Outstanding High School Writing

Published March 1, 2004

The learning curve says repetition of an activity leads an individual to carry out that activity more and more efficiently. But what about helping someone get started on a good set of practices to begin with? That comes from providing a good model on which the individual can frame his or her efforts. In high school essay writing, that model is provided by The Concord Review, a quarterly publication of outstanding works by high school students.

Each issue of The Concord Review contains about 10 history essays on a wide variety of worldwide topics, each running to about 5,000 words with endnotes and an annotated bibliography. The latest issue, for example, contains essays on the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, nineteenth century political cartoonist Thomas Nast, the 1968 “Prague Spring” of Alexander Dubcek, the fall of the Russian monarchy, the legacy of British involvement in the Middle East during 1914-1924, and a brief history of the Knights Templar, an order of ascetic monk knights that developed into an arrogant transnational superpower before King Philip le Beau of France ordered its destruction in 1310.

Will Fitzhugh, a Sudbury, Massachusetts high school history teacher, started publishing The Concord Review in 1987 to show students the high standard at which they should be aiming in their essays. As a result, students who take their work seriously enough to produce soundly researched and well-written essays have an academic journal where their work can be recognized. This not only provides encouragement to students to match the journal’s academic standards, but also establishes “Varsity Academics,” where students enter their work in a competition to match their academic prowess against that of their peers.

Since 1988, Fitzhugh has worked full-time on the Review, gathering essays from high school students across the country and around the world. To date, he has published 561 research papers from authors in 42 states and 33 other countries. The Concord Review is the only quarterly journal in the world to publish the academic work of secondary school students.

Teachers use the published essays as examples of good historical writing and schools in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia have class sets of the Review. One girls’ school in Monterey, California has 190 subscriptions for the school’s history students.

George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is [email protected].

For more information …

Further information on The Concord Review, including 51 sample essays and details of how to subscribe, is available at the Review‘s Web site at http://www.tcr.org.