NEH Announces 2006 Idea of America Essay Contest

WASHINGTON, (January 30, 2006)

Young writers will examine First Congress's historical debate on the First Amendment

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) invites all eligible high school juniors to enter the 2006 Idea of America Essay Contest, which begins today. Open to 11th-grade students and 16- and 17-year-old home-schooled students, the 2006 Idea of America Essay Contest offers a cash prize of $5,000 to the author of the winning essay. Three national finalists will each receive cash prizes of $1,000. The deadline for entries is April 19, 2006.

As part of NEH's We the People initiative, the Idea of America Essay Contest encourages students to think and write analytically about significant events and individuals in American history.

"The Idea of America Essay Contest encourages young writers to examine and analyze the defining principles of our nation," said NEH Chairman Bruce Cole. "Those who participate will strengthen their sense of citizenship and deepen their understanding of the American story-a story of ordinary men and women and their extraordinary deeds in pursuit of great ideas and ideals, such as those articulated in the First Amendment."

For the 2006 contest, students will be asked to write an essay that examines the historical debate in the nation's First Congress over the benefits and disadvantages of adopting the First Amendment.

Judges will consider whether the essay demonstrates a strong understanding of American history, presents a focused and well-reasoned consideration of the topic, displays originality in analysis and composition, and exhibits clear writing and proper spelling and grammar.

Eligible students are encouraged to submit their 10,000-character (approximately 1,500-word) essays online at the Endowment's Web site, which also offers specific guidelines for entering the contest, a lesson plan on essay writing, and other helpful resources.

In the fall of 2006, NEH will announce the winner and three national finalists at an award ceremony in Washington, D.C. The winning essay will be published in a national forum.

The National Endowment for the Humanities gratefully acknowledges the generous support provided by the McCormick Tribune Foundation for the Endowment's We the People initiative.

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