Lincoln Essay Competition
Encouraging civil civic discourse, especially around difficult subjects, is a key part of Hildene’s mission. In this year’s competition, students will consider the delicate topic of censorship. Across the United States, the number of book challenges (attempts to remove or restrict access to a book based on its content) has increased dramatically—despite the fact that schools and libraries employ specific policies and procedures for choosing materials to include in their collections and curricula. In 500 words or fewer, please respond to the following:
Choose a book, in consultation with a parent or guardian, from the Shortlist of Challenged Books* and read it, if you have not already. Imagine that there is a request to remove this book from your local public library, school library, or 8th-grade classroom and that you, as a student, have been asked to give your opinion about how the school or library should respond. First, identify at least one reason why someone might challenge this book. Second, state what action(s) you think the school or library should take in response to the challenge. Third, give two distinct, well-explained reasons why this is an appropriate response. Finally, describe what you think the potential long-term impacts of your recommendation would be if it were implemented.
Shortlist of Challenged Books:
These books are listed on the American Libraries Association website as having been challenged in the U.S. within the past two years:
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Maus by Art Spiegelman
Melissa (previously titled George) by Alex Gino
New Kid by Jerry Craft
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
*You may choose a book that is not on this list, as long as you provide proof in your endnotes showing when and where it was challenged.
To view an organizer template and helpful tips by a former LEC First Place Winner, click HERE.
For the past sixteen years, Hildene has administered the Lincoln Essay Competition informed by our mission: Values into Action. Using Abraham Lincoln’s legacy as touchstone, Hildene seeks to inspire young people to tackle important issues, underscoring the responsibility each of us has to help make our world a better place. The competition is open to all eighth graders in the state of Vermont, whether they enter as part of a class assignment or on their own. Essays are judged on the student’s understanding of the subject, as well as on their ability to convey that understanding through good writing.
The inspiration and prompt change yearly and are published in late November/early December, along with instructions for applying, rules, guidelines, tips and a sample assessment rubric. The Lincoln Essay Competition supports 8th Grade Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts Literacy in Writing.
The competition is judged in four regions. Home-schooled students are encouraged to enter, and will be judged as a member of the region in which they reside. Judges come from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, geographical locations, vocations, religions, genders, etc., and include a mix of new and repeat judges every year. The judges never see anything that identifies the student, their address or the school they attend.
Winners receive certificates, and cash prizes. Each region has a first, second, and third place winner. Honorable Mentions are by discretion. We emphasize to all students and their educators that the most important aspect of the competition is the process of examining a tough issue and endeavoring to articulate a well thought-out and compelling response to it. We commend all participants who show their best effort in offering genuine responses under the very particular expectations and standards of Hildene’s 8th Grade Lincoln Essay Competition.