Monday, October 28, 2013

'History Paralysis,' Will Fitzhugh


Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review
14 October 2013
[submitted by invitation to NCHE]

When it comes to working together to support the survival and enjoyment of history for students in our schools, why are history teachers, as a group, as good as paralyzed? 

Whatever the reason, in the national debates over nonfiction reading (history books, anyone?) and nonfiction writing for students in the schools, the voice of history teachers, at least in the wider conversation, has not been clearly heard.

Perhaps it could be because, as David Steiner, former Commissioner of Education in New York State, put it: “History is so politically toxic that no one wants to touch it.”

Have the bad feelings and fears raised over the ill-fated National History Standards which emerged from UCLA so long ago persisted and contributed to our paralysis in these national discussions?

Are we (I used to be one) too sensitive to the feelings of other members of the social studies universe? Are we too afraid that someone will say we have given insufficient space and emphasis to the sociology of the mound people of Ohio or the history and geography of the Hmong people or the psychology of the Apache and the Comanche? Or do we feel guilty, even though it is not completely our fault, that all of the Presidents of the United States have been, (so far), men?

I am concerned when the National Assessment of Educational Progress finds that 86% of our high school seniors scored Basic or Below on U.S. History, and I am appalled by stories of students, who, when asked to choose our Allies in World War II on a multiple-choice test, select Germany (both here and in the United Kingdom, I am told). After all, Germany is an ally now, they were probably an ally in World War II, right? So Presentism reaps its harvest of historical ignorance.

Of course there is always competition for time to give to subjects in schools. Various groups push their concerns all the time. Business people often argue that students should learn about the stock market at least, if not credit default swaps and the like. Other groups want other things taught. I understand that there is new energy behind the revival of home economics courses for our high school future homemakers.

But what my main efforts have been directed towards since 1987 is prevention of the need for remedial nonfiction reading and writing courses in college. My national research has found that most U.S. public high schools do not ask students to write a serious research paper, and I am convinced that, if a study were ever done, it would show that we send the vast majority of our high school graduates off without ever having assigned them a complete history book to read. Students not proficient in nonfiction reading and writing are at risk of not understanding what their professors are talking about, and are, in my view, more likely to drop out of college.

For all I know, book reports are as dead in the English departments as they are in History departments. In any case, most college professors express strong disappointment in the degree to which entering students are capable of reading the nonfiction books they are assigned and of writing the term papers that are assigned.

A study done by the Chronicle of Higher Education found that 90% of professors judge their students to be “not very well prepared” in reading, doing research, and writing.

I cannot fathom why we put off instruction in nonfiction books and term papers until college in so many cases. We start young people at a very early age in Pop Warner football and in Little League baseball, but when it comes to nonfiction reading and writing we seem content to wait until they are 18 or so.

For whatever reason, some students have not let our paralysis prevent them either from studying history or from writing serious history papers, and I have proof that they can do good work in history, if asked to do so. When I started The Concord Review in 1987, I hoped that students might send me 4,000-word research papers in history. By now, I have published, in 98 issues, 1,077 history research papers averaging 6,000 words, on a huge variety of topics, by high school students from 46 states and 38 other countries. 

Some have been inspired by their history teachers, other by their history-buff parents, but a good number have been encouraged by seeing the exemplary work of their peers in print. Here are parts of two comments from authors—Kaitlin Marie Bergan: “When I first came across The Concord Review, I was extremely impressed by the quality of writing and the breadth of historical topics covered by the essays in it. While most of the writing I have completed for my high school history classes has been formulaic and limited to specified topics, The Concord Review motivated me to undertake independent research in the development of the American Economy. The chance to delve further into a historical topic was an incredible experience for me and the honor of being published is by far the greatest I have ever received. This coming autumn, I will be starting at Oxford University, where I will be concentrating in Modern History.” And Emma Curran Donnelly Hulse: “As I began to research the Ladies’ Land League, I looked to The Concord Review for guidance on how to approach my task. At first, I did check out every relevant book from the library, running up some impressive fines in the process, but I learned to skim bibliographies and academic databases to find more interesting texts. I read about women’s history, agrarian activism and Irish nationalism, considering the ideas of feminist and radical historians alongside contemporary accounts...Writing about the Ladies’ Land League, I finally understood and appreciated the beautiful complexity of history...In short, I would like to thank you not only for publishing my essay, but for motivating me to develop a deeper understanding of history. I hope that The Concord Review will continue to fascinate, challenge and inspire young historians for years to come.”

Lots of high school [and middle school] students are sitting out there, waiting to be inspired by their history teachers [and their peers] to read history books and to prepare their best history research papers, and lots of history teachers are out there, wishing there were a stronger and more optimistic set of arguments coming from a history presence in the national conversation about higher standards for nonfiction reading and writing in our schools.

“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
Varsity Academics®

Saturday, October 26, 2013

2013 Oahu History Bee and Bowl

The 2013 Oahu History Bee and Bowl will be held at ‘Iolani School in Honolulu on Saturday, November 9, 2013

Twenty teams are currently expected for the largest Hawaiian tournament held so far. Registration is still open for additional teams from Oahu. The registration deadline is November 7. See

During the lunch break, the United States Geography Olympiad National Qualifying Exam will be offered for any interested students. The cost is $10 and no prior registration is required – simply be at the school at the time listed below. For further information, please see or email

This event, along with the Hawaii History Bee and Bowl, is sponsored by History Education Hawaii, the Hawaii council of the National Council for History Education,  and the Pacific Learning Consortium. Additional sponsorship partners are welcomed. 

For all queries please email Executive Director David Madden at or via cell phone at (201) 661-3524.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

National History Club Lessons of Leadership Essay Contest

The National History Club (NHC) has invited chapter members throughout the country to write an essay of not more than 2,000 words (supplemented with a bibliography and endnotes) conveying how a past leader would address a current relevant issue facing our country or the world. 
Using examples of how that leader resolved crises during his/her era, students should look to clearly explain how and why that person would be able to effectively manage and improve upon a pressing matter affecting either our nation or the world.
The essays could develop lessons that emerge in areas including the following: 
-World democracy and poverty.
-The War on Terror.
-Right to Privacy.
-Immigration Reform.
-Human Rights issues. 
These are just a few samples --- feel free to get as creative as possible using unique approaches in selecting both past leaders and issues of importance.
Entries may be submitted in either of the following forms: 
1) Microsoft Word document, or 
2) PDF document. 
All entries must be received by March 15, 2014 and can be emailed to Bob Nasson at rnasson@nationalhistoryclub. org (please type “Lessons of Leadership” in the subject line). 
Essays will be judged by the NHC Advisory Board. Winners will be announced in the middle of April.
First Place - $1,000 
Second Place - $500 (two prizes) 
Third Place - $250 (four prizes)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Her Own Words® Stories of Women’s Lives

We just received the following regarding Her Own Words® Stories of Women’s Lives

Please pass the following information on to any members of NCHE Hawaii or elsewhere with interest in Women's studies, oral histories, or American Indian Literatures, culture or history.

I am writing to tell you about the five DVDs in the Her Own Words® series on American Indian Women's Stories:

Big Sister, Little Sister
Her Mother Before Her: Stories of Mothers & Grandmothers
Mountain Wolf Woman: 1884-1960
Sisters & Friends
Winnebago Women: Songs & Stories.

All five DVDs feature women speaking directly to the audience in their own voices and in their own words (in Mountain Wolf Woman’s case, the words are hers, but her granddaughter is the narrator).  Lengths range from 15 to 22 minutes.

Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education called these videos “excellent examples of the oral tradition.  The stories are told by the women who experienced them rather than as interpretations by others.  

These films bring back something we need to do in our own families." School Library Journal said that “Big
Sister, Little Sister makes effective use of personal narrative. Viewers will find this short film a touching testament to family, the Native American experience, and the aspects of life that we all share.”

The DVDs are available individually; an order form is on our website,

Her Own Words® Stories of Women’s Lives
PO Box 5264
Madison WI 53705-0264

Monday, October 7, 2013

The National History Bee and Bowl and the US Geography Olympiad are Returning to Hawaii!

Welcome to a new year of history and geography quiz competition! 

The National History Bee and Bowl (NHBB) and US Geography Olympiad (USGO) are excited to announce the start of our competition season with lots of ways for your students to compete. 

Go to this link for a photo album of the 2012 competitions at Iolani School, Honolulu

As always, registration for our tournaments is done online at for high school level History Bowls, for high school level History Bees, for the Middle and Elementary School History Bee, and at for the USGO National Qualifying Exam. 

Also, note that for the high school History Bee and USGO, same-day registration is permitted – the online option is provided simply if you need an invoice. History Bowl registration (which is required) remains open until 2 days before each tournament, though earlier registration is always appreciated.

With those administrative messages out of the way, here is the current tournament calendar for Hawaii:

Saturday, Nov. 9 – C Set – Oahu History Bee and Bowl, Iolani School, Honolulu

Saturday, Feb. 15 – B Set – Hawaii History Bee and Bowl State Championships, Island Pacific Academy, Kapolei

For elementary and middle schoolers, you are welcome to come to the Nov. 9 tournament, but we will only be 
using high school level questions there, so unless we get 4 separate elementary and middle school Bowl teams or at least four students in the Bee, students competing here may play against high schoolers in the Junior Varsity division.

Also, there is a different version of the USGO exam for each set of questions a tournament runs on. The USGO is certainly open to middle and elementary school students, who compete together with anyone born after July 1, 1998 in the Junior Varsity division of USGO. Junior Varsity for the History Bee and Bowl is, as in the past, defined as 10th grade and younger. 

For more information, including a few practice quizzes courtesy of our new Sri Lankan host school (!), please, and

We’ve also added a new preparation guide at: If you have any further questions regarding the high school division, please email NHBB Executive Director David Madden For questions on the Elementary and Middle School Division, please email Elementary and Middle Director Eric Huff at

The Concord Review Returns to Print

Academic Publisher’s triumphant return to print thanks to Print-on-demand technology

The 26-year-old academic quarterly journal, The Concord Review, returns to print—thanks to new automated printing services.

Oct. 1, 2013 - SUDBURY, Mass. -- The Concord Review is back in print.  After publishing a printed edition for 23 years, this unique scholarly journal for the outstanding history essays of serious high school students was forced to go to online-only distribution three years ago.  Thanks to new Print-on-Demand technology, the Review will offer subscribers physical copies again beginning with the Fall issue.

The Concord Review is the only quarterly journal in the world to publish the academic research papers of secondary students. But the recession undercut much of the donor support that helped this 501 (c) 3 non-profit produce the 250-page journal, and in 2010 the decision was made to produce the Review in eBook form only.

New Print-on-Demand (POD) services, which allow quick printing of small numbers of publications, enable The Concord Review (TCR) to print just those copies for which they have orders.  This eliminates the need for production over-runs, warehouse costs, etc.  Copies are shipped directly from the printer to the subscriber.

TCR is the latest of smaller publishers to be rescued by the new technology. “We feel like a phoenix rising from the ashes,” says founder and publisher, Will Fitzhugh.  “It’s given us back the power to reach all of our readers in the format they prefer.”  Fitzhugh also offers special issues on the Kindle and has been experimenting with individual issues via POD. “The latest advancement gives us the ability to sell subscriptions, and to have each copy printed on demand and shipped to the individual subscriber directly.  It requires less administration and less capital to print an issue.”

Despite the huge popularity of eBooks and eMags, many institutions, like schools and libraries, still prefer the printed edition to circulate to their readers. History teachers use the essays in their classes. Authors featured in the Review purchase copies for themselves and prospective colleges, family members, etc. After leveraging eBooks to stay “in print” during the recession, POD is now reuniting TCR with a large part of their readership.

Spurred on by these developments, TCR is now offering gift subscriptions. Many of their supporters have wanted to share the inspiring work in the Review with young scholars in their lives—like nieces, nephews and grandchildren.  The gift subscription allows them to "sponsor" a young scholar, or even a whole high school class, by gifting a year of the Review, to show students the exemplary work of some of their peers.

Many of their authors have sent reprints of their papers with their college application materials, and they have gone on Harvard (120), Oxford (13), Pennsylvania (23), Princeton (63), Stanford (38), Yale (98), and a number of other fine institutions, including Amherst, Berkeley, Bryn Mawr, Caltech, Cambridge, Chicago, McGill, Middlebury, MIT, Reed, Smith, Trinity, Tufts, Virginia, Wellesley, Wesleyan, and Williams.

The Concord Review provides a splendid forum for the best student work in history.” says Diane Ravitch, Senior Scholar at New York University. “It deserves the support of everyone in the country who cares about improving the study of history in the schools.”  Other supporters include noted Historians Arthur Schlesinger and David McCollough, and Dean of Admissions at Harvard College, William Fitzsimmons.

"We are fortunate that we have always had a large number of supporters who admire the work of our authors, and believe in our mission." said Fitzhugh.  "Once again, we have a way to get the Review back in their hands.  It's fantastic."

Thursday, October 3, 2013

From The Concord Review: History Courses from a Student's Perspective

History Education Hawaii, Inc., received this in an email from Will Fitzhugh, founder and publisher of The Concord Review:

Callie Phui-Yen Hoon [from Singapore] Deerfield Academy, Class of 2015 
“I would love to see more history classes offered at high schools nationwide andmore of them allowing students to write long papers over the course of the academic year.”

1. When did you first become interested in history?
Enrolling at Deerfield Academy, a private high school in western Massachusetts, and taking my first history course there piqued my interest in history. This class was one of the many Deerfield offered, and was entitled "The West in the Modern World." It surveyed European history from the Renaissance to current times. I had been a world traveler since I was young, hence the course material—peppered with primary sources—was not only captivating but also engaging. Deerfield’s Socratic pedagogy centering on class discussions honed my verbal and literary skills. In addition, my teacher Mr. Michael Silipo was at once knowledgeable and passionate, and over the course of a year patiently nudged the budding historian out of me. Deerfield developed my interest in history.

2. Which period of history currently interests you the most? Why?
I particularly enjoy the post-World War II period, especially the Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union. Tracking the rapid technological and scientific progress of the late 20th Century fascinates me, from the first microchip to the spread of nuclear power, and how it interweaves with historical developments. My Concord Review paper on the link between the 1986 Chernobyl disaster—the product of a revolutionary nuclear generation—and the dissolution of the Soviet Union lies within the ambit of my interest.

3. What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I see myself taking many more history courses prior to my graduation from Deerfield, especially those focusing on the West. Over the rest of my high school career, I aim to write more research papers and continue reading books outside of class to nurture this passion. I would like to major in both history and art history in college. I would then pursue graduate school and eventually become an academic.

4. Is there anything else you would like us to know?
I would love to see more history classes offered at high schools nationwide and more of them allowing students to write long papers over the course of the academic year. I would like to thank The Concord Reviewand its founding editor Mr. Will Fitzhugh for giving high school students around the world—including myself—the only forum to have their history research papers publishedThe Concord Review enshrined my abilities in history, and I am incredibly honored to be a part of it.

Applications for Gilder Lehrman History Scholar Award Now Open

We've received word that the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History is now accepting applications for its History Scholar Awards. Click here for FAQs

Fifteen top American history college seniors will be selected as Gilder Lehrman History Scholar Award winners. Go to this link for past winners.  Click this link for program details. 

  • Spend a weekend in New York City, June 6–9, 2014.
  • Participate in a program of special presentations, including meetings with eminent scholars.
  • Experience exclusive behind-the-scenes tours of historic archives.
  • Receive the Gilder Lehrman History Scholar Award at a celebratory dinner hosted by the Gilder Lehrman Institute in New York City.