High School Research Papers and the New York Times

Ashley Thorne

Will Fitzhugh is profiled in the New York Times this week for his work as the publisher of The Concord Review, a quarterly journal dedicated to printing the best history papers written by high school students. The article, “Journal Showcases Dying Art of the Research Paper,” refers to the National Association of Scholars (not by name) and reports that we published a long-suppressed research report, sponsored by The Concord Review, on how American high school teachers avoid assigning research papers.  

95 percent of teachers surveyed in the report believed that research papers are important, but 62 percent never assigned extended-length essays, chiefly because they lacked time to grade them. In our introduction to the study, we wrote that the study’s financial backer the Albert Shanker Institute declined to publish the results because they reflected badly on American teachers. The Times article rejects this explanation and suggests other complications that caused the Institute to leave the study unpublished.

The Times also mischaracterizes the National Association of Scholars as “an organization of conservative academics.” Our members can be said neither to be “conservative,” nor “academics.” To the contrary, NAS’s members represent the full spectrum of political views, and NAS as an organization does not subscribe to any political doctrine or take stands on matters outside higher education, domestic or international. Our members, whether conservative or liberal, share a passion for the principles of traditional liberal education. Furthermore, we are no longer an organization solely of academics. As of late 2009, NAS’s membership is open to all, because we recognize that many people outside the academy – including parents, grandparents, alumni, journalists, and concerned citizens – have a legitimate interest in the future of higher education.

Despite these discrepancies in the Times, we congratulate Will Fitzhugh on being featured so prominently, and we are pleased to have played our role in resurrecting his 2002 study. We hope the publicity for The Concord Review helps attract some much-needed financial support for this worthy journal. 

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