Emma, first of all tell us about what you are currently, doing, studying, and the like.
I am graduating from high school this week and heading to New York University in the fall. Having gone through the grueling college admissions process and four years of high school, I am dedicating my summer to surfing, reading, and hanging out on the beaches of Santa Cruz…
2) Now, I understand that you were published a while ago in The Concord Review. What was your topic and when did this occur?
My paper on the Broderick-Terry Duel was published in the Spring 2013 Issue of The Concord Review. The Broderick-Terry Duel was a pistol duel in 1859 between U.S. Senator David Broderick and California Supreme Court Justice David Terry. The duel was the culmination of a decade of dramatic and divisive politics in California between the pro and anti-slavery democrats. Broderick’s legacy has been imprinted in history, for his death in the duel reversed the pro-slavery Democrats’ victory in the 1859 statewide elections and ensured that California would remain firmly in the Union.
3) What prompted you to write a major research paper on the topic of your choice?
I was inspired by Colonel Edward Baker’s eulogy for his friend, U.S. Senator David Broderick. One of the finest orators of his time, Baker wrote eloquently about how Broderick stood up to a pro-slavery president as well as the California and national legislatures, and repeatedly, won against all odds. He spoke of Broderick’s conviction and courage, his fight against the pro-slavery movement in California, and of how his unwillingness to cave to injustice ultimately cost him his life. Over one hundred years later, Baker’s words still had the power to move me to tears and compel me to research Broderick’s story and the context of his time.
4) Who helped you? Parents, teachers, principals?
My father is a constant source of information and support. My earliest childhood memories are playing with my doll while watching Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary with my father. As I have grown older, we continue to share a love of history.
5) I understand you have some concerns about the current emphasis on Science, Technology, Electronics and Math. Tell us about your concern?
As was recently stated in The Concord Review’s blog, “The Emerson Prizes lost their funding last year…Intel still has $680,000 in prizes for High School work…” I can attest to the contrast in reception of academic achievement in STEM fields versus the Humanities, even at the small, academically-focused, independent school (The College Preparatory School in Oakland, California) that I attend. This year, one of my classmates received an Intel Award and teachers continually publicly recognize and celebrate her achievement in school assemblies and newsletters, which is entirely appropriate because she did extraordinary work.
However, I told several of my teachers about my paper being published in The Concord Review, an internationally recognized academic journal, and while they congratulated me, neither my published paper, nor my Emerson Prize, was acknowledged in a public forum until the last day of school, as a brief afterthought.
I understand that STEM is currently receiving a lot of attention in the national news because it is closely tied to our economic expansion and workforce. I recall a statistic from the U.S. Department of Labor stated that 5% of the American workforce is employed in a STEM related field while 50% of our economic expansion relies on STEM related professions. Clearly, there is a great demand for talent in STEM fields and we are looking to the next generation of brilliant young minds to fill the gap. However, it is essential that students with an aptitude for the humanities be encouraged as well, for man does not live by science alone.
How bland would life be without literature, history, poetry, and music? How will society advance, if we do not understand who we are and where we have been? We need young people who are gifted in English, History, or Language for our economy, too. Our nation needs teachers, writers, law makers, orators, translators, researchers, etc. We need brilliant minds–period, and academic excellence and achievement should be celebrated and nurtured across all fields.
6) Some people talk about “life changing events.” Do you see getting your paper published as a life changing event?
Being published in The Concord Review was one of the happiest moments of my life. The research that I put into the paper will stay with me forever, for through the course of my writing, Senator Broderick became my personal hero. His character and the life that he led have inspired me to live my life with principle and integrity. Serendipitously, by having my paper published, I met another hero, Mr. Fitzhugh, the founder and editor of The Concord Review.
Although I am only acquainted with him through email correspondence, I greatly admire that he has dedicated his life to advocating for youths and youth education. I follow his blog and posts on The Concord Review’s Facebook page, and although his posts are usually serious, they can also be really funny and sassy.
7) What kind of writing are you doing now?
Poems, love letters, creepy Facebook statuses…In all seriousness, I am hoping to write for NYU’s student newspaper in the fall.
8) What have I neglected to ask?
How is learning to write a history research paper relevant and useful to high school students?
In my opinion, writing a history research paper encompasses all of the skills of the humanities discipline–reading, writing, critical thinking, researching, and understanding a subject within its historical context. These abilities teach and reinforce essential skills for any student’s academic and professional career. Being able to think critically about an event or issue within its context is vital to understanding and solving any kind of problem, and in the modern age of the internet, it is crucial that everyone know how to research and identify credible sources. Furthermore, knowing how to methodically organize and support one’s ideas is key to being able to communicate or argue a point and understanding someone else’s argument.
Outside of the classroom, these skills have enabled me to give back to my community. Currently, I am on the Board of the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth, which guides the allocation of $12-20 million towards programs that serve impoverished and at-risk children and their families. Although I am the youngest on the commission, my vote has equal power, so I take my responsibility seriously. I prepare for each meeting by reading and analyzing briefs, data, and long government documents in order to understand the issues at hand as well as the greater community context.
It is not easy reading, and I have learned that many local and national policy and funding issues are complex and interconnected; but, by treating each meeting’s agenda as a subject to be researched, I am able to contribute to the Board’s discussions at public hearings and make funding recommendations.