I read with delight that some of my peers at La Jolla High School in San Diego County were recently recognized in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search for their accomplishments. As someone who prepared chromosome charts as an intern at a genetics institute, I believe such accolades provide teens and the beleaguered education system with examples of what dedication and creativity can achieve.
But I was also saddened by the fact that there appears to be a double standard: Students who excel in the humanities deserve equal praise and recognition for their work but receive little. The humanities remain significant because they illustrate humankind's common roots.
This point seems lost on the new Republican congressional majority, which seeks to severely curtail the National Endowment for the Humanities. Nor is the sentiment good news for the Concord (Mass.) Review, the only international history journal featuring the writing of students at the secondary level.
For each of the last eight years, the Review has published 40 papers researched and written by high-school students from 32 states in America and 18 countries. Subjects range from the different roles Japanese and American women played in World War II to the Harlem Renaissance to Finnish history. "We have one Japanese boy going to school in Singapore writing about Frank Lloyd Wright," says Editor Will Fitzhugh. A former high-school history teacher, Fitz-hugh founded the Review in 1987 to "show off scholars the way we show off athletes." But Fitzhugh says the Review may have to fold this year for lack of sufficient backing, all of which comes from private sources. "There's not much (funding) out there for top students of history and literature," says Fitzhugh, who spends about $70,000 annually on the Review.
The loss of the Concord Review would discourage further growth in the humanities and would prove a loss for the sciences as well. Sciences may determine society's technological development, but an understanding of the past and the humanities helps us see the evolving and unpredictable course of human life, which can give us the ability to better understand today.