeducation” but proceeded directly to the extermination of those categories of the population whom he suspected of actual or potential hostility to the new order: all civilian and military employees of the old regime, former landowners, teachers, merchants, Buddhist monks, and even skilled workers. Members of these groups, officially relegated to the lowest classes of citizens and deprived of all rights, including access to food rations, were either summarily shot or sent to perform forced labor until they dropped dead from exhaustion. These condemned unfortunates constituted, potentially, over two-thirds of the population. They were systematically arrested, interrogated, and tortured until they implicated others, and then executed. The executions involved entire families, including small children, for Pol Pot believed that dissenting ideas and attitudes, derived from one’s social position, education, or occupation, were “evil microbes” that spread like disease. Members of the Communist Party, considered susceptible to contagion, were also subject to liquidation. After the Vietnamese expelled the Khmer Rouge from Cambodia, they discovered mountains of skulls of its victims.

        The peasants were not spared, being driven into “cooperatives” modeled on the Chinese. The state appropriated all the food produced by these communes and, as in pharaonic Egypt, having stored it in temples and other government depositories, doled it out at its discretion. These measures upset traditional rural practices and led to food shortages that in 1978-1979, following an unusually severe drought, brought a massive famine.

        The killings intensified throughout the forty-four months that the Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia. People were executed for such offenses as being late to work, complaining about food, criticizing the government, or engaging in premarital sex. In sadism, the brutalities were fully comparable to those perpetrated by the Nazis....

        Cases were reported of children being ordered to kill their parents.

        The toll of these massacres was appalling. According to reliable estimates, the population of Cambodia at the time the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975 was 7.3 million; when the Vietnamese took over in 1978, it has declined to 5.8 million. Allowing for the natural population increase during the intervening four years, it should have been over 8 million. In other words, the Pol Pot regime was responsible for the death or population deficit of some 2 million Cambodian citizens, or over one-quarter of the population. These victims represented the best educated and most skilled elements of the nation. The gruesome experiment has been characterized as a “human tragedy of almost unprecedented proportions [that] occurred because political theoreticians carried out their grand design on the unsuspecting Khmer people.”

        It may be noted that there were no demonstrations anywhere in the world against these outrages and the United Nations passed no resolutions condemning them. The world took them in stride, presumably because they were committed in what was heralded as a noble cause.

[Some Western intellectuals, unwilling to blame this unprecedented slaughter on the Communists, attributed it to the Americans, who in 1969-1973 had bombed Cambodia in an attempt to destroy the Vietcong forces that had sought refuge there. It is difficult to see, however, why the Cambodians’ rage against the Americans would vent itself in the killing of 2 million of their own people...]

Wednesday, May 12, 2021


 As soon as Winston had dealt with each of the messages, he clipped his speakwritten corrections to the appropriate copy of the Times and pushed them into the pneumatic tube. Then, with a movement which was as nearly as possible unconscious, he crumpled up the original message and any notes that he himself had made, and dropped them into the memory hole to be devoured by the flames. What happened in the unseen labyrinth to which the pneumatic tubes led, he did not know in detail, but he did know in general terms. As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of the Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead. This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound tracks, cartoons, photographs—to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. 

Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place. The largest section of the Records Department, far larger than the one on which Winston worked, consisted simply of persons whose duty it was to track down and collect all copies of books, newspapers, and other documents which had been superseded and were due for destruction. A number of the Times which might, because of changes in political alignment, or mistaken prophecies uttered by Big Brother, have been rewritten a dozen times still stood on the files bearing its original date, and no other copy existed to contradict it. 

Books, also, were recalled and rewritten again and again, and were invariably reissued without any admission that any alteration had been made. Even the written instructions which Winston received, and which he invariably got rid of as soon as he had dealt with them, never stated or implied that an act of forgery was to be committed; always the reference was to slips, errors, misprints, or misquotations which it was necessary to put right in the interests of accuracy. But actually, he thought as he readjusted the Ministry of Plenty's figures, it was not even forgery. It was merely the substitution of one piece of nonsense for another. Most of the material that you were dealing with had no connection with anything in the real world, not even the kind of connection that is contained in a direct lie. Statistics were just as much a fantasy in their original version as in their rectified version. A great deal of the time you were expected to make them up out of your head.

George Orwell, 1984 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Monday, May 10, 2021



High School students planning to go to college should know that they will face reading lists of nonfiction books and be asked to write research papers. The vast majority of American public high school students are not asked to read a single complete nonfiction book or to write a term paper before graduation. But they suspect that the safe spaces of fiction readings and personal writing will not prepare them well enough for college. In many cases their teachers have neither the inclination nor the time to help them with History research papers, and while some students, such as many of those published in The Concord Review since 1987, have set up Independent Study programs which let them write such papers, others may want to make use of the services we offer to serious secondary students of History:

One: The Concord Review [1987] ( can provide students with a fine variety of examples from the History research papers published by >1,400 high school students from 46 states and 43 other countries in 129 issues since 1987. This journal remains the only quarterly in the world for the academic History research papers of secondary students. These papers have served many students as useful models of research and writing to inspire and guide them in their own reading, research and writing. Find many examples at A recent author wrote: “The writing of this longer [8,000 words] paper was the most academically challenging project I’ve ever taken on. I have never before devoted so much time and energy to historical research. Writing for the Review required a level of commitment to the process of research and a standard of scholarship that I had never been exposed to at school.” (Yale Class of 2025)

Two: The TCR History Camp [2014] is an intensive online workshop in historical research and writing for secondary students. In each 2-week session (summer, fall, winter, and spring), 2 experienced instructors will coach students, all working remotely, to compose a first draft of a History research paper on a topic of their choice. Contact: (Manager of the TCR Summer Program).

Three: The TCR Academic Coaching Service [2014] matches high school students working on a History research paper online with TCR Authors now at or recently graduated from Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford and Yale. Personal advice and guidance from a successful older peer (many are Emerson Prize winners) can be inspiring and productive for secondary students struggling with serious term papers. Contact Jessica Li: (Manager of the TCR Academic Coaches).

Four: The National Writing Board [1998] provides a unique independent assessment service for the History research papers of high school students. Our reports by two Senior Readers now average five pages and may be sent to college admissions officers. These papers are evaluated against an independent academic expository writing standard developed by The Concord Review. Our assessment service has been endorsed by many highly selective colleges, including Amherst, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Michigan, Middlebury, Notre Dame, Princeton, Spelman, Stanford, the University of Virginia, and Yale. Inquire at

Five: TCR History Seminar [2021] provides a forum for 13 to 15 year-olds to read and discuss History books. Very few U.S. students are ever asked to read a nonfiction book before they finish high school, and those that do are quite often not reading History books. The goal of the History Seminar is to give middle school students an introduction to History books, and a chance to enjoy them. It is our goal to create History buffs who want to read for the pleasure of discovering the past and adding both to their academic vocabulary and their knowledge of civilization. Contact:

Six: The National History Club [2002] was founded to encourage the reading, writing, discussion and enjoyment of History. It serves as a national clearinghouse for History Club chapters from around the country to share ideas and activities with each other. Students and teachers are inspired through this active network and members of History Club chapters participate in local and national programs. The NHC provides chapters with resources and services that helps them increase the activity and impact of their History Club. To date, more than 600 schools in 44 states have joined the NHC and there are more than 18,000 student members. Join today at

TCR authors have gone on to Brown(35), University of Chicago(44), Columbia(33), Cornell(23), Dartmouth(27), Harvard(156), Oxford(19), Pennsylvania(32), Princeton(78), Stanford(101), Yale(129), and a number of other fine institutions, including Amherst, Berkeley, Bowdoin, Bryn Mawr, Caltech, Cambridge, Carnegie Mellon, Duke, Emory, Johns Hopkins, McGill, Michigan, MIT, New York University, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Reed, Rice, Smith, Swarthmore, Trinity, Tufts, Virginia, Washington University, Wellesley, and Williams.

Will Fitzhugh, Founder
The Concord Review [1987]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA;

Thursday, May 6, 2021


The new Fourth Sea Lord was an officer of singular firmness of character. He possessed a unique experience of naval war. Since Nelson himself, no British naval officer had been so long at sea in time of war on a ship of war without setting foot on land. Captain Pakenham had been fourteen months afloat in the battleship Asahi during the war between Russia and Japan. Although this vessel was frequently in harbour, he would not leave it for fear she might sail without him; and there alone, the sole European in a great ship’s company of valiant, reticent, inscrutable Japanese, he had gone through the long vigil outside Port Arthur, with its repeated episodes of minefields and bombardments, till the final battle in the Sea of Japan. Always faultlessly attired, he matched the Japanese with a punctilio and reserve the equal of their own, and finally captivated their martial spirit and won their unstinted and outspoken admiration. Admiral Togo has related how the English officer, as the Asahi was going into action at the last great battle, when the heavy shells had already begun to strike the ship, remained impassive alone on the open after-bridge making his notes and taking his observations of the developing action for the reports which he was to send to his Government; and acclaiming him, with Japanese chivalry, recommended him to the Emperor for the highest honour this war-like and knightly people could bestow. The unique sea-going record in time of war on a ship of war which Captain Pakenham brought to the Admiralty has been maintained by him to this day, and to fourteen months of sea-going service with the Japanese Fleet, he may now add fifty-two months constant service with the Battle-Cruisers, during which time it is credibly reported that he never on any occasion at sea lay down to rest otherwise than fully dressed, collared and booted, ready at any moment of the night or day.

Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis, Volume 1 (Winston Churchill's World Crisis Collection) (Kindle Locations 1376-1390). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.