Competition Gives History New Life; History Is Alive and Well among Youngsters in America's Junior High and High Schools, as Shown by the 24th Annual National History Day Contest in Washington

Insight on the News, July 22, 2003 | Go to article overview

Competition Gives History New Life; History Is Alive and Well among Youngsters in America's Junior High and High Schools, as Shown by the 24th Annual National History Day Contest in Washington


Byline: Stephen Goode, INSIGHT

Most of them arrived on Sunday, the day before their big four-day event began: More than 2,100 middle- and high-school students from nearly every state in the union, the District of Columbia and American Samoa. They were the na-tional finalists in the National History Day (NHD) contest held each year in mid-June at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The 2,100 students weren't alone. They brought with them more than 5,000 proud parents and teachers eager to see these state champions come out on top in the nationals. A Jeep Grand Cherokee with Delaware license plates arrived with "NATIONAL HISTORY DAY OR BUST!" painted on the rear window. On a side window was "ASK ME ABOUT MY NHD KIDS!"

For the last year, these students of history had honed their History Day projects into lean, mean presentations. More than 700,000 began the competition at the local level. By the time they reached the state contests, their numbers had dwindled to 40,000. Now they were down to 2,100 and facing stiff competition for prizes that included bronze, silver and gold medals for the top three slots in selected areas, as well as big-time scholarships and $5,000 monetary awards.

For the last three years this reporter has been a judge in the NHD finals, an experience that is an encouraging shot in the arm for anyone chagrined by what polls for years have shown about the weak historical awareness of America's young people. These disappointing stories report that few students can identify James Madison as the father of the U.S. Constitution or the century in which the Civil War was fought.

NHD students tend to know a lot of history. What's more important, they are fascinated by the subject. For them it's not dead. The past is alive with the influences it has on the present and with the many people some of them famous, most not who did extraordinary things that should be remembered.

That no doubt is what Case Western Reserve University history professor David Van Tassel had in mind when he set up the modest beginnings of what has evolved into National History Day in Cleveland a quarter-century ago. Concerned about the decline of interest in history since the 1960s, he hoped NHD would be a remedy which it has been, to a greater extent, perhaps, that Van Tassel dared foresee.

What there can be no doubt about is that the good professor would have been pleased with the enthusiasm evident everywhere during the four-day event. Students wear T-shirts boasting of the states they're from white ones for Tennessee, with an outline of the Volunteer State in color. California's are a deep blue with "History Day The California Way" on the front along with "I Love National History Day," the word love a brilliant red heart. Washington state students wore black T-shirts; New Mexico's were brilliant gold with a red sunburst symbol in the center.

The enthusiasm, too, bubbles over into the ardent trading of state buttons carried on by students, parents, teachers and others caught up in the energy of the event. Collectors wear their buttons prominently some sporting those from past contests as well as this year's. For 2003 the button to have was West Virginia's.

The Mountain State had a lone contestant, Beth Bradley from Ravenswood High School in Jackson County, and she came with the Ohio delegation. Nonetheless there was a West Virginia button and it was in great demand. When this reporter, who's home state is West Virginia, acquired one, it wasn't five minutes before an NHD parent from Vermont was offering a trade.

National History Day is funded by the Siemens Foundation, Jostens, the History Channel, Cargill and the U.S. Department of Education, among other sources. There's also the Friends of National History Day, which those interested can join (telephone: (301) 314-9739; Website: www.nationalhistoryday.org).

What gets contestants interested? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Competition Gives History New Life; History Is Alive and Well among Youngsters in America's Junior High and High Schools, as Shown by the 24th Annual National History Day Contest in Washington
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.