Translated by Kelly Choi
Boston Korea interviewed William Fitzhugh, the editor of The Concord Review, on the first Monday of September at a restaurant in Sudbury. Following is the interview with him.
Please tell us about The Concord Review.
The Concord Review, Inc., was founded in 1987 and the goal was to publish exemplary history essays by secondary school students around the world. Now we published 912 essays by students from forty-four states, and thirty-eight countries including South Korea. What we publish is usually history essays, research papers, and they are averaging about 6,000 words.
I had two ideas. One was that students write good essays and I hoped students submit it to me and I thought teachers would want to see them. So they would subscribe. Number one worked but number two didn’t.
So Money has been a terrible problem. I had to suspend publication twice lack of funds,and I’m not sure about this year.
Why did you limit the subject to history?
I was a history teacher. And also at the time in 1987, there were a lot of concerns about ignorance of history of American students. So I thought, by encouraging them to read, not just write, we would improve knowledge of history. The more students read, the more knowledge students get. As students read the essay of their peers, they would learn history from them as well.
The other thing is,creative writing, personal writing, poetry, there are a lot of attention to them in English department in the schools. Also there are rewards and publications for them. There was nothing for history.
In this country, there are large awards for high school students from Science. The Intern Science Talent search awards $530,000 for high school students. The Siemens also has a competition with $6,000 and prizes. We are the only journal for history and We have only $5,000 .
What is the minimum requirement to be selected from The Concord Review?
Well, I used a model in the beginning; The Standard Essays for International Baccalaureate program. In order to get the IB program, you have to write a 4,000 words paper. So I thought that would be what I get. But over the years, papers got longer and better. Students responded to competition. So they are working harder and spending more time and doing better work and writing longer papers. When I started, I didn’t expect getting 13,000 or 15,000 words papers but I am getting ones.
So that’s one standard. The other is that if students visit the website or subscribe, they would see what kind of essays are published. And then that’s the standard. I don’t put the standards into words. I don’t say you must do this, you must do that. Most important thing is them to read and think about. Write a paper accurate, also interesting. Because I am making other students read. Quality of writing is important.
How many Korean students have been participated?
I published two papers by Korean students and another 6-7 by Korean-Americans.
What was the theme of the research paper?
Both essays were on North Korean Refugees. What happens to them in China, what happens to them in south Korea and north Korea. In this issue, I have an essay by a Korean-American student from Arkansas, writing about North Korea.
There are forty-four essays each year and out of them I choose five for Emerson Prize Award. One of ones this year is by a Korean girl from North Carolina. She wrote about during the effort to push the Japanese out, the nationalism movement the women’ movement and Christianity movement worked together. It is very good paper.
How can students submit a research paper?
On the website, there is a submission form and you have to fill it out; who your teacher is, what school you go, what your birthday is, whether you are male or female. After that, send a $40 check in American dollars and for that you can get next four issues of journals. The fee on the other hand is a way to get issues to their peers’ hand as well.
As soon as I get paper, I write a letter saying I have the paper and more information. I publish about 7 % of what I got. So if they want their paper on next issue, they should write a month before.
How long does it usually take to finish a research paper?
Some people say a month, but a student from Georgia who submitted 15,000 words paper for 18 months and won Emerson prize eventually. He told his parents that when he went to interview, what interviewers were most interested in was the paper. However, I don’t know how long it takes. I guess its around 9 months.
What benefits can students expect from writing a research paper?
Everyone can have good writing skills for college. You have to read a lot to write. Also you have good reading skills to write. Then you have to write a draft. I think one of the best things to do is to read the draft to your friends. When I write speeches I ask my wife to read it. There are always mistakes. So the time you finish your paper, you are a better reader of non-fiction, you are a better writer of non-fiction, you are better prepared for college than a lot of you peers don’t have those experience.
What is a problem of Education system in America?
Writing is a terrible problem in America. About 30% of American students in 4 year colleges are in remedial courses because they can’t take regular courses. About 60% of American students in community colleges are in remedial courses. They are not ready to reading and writing. It is because writing in schools in this country, a lot of it is a personal writing; write about yourself, family, personal experiences, and diaries. Diaries are private so they are not seen to teachers. Students don’t get a chance to practice besides writing about themselves. Also they don’t read. They don’t read non-fiction books.
So many teachers here, if they came out of college or graduate school, they don’t have to write essays. So they don’t. My feeling is that if you have written good research paper by yourself, I would ask my students to do that. However, the teachers have never done it. So they don’t do it.
What was the most impressive research paper to you?
There was a Japanese girl, who saw a picture of Kamikaze soldiers. She questioned why they committed suicide. So she went to every museums in Japan for the Kamikaze files. She interviewed all the families and survivors. Some survived because engine died so they could swim back and rescued. I was very surprised. She also won the Emerson Prize Award. In the end of paper, she said “I was wondering about this, and I still don’t know.”