William Fitzhugh: The Concord Review — Journal Showcases Dying Art of the Research Paper

Source: NYT, 1-8-11

 

Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times

William H. Fitzhugh publishes The Concord Review, featuring research papers written by high school students.

William H. Fitzhugh, the cantankerous publisher of a journal that showcases high school research papers, sits at his computer in a cluttered office above a secondhand shop here, deploring the nation’s declining academic standards.

Summer Printed Version 2010 The Last Version Printed

The summer issue of The Concord Review.

“Most kids don’t know how to write, don’t know any history, and that’s a disgrace,” Mr. Fitzhugh said. “Writing is the most dumbed-down subject in our schools.”

His mood brightens, however, when talk turns to the occasionally brilliant work of the students whose heavily footnoted history papers appear in his quarterly, The Concord Review. Over 23 years, the review has printed 924 essays by teenagers from 44 states and 39 nations.

The review’s exacting standards have won influential admirers. William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions, said he keeps a few issues in his Cambridge office to inspire applicants. Harvard considers it “something that’s impressive,” like winning a national math competition, if an applicant’s essay has appeared in the review, he said.

That reputation has always been bigger than revenues. Last year, income from 1,400 subscriptions plus charitable donations totaled $131,000 — about $5,400 short of total expenses, even though Mr. Fitzhugh paid himself only $18,000. This year, with donors less generous in the recession, Mr. Fitzhugh had to stop printing hard copies of the review, publishing its most recent issues only online, at tcr.org.

The term paper was once an important feature of American secondary education, requiring students to dig deeply and write at length. Mr. Fitzhugh said that most public school teachers have stopped assigning such papers — a shift that he attributed mostly to the fact that teachers have so many students and so little time.

Still, hundreds of earnest students send Mr. Fitzhugh papers every year, hoping to win his stamp of approval….READ MORE

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