Blogs > Cliopatria > History Judging

Mar 13, 2005 6:07 pm

History Judging

No, not more on ahistorical judgementalism, but serving as an actual Judge! I was one of the judges for our local National History Day. I got to be the first round judge for half the"senior division" (aka high school) Media projects (DVDs and Power Points, mostly), then I got to be a run-off judge for the"junior division" (middle school) Displays (think Science Fair posterboards). This isn't the statewide competition yet, this was the first time anyone looked at these projects (in at least one case, the first time anyone had ever seen the completed project: I tell my students that I know that 75% of the work is done in the last 12 hours, but I don't recommend it!). The other judges included grad students, retired accountants (with History MAs), university and community college faculty (not all historians, either)....

The projects, which were supposed to relate somehow to the theme of communication in history, really did run the gamut (What's a gamut? It's the musical scale. Yeah, I look these things up for fun. Buy an unabridged dictionary and see if you don't start doing it, too.) from guide dogs to telegraphy, massacres to mele [hula chants], Enigma to Woodstock. Lots of students did lots of work on these projects, and some of them really did have that sparkle of projects which fired the imagination and curiosity. There were lots of websites cited, but also lots of good books, and scads of interviews: one bunch of junior high kids tracked down a member of the Youngbloods; several of the media projects included interviews with Hawaiian cultural educators.

It's my first time doing this: I never heard of it until I was teaching in Iowa, couldn't figure out who to talk to to get on the mailing list, then I've had scheduling conflicts in the past few years here in Hawai'i. I'm very glad I did it, even though it was a bit mind-numbing to watch seven media projects in a row (with short interviews in between, but still; I should be grateful there were two no-shows, otherwise my co-judge and I never would have had time to come to a consensus decision), and I'm still not convinced that posterboard is a great medium for historical research (though I was impressed at the nearly movie-like products some students presented via Power Point, there were also some weak presentations in that form, too). I enjoyed the day, and I'm signed up to be an e-mail resource for students next year ("Taking a Stand" is the theme, I'm told).

Old themes; old friends: Tom Friedman, in making a very similar point to one I made a few days back cites an old friend, Emanuele Ottolenghi, who is currently a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (taking time off from his Oxford post):

Looking at Eastern Europe on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall, said Emanuele Ottolenghi, a lecturer on the Middle East at Oxford,"we could have predicted which countries would have an easy transition to democracy and which ones not." Countries like Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states, which had a history of liberal institutions and free markets that had been suppressed by communism, quickly flourished. Others farther east, which did not have such institutions in their past and were starting from scratch - Bulgaria, Romania and the former Soviet republics - have struggled since the fall of the wall.
I'm trying to track down the source of Emanuele's original quote, but google's been no help [Update: Emanuele says it wasn't a written quote, but a conversation]. In the meantime, folks interested in the Columbia and Churchill issues might find his comments on SOAS interesting.

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Charles V. Mutschler - 3/13/2005

I've really enjoyed being a judge at History Day, both the local and state finals. Mostly I've judged at the locals, but I have sometimes also judged at the state finals. I have been quite impressed with the quality of work and interpretation which some of these young people put into their projects. I think I first judged in the local contest in the early 1980's.