Letters to the Editor
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
‘They Can Write’
The September 13 piece by William Fitzhugh, “They Can Write,” of the Concord Review should be required reading for all secondary school history teachers, for he articulated clearly and accurately the substantial need for serious factual, historical writing in a secondary school curriculum. His observation that public school English departments emphasize a soft, subjective, “feel-good” genre of writing is, unfortunately, becoming increasingly the case at a number of private schools as well. The relentless outpouring of relatively uncritical, non-analytical, personalized creative writing, unbalanced by production of analytically objective history papers greatly contributes, as Mr. Fitzhugh notes, to the need of so many college students and graduates for remedial writing instruction. When a student has mainly written about how s/he “feels” about what the “butterfly on the daisy” means, producing a thoughtful, factual, organized, and grammatically correct paper is a virtual impossibility.
It must also be noted that the benefits of the Concord Review “experience” are not limited to students back East. Recently, I had a visit from a former student (class of 1990) who was Santa Catalina’s second published author in the Review, and who is just about to finish her Ph.D. in history after much work at the University of Nottingham and the London School of Economics and Political Science. As a senior at Santa Catalina, this student wrote an article entitled “Czar and Commissar: Peter the Great, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Modernization of Russia,” wherein she compared and evaluated the respective objectives the two leaders had for Russia, as well as Gorbachev’s prospects for success in light of Peter’s experience.The paper’s publication in The Concord Review proved a major factor in that Midwestern girl’s admission to Princeton, but more importantly, it became the gateway to her future, as Russian History is now her Ph.D. specialty. She read a paper at a conference in Moscow last July, and she is about to publish an article in the Journal of East European Jewish Studies.
The Concord Review figured prominently in giving her the self-confidence to pursue her interest in Russian History, but she is not the only Santa Catalina student who benefited from the Review. Indeed, of the eight Catalinans who have published in the Review, only two took Advanced Placement U.S. History, the others being enrolled in our standard college preparatory course. The notion that only “brainiac” AP types publish in the Concord Review is entirely erroneous, and the number of Santa Catalina students who never published but gained intellectually from reading the Review exceeds 1,000.
Will Fitzhugh and the Concord Review have made invaluable contributions to the teaching and learning of high school history for almost 20 years. That more teachers have not utilized this remarkable resource to instruct, inspire, and motivate their students is both lamentable and indefensible.
Chair of the History Department
Santa Catalina School
I want to praise Mr. Fitzhugh for recognizing America’s young writers in his excellent publication, the Concord Review.
As the mother of four daughters and a writer/researcher myself, I have been very frustrated by the lack of school time given to teaching good writing skills and how to do research. We need to improve the curriculum of our nation’s high schools so that our high school students may graduate with the ability to understand any business report, find information, and write detailed essays relevant to whatever occupation they have chosen to pursue.
It is praiseworthy that the Concord Review recognizes excellence despite our education system, and gives recognition to young adults that can spur the writing of essays and books — as well as masterpieces in music and art — that enrich us all.
New York, N.Y.
Superlatives can not do justice to the value of the Concord Review’s efforts highlighting exemplary nonfiction high school writing, so here is an example. I work with several Ohio policymakers to promote use of the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence. Distressed by substandard science education proposals, on a whim I googled Scopes and Concord Review. There I discovered high school essays of higher quality than the authorities cited in amicus briefs to federal courts.
William Fitzhugh is right. Students and teachers need to see these exemplary essays. A Concord Review gift subscription for your local high school might provide an opportunity for its students and teachers to genuinely embrace the aspirational goals of public education.
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