Putting a new focus on history for America’s students The National History Day Contest and the Grateful American Book Prize

WASHINGTON, DC – More than half a million students participated in the 2018 National History Day Contest (NHD), including “more than 3,000 middle and high school students [who] presented documentaries, exhibits, papers, performances, and websites related to the 2018 theme, Conflict & Compromise in History.”

History education advocate David Bruce Smith believes the program imparts incentives for young learners, such as scholarships and cash awards, to focus on history.

“The late Dr. Bruce Cole, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which is a sponsor of National History Day, encouraged me to join him in creating the Grateful American Book Prize with the same goal in mind. Our aim was to create an inducement for authors and publishers to produce more books of historically accurate fiction and nonfiction that would inspire middle school students, and stimulate a curiosity about the past; NHD and the Grateful American Book Prize are important ways of creating better informed, more responsible generations of citizens.”

The NHD was established in 1974. It has already announced that the 2019 theme will be Triumph & Tragedy in History. Parents and teachers should consider encouraging their sons, daughters and students to get involved. The how-to page at the NHD Website provides information about entering.

Meanwhile, the judges for the 2018 Grateful American Book Prize are in the process of reading the books that have qualified for that contest. The deadline for entries is July 31st. The Prize will be presented on October 11th at The Society of the Cincinnati. The winner will receive $13,000 and a one-of-a-kind medallion created by American artist Clarice Smith. In addition, two authors will be selected as “Honorable Mentions.” They get $500 each and the medallion.

Why all this fuss about history? Peter Stearns, professor of History at George Mason University, points out there are plenty of reasons for instilling a love of the subject among our children. Perhaps most important is that it “provides data about the emergence of national institutions, problems, and values—it’s the only significant storehouse of such data available. It offers evidence also about how nations have interacted with other societies, providing international and comparative perspectives essential for responsible citizenship. Further, studying history helps us understand how recent, current, and prospective changes that affect the lives of citizens are emerging or may emerge and what causes are involved. More important, studying history encourages habits of mind that are vital for responsible public behavior, whether as a national or community leader, an informed voter, a petitioner, or a simple observer.”