Coronavirus and High School History

David Randall

NAS champions a proper education with a rigorous emphasis on writing and history—but we would never have dreamed to argue that it’s a good preparation for fighting the coronavirus pandemic. A bit of a stretch, we’d have thought. Special pleading; no one will believe us.

But then we checked in with The Concord Review.

The Concord Review, run by Will Fitzhugh, has dedicated itself since 1987 to training high school students to write lengthy, well-researched history papers, and to publishing the best of these papers. Fitzhugh and The Concord Review work nigh singlehandedly to repair a terrible gap in American high school education. Most high schools substitute fact-free “social studies” for history, and most of these social studies classes don’t assign long research papers to their students. High school students who arrive in college usually know little history, and even less of the basic skills of writing and research, without which it is impossible to even think about history in any rigorous manner. Students who study with and/or publish in The Concord Review are among the rare exceptions.

It turns out that The Concord Review doesn’t just prepare you for history classes, but for everything in life—including the coronavirus pandemic. Will Fitzhugh just received a lovely letter from a 2003 Concord Review author, Dr. Alex Peters.

Dear Professor Fitzhugh,

Almost 20 years ago, when I was in high school, you published my article on the Spanish Influenza in the Winter 2003 (Vol 14, Issue 2) The Concord Review. I went on to pursue an MD and am now a surgical resident at Weill Cornell Medical Center, having gained an MPH as well during a hiatus last year at Harvard. That 2003 paper remains one of my proudest achievements, and given the looming catastrophe facing New York, I refer to it frequently. Among one of my core conclusions was that lackadaisical politicians (in addition to overshadowing by the war efforts) resulted in downplaying of the pandemic in New York at the time. …

Thank you again for your faith in me way back then. You could not begin to imagine the positive impact that very first publication experience has had on me throughout the years.

Sincerely,

Alex Peters

At Peters’ request, The Concord Review has now posted and made freely available his 2003 paper. Everyone should read it.

Peters’ letter wonderfully makes the case for The Concord Review, for history education, and for intensive writing. They prepare you for anything—and the spark they give, the love of learning, matters as much as the array of skills they instill. They even prepare you for a coronavirus pandemic.

We’d make a larger argument at NAS—that the rigorous liberal arts education, which transmits the long conversation of Western civilization, is equally necessary for our citizens to prepare for any unexpected challenge. Dr. Peters’ letter is good evidence for that larger argument as well.

But that’s an argument to make at greater length another time. For now, we hope that readers appreciate just how much good work Will Fitzhugh has done at The Concord Review these thirty years and more—and how much good work Dr. Peters’ and his colleagues are doing at the hospitals around our country.


David Randall is Director of Research at the National Association of Scholars

Image: Sam Bayle, Public Domain

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