An Interview with Steven Lee: Summer Camp for History Writers

Aug 4, 2021 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy

  1. First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself- your education and experience?

My grandfather was a respected Confucian scholar. I grew up in Korea watching him debating and discussing the classics with his guests in his reception room. I started each day reading daily newspapers with my father. I love the smell of old books. I wanted to be a high school teacher, but later changed my mind. I have a business degree from Stony Brook University in New York. In 2008, I met Will Fitzhugh, and I was able to rekindle my childhood dream.

  1. Now, what exactly are you doing this summer?

I am supporting all our teaching staff for the TCR ( The Concord Review ) History Camps, and helping out students.

In 2014, Will Fitzhugh and I started the TCR History Camp; now each summer is full of helping students with their history papers.

  1. How did you get involved with The Concord Review?

In 2008, I met Will. I was helping my friend’s daughter with her college plans. She did not want to miss an admission deadline, so I printed her research paper and hand-delivered it to Will’s office. (His office is only 15 minutes away from my house.) We had lunch a few days later and we talked about The Concord Review.

  1. What kinds of students attend this camp, and how long does it last?

The TCR History Camp for secondary students lasts for two weeks. We have had students from China, Indonesia, Japan, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, UK, Korea, ….   as well as from across the United States. The Camp provides a good chance for any serious history student to learn more about how to write a history research paper. While they work on their paper for much of the Camp, they finish it when they get home. Most of our participants are diligent, intelligent, and competitive. The quality of students is getting better every year. Just as with submissions to The Concord Review, the students are the ones who keep raising the standards.

  1. What topics seem to appeal to the current group of students?

We never tell students what to write about, so the range of topics they choose is quite impressive. We have published research papers on ancient China, the Roman empire, Louis XIV, women’s suffrage, English Copyright Law, Sarder Patel, and the advantages and disadvantages of the M-4 Sherman Tank. 158 of our authors have gone to Harvard, and almost 50% have now gone on the the Ivy League, Chicago and Stanford, not to mention Cambridge, Caltech, MIT and Oxford.

  1. Writing skills or thinking skills? Or both? What needs to be taught?

Both, of course. However, the TCR History Camp focuses more on reading and the organization of their research and writing. The more you read, the more you know. Reading a lot about their topic helps them to think clearly. They also learn to think about their readers, and what might interest them.

  1. And what about research skills? What kinds of skills does a competent writer of history need?

Reading leads the list. The more students read, the more effective and worth reading their history research paper will be. The online databases are becoming a more critical part of the research process, but history books are still out there, and many students take the time to read them, as well.

  1. What have I forgotten to ask?

Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I just want our younger generation to read more history and learn to write well. I have two children, and their attention span is shorter than mine. Thanks to all the electronic devices and Twitter character limit. The scariest part is, I am becoming more like my kids.

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