A year ago, Will Fitzhugh was wondering if the next issue of The Concord Review, the renowned journal he founded in 1988 to recognize high school students’ outstanding history research papers, would be the last. On a tattered shoestring budget, Fitzhugh has just published the Summer 2008 edition, and with some support from schools and other fans in the private sector, he has hopes for four more issues over the next year.
But the former high school history teacher is proceeding mostly on a wing and a prayer, and a driving passion for promoting rigorous academic work for teenagers. Last year, the salary for the curmudgeonly 71-year-old was a measly $8,600. This for a scholar who has won widespread praise among the top education thinkers in the country for demanding, and rewarding, excellence and earnestness in the study of history. Thousands of high school students—mostly from private schools, but many from public schools, including diverse and challenged ones—have responded with work that has impressed some prominent historians and many college-admissions officers.
So how is it that such an undertaking is only scraping by, while other worthy programs, such as the National Writing Project and the Teaching American History Grants, manage to garner millions of dollars each year in federal and foundation support?
Right now, the Review is staying afloat on the commitment of Fitzhugh and some 20 secondary institutions that have ponied up $5,000 each to join a consortium that was created a year ago to cover the costs of publishing the journal. The National Writing Board, also founded by Fitzhugh, brings in some money from students who pay for an evaluation of their research papers that can be sent in with their college applications.
Why is it that some extraordinary efforts in education, which seem to have vision and the right end goal, struggle so?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.