The Chosun News; Seoul, South Korea; 19 November 2012: “For College and Jobs, Practice your Non-fiction Writing skills”

“The Secrets to Good Writing” from the editor of The Concord Review [TCR]
Increase time spent on research, hone the quality of your writing
Stay away from “How to Write Well” books
Serious writing is no longer the specialty of a scholar. Ever since writing essays have become an important part of the college admission process, high schools have become in the grip of “writing fever.” Also known as the “Olympiad of History,” TCR is the first organization to put the publication of high school students’ essays into practice. Since 1987, TCR has published history papers by 1044 students in 39 countries around the world. Of all the participants, 36% (371) of them have been admitted to an Ivy League university. The rest have been admitted to Stanford, MIT, Oxford and Cambridge. Delicious Study held an interview on November 12th with Mr. Will Fitzhugh, the founder of TCR, and two students, Han Jae Hyuk (Seoul International School, Senior) and Lee Seon Woo (Asia Pacific International School, Sophomore), who are preparing for applying to colleges in the States. With the invitation from the Asian representative of TCR, Caroline Lee, Mr. Fitzhugh visited Korea for the first time. The following article describes what Mr. Fitzhugh had told the students about “Writing for College.”
The Quality of Writing comes from the Strong Facts
For each issue of The Concord Review, Mr. Fitzhugh reads at least 140 essays every 3 months. His “criteria for a good paper” were rather simple. “An interesting history paper is a good paper. However, for a paper to be enjoyable to read, the writer must have a genuine interest in the topic. In essays, for example, an interesting work has both a unique stance on a topic and a solid support of evidence. No matter how original one’s perspective is, without evidence, the essay is empty. It’s rare to find sources of evidence that fit perfectly with your interpretations. In fact, some students who have published essays in TCR have spent 18 months writing the essay. Had these students not been interested in what they were writing, they could not have put in such an effort.”
Then, Lee Sun Woo pointed out a difficulty many students faced: “Even with interest in a topic, it can be difficult to connect that to a topic one can write about.” Mr. Fitzhugh responded with an anecdote. “A student in an international school in Hong Kong sent an essay about the Needham Question (1900~1995). Cambridge Professor Joseph Needham studied why Chinese science had stopped advancing ahead of Western Science in 1500 as it had been until the 16th century. To satisfy his curiosity about Needham, Jonathan Lu organized an answer in essay form. He was able to connect the familiar topic of China with an unfamiliar one, science, through history. It’s a good example.”
Read First…Write Later
Throughout the interview, Mr. Fitzhugh continued to emphasize the importance of reading. From finding an interesting subject to research, reading has to be continually done. However, it is not necessary to read books that surpass one’s reading level. “How to Write Well” tutorials will jeopardize the genuineness of your writing and only the fancy phrases and diction will stand out.” Pertaining to writing, Han Jae Hyuk raised a concern whether “Other forms of communication (debating for example) can be as helpful as writing.” “Well,” Mr. Fitzhugh simply answered, “the main way to improve one’s writing skills is to write more.” “Writing a 1,000-word paper is much harder than speaking for the same amount. Of course, during the process of preparing for a speech, you encounter knowledge that you can use for a paper. However, without writing a single word, there will be no improvement in one’s writing aptitude.” He added, “What is needed for high school students today is practice in non-fiction writing.” “Today’s American high school students are given fiction-writing assignments to test and expand their creativity. However, even those who receive such assignments will one day attend college and encounter a variety of non-fiction writing. Because there is such a big gap between reality and today’s high school education, some companies spend $3 billion dollars each year in remedial writing courses for their employees. I’m assuming that the situation in Korea is not so different.”
The Concord Review
The only journal in the world that publishes papers written by high school history students (American school standard 9th to 12th grade). Under the principle “writing skill is a valuable asset,” TCR publishes 11 essays in each online issue every 3 months. Created by Mr. Will Fitzhugh in 1987. Funded by donations and subscriptions. Chooses 5 exceptional essays (of 44) each year for the Emerson Prize. The number of Koreans who have published in the journal is 22. With a payment of $40 (43,000 won), any high school can submit an essay for consideration.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
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Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
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