Commentary

History’s a Mystery

During my freshman year, I was amazed by the tremendous political knowledge displayed by many people on this campus. With the election just around the corner, students would be debating the issues as they walked between classes. However, I noted the sad fact that there was no sort of historical society to generate more discussion on the campus. I decided to start a new historical society in order to generate a new historical discourse here at PA. It is quite astonishing that Phillips Academy has existed as an educational institution for over 200 years, with a major emphasis on history and public policy, without the establishment of an enduring historical society and publication. I hope that our new society will change this fact while creating a lasting historical dialogue. This emerging society hopes to foster ancient and modern historical awareness among the students on this campus. The club’s mission is to establish a strong foundation of historical knowledge among the students at Phillips Academy. We have many ideas concerning how to fulfill this mission. Much of the writing found in student publications at PA focus on current events, but fails to provide the reader with an in-depth background of specific issues. We are attempting to create and publish an annual historical journal that will include the best history essays of PA students. Our projected publication is unique in its mission. In contrast to The Phillipian, Frontline, In the Mix, and other campus publications, our journal will focus on establishing a thorough historical background that can be connected to the present. We are using the highly successful Concord Review as a blueprint for our periodical. I recently spoke with William Fitzhugh, Editor of the Concord Review. He expressed to me the great need for such journals at secondary schools. In fact, Mr. Fitzhugh pointed out that he only knows of one such history journal: Cliosophy, published by St. Mary’s Episcopal Secondary School in Tennessee. We hope to fill the void left by this lack of historical publications by students. It is also important to note the lagging knowledge of history among American high school students. A 2000 New York Times article entitled Word for Word/Pop Quiz; History 101: Snoop Doggy Roosevelt, describes the deeply unsettling results of a recent report surveying students’ knowledge of U.S. History. The study, sponsored by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, asked 34 high-school level history questions randomly to 556 seniors at 55 top colleges, including Ivy League Universities. The average answered correctly was 53%, and only one student answered all 34 questions correctly. We hope that our Journal will generate a greater understanding, and thus create better results. We also strive to have a small number of faculty and outside guests speak at school in order to address the broad themes of history and their links to modern-day political, social, and economic affairs. Phillips Academy has sponsored a variety of speakers, all of whom have shared their insights on fundamental issues. Our hope is to inform, enlighten, and inspire the Phillips Academy community. Engaging the PA Community in a worldly discussion of history is important. Our club’s underlying purpose is to make way for a new generation of Phillips Academy historians and knowledgeable human beings. We cannot gain any prominence or success without the Academy’s support, so please celebrate our history as PA students, Americans, and future leaders of the globe.