An Interview with Will Fitzhugh: Concord Authors on Television

Jul 28, 2011 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

1) Will, I understand that CNN broadcast a feature on U.S. History in the schools at 8:45am EST on Wednesday, July 27, 2011. How did this come about ?

A producer at CNN wanted to do a story on the sad performance of American students on the NAEP test of U.S. History, and thought that it would be useful to include The Concord Review and its authors in the discussion. The piece was short and superficial and mirrored well how we neglect history in American education.

2) It seems that this feature included an interview with one of the high school authors whose history research papers were published by The Concord Review in recent issues. Do you keep track of these authors?

I work alone and cannot keep track of most of the authors I publish. They have active, mobile lives, and I don’t have the time or energy to keep after them for information. I used to have support for the Concord Review Society, our alumni effort, but after a couple of years the angel who provided funding for that flew away.

3) How long has The Concord Review been in existence and what do you hope to accomplish?

The Concord Review was founded in March of 1987, and in August I sent a brochure asking for history research papers to every high school in the United States and Canada and 1,500 schools overseas. My goal has been to find and recognize exemplary work in history and then to distribute it as widely as possible to show other HS students the serious papers of their peers.

4) Will , I have read past issues of The Concord Review, and I have to say that with each issue, you assemble some of the finest writing I have ever seen. How do you do it ?

I don’t do it, of course. The students do it, and they have been raising the standards every year since I started the journal. My secret is the same that works in athletics. Show young people the exemplary accomplishments of their peers and they will strive to meet and exceed them. The standards have been going up every year, but they are academic expository writing standards set by our authors, not by me.

5) Further, the topics cover everything from the Renaissance to the American to the French to the Russian Revolution and everything in between! It seems that these writers are young aspiring historians. How many go on to actually write a history book?

Some go on to major in history at Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Yale and so on, but even physics and pre-med majors can sometimes write first-class history papers. We don’t reward history the way we do student work in STEM, but I like to think that our authors will continue to write well and perhaps read history for the rest of their lives.

6) Recently you did a special South Korean issue—having been to Seoul, and actually all of the Universities in South Korea, I know they treasure and value education. Can you brief us on some of the papers from South Korea?

The First Special Korean Issue was the result of the work of Caroline Lee, a South Korean very concerned about the English expository writing skills of Korean students who want to attend American independent schools and selective American universities. She felt that while Korean students put serious and successful efforts into math and science and objective tests, many underestimate the work they need to do to become fluent in English expository writing. So she worked with me to produce the Korean issue, which has seven (of eleven) papers by Asian students, but only two by Korean students studying in the United States. Others were by a student from Singapore and one from Japan, and the rest from students at schools here.

7) Is there any one high school that seems to consistently produce exemplary papers of historical relevance?

I can think of several I can count on for a steady stream of excellent papers: Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland, Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, New York, Hunter College High School in New York, the Ellis School in Pittsburgh, and more recently, the University of Chicago Laboratory High School in Chicago, among others.

8) Obviously, you rely on principals and teachers to encourage students. Is there any one parent, principal or teacher that deserves recognition?

Richard Hines of Richard Montgomery, Broeck Oder of Santa Catalina School, Steven Houser of Horace Greeley, Paul Horton of the Lab High School, Ric Bisset of Singapore American School, and a number of others, of course.

9) Subtle question—but what is the impact of having been published in The Concord Review?

For high school students who are published there is the pride and satisfaction of knowing their academic paper meets the standard of the only journal in the world for such work at the secondary level. Such success usually leads to more confidence and then on to greater efforts to achieve academically in school and later in college. The prestige of being published in The Concord Review has been compared to that of being a finalist in the Intel or Siemens Science Competitions, which are much, much better funded, of course.

10) How can readers, historians, and librarians assist you in your endeavors?

Historians, with one or two exceptions, have shown no interest in the exemplary work in history by students in Lower Education, but every reader, teacher and librarian who subscribes is voting for the survival of this unique journal and its efforts to recognize, distribute, and encourage exemplary academic expository writing among secondary students all over the world. 

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