We make frequent use of the influence of their high school peers on many of our students. We have peer counseling programs and even peer discipline systems, in some cases. We show students the artistic abilities of their peers in exhibitions, concerts, plays, recitals, and the like.
Most obviously, we put before our high school students the athletic skills and performances of their peers in a very wide range of meets, matches, and games, some of which, of course, are better attended than others.
While some high schools still have just one valedictorian, fellow students have little or no idea what sort of academic work the student who is first in her class has done. Academic scholarships may be announced, but it is quite impossible for peers to see the academic work for which the scholarship has been awarded. Here again, the contrast with athletics is clear.
We show high school students the artistic, athletic, and other examples of the outstanding efforts and accomplishments of their peers without seeming to worry that such examples will send their peers into unmanageable depressions or cause them to give up their own efforts to do their best.
When it comes to academic achievements, on the other hand, we do seem to worry that they will have a harmful effect if they are shown to other students. I am not quite sure how that attitude got its hold on us, but I do have some comments from authors whose papers I have published in The Concord Review, on their reaction to seeing the exemplary academic work of their peers:
“When a former history teacher first lent me a copy of The Concord Review, I was inspired by the careful scholarship crafted by other young people. Although I have always loved history passionately, I was used to writing history papers that were essentially glorified book reports…As I began to research the Ladies’ Land League, I looked to The Concord Review for guidance on how to approach my task…In short, I would like to thank you not only for publishing my essay, but for motivating me to develop a deeper understanding of history. I hope that The Concord Review will continue to fascinate, challenge and inspire young historians for years to come.”
North Central High School (IN)
“The opportunity that The Concord Review presented drove me to rewrite and revise my paper to emulate its high standards. Your journal truly provides an extraordinary opportunity and positive motivation for high school students to undertake extensive research and academic writing, experiences that ease the transition from high school to college.”
Thomas Worthington High School (OH)
“Thank you for selecting my essay regarding Augustus Caesar and his rule of the Roman Republic for publication in the Spring issue of The Concord Review. I am both delighted and honored to know that this essay will be of some use to readers around the world. The process of researching and writing this paper for my IB Diploma was truly enjoyable and it is my hope that it will inspire other students to undertake their own research projects on historical topics.”
Old Scona Academic High School, Edmonton, Alberta, (Canada)
“In the end, working on that history paper, inspired by the high standard set by The Concord Review, reinvigorated my interest not only in history, but also in writing, reading and the rest of the humanities. I am now more confident in my writing ability, and I do not shy from difficult academic challenges. My academic and intellectual life was truly altered by my experience with that paper, and the Review played no small role! Without the Review, I would not have put so much work into the paper. I would not have had the heart to revise so thoroughly.”
Isidore Newman School (LA)
“At CRLHS, a much-beloved history teacher suggested to me that I consider writing for The Concord Review, a publication that I had previously heard of, but knew little about. He proposed, and I agreed, that it would be an opportunity for me to pursue more independent work, something that I longed for, and hone my writing and research skills in a project of considerably broader scope than anything I had undertaken up to that point.”
Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School (MA)
Now, whenever a counterintuitive result—like this enthusiasm for a challenge—is found, there is always an attempt to limit the damage to our preconceptions. “This is only a tiny fringe group (of trouble-makers, nerds, etc.)” or “most of our high school students would not respond with interest to the exemplary academic work of their peers.” The problem with those arguments is that we really don’t know enough. We haven’t often actually tried to see what would happen if we presented our high school students with good academic work done by their more diligent peers. Perhaps we should consider giving that experiment a serious try. I have, as it happens, some good high school academic expository writing in History to use as examples in such a trial…see tcr.org.
Contact: Will Fitzhugh, firstname.lastname@example.org