House committee votes to keep Utah History Day

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SALT LAKE CITY — The House Government Operations Committee passed HB64 Tuesday, Feb. 4, a bill that will keep Utah History Day alive.

Utah History Day is a program that has been in operation for more than 30 years. Each year, students from all across the state, ranging from grades 4 through 12, participate in History Day. With this, they learn how to conduct real historical research, analyze evidence and create presentations showcasing their work. Then there are a series of competitions starting at the school level then moving up to the district or regional level, state level and national level.

Rep. Jack Draxler, R-Logan, said, “It’s based on the presumption that history is important and that it needs to be emphasized among our students. That there are critical lessons in history and that this is a very effective tool in stimulating interest and enthusiasm for history.”

Draxler, the bill’s sponsor, also pointed out that in addition to improving students’ critical thinking, writing, and research skills, those who participate also tend to outperform those who don’t participate in reading, science and math.

In the past, Utah State University has sponsored the event. However, because of decreased funding, USU has discontinued their involvement. HB64 would continue the event with the Division of State History to promote, coordinate and administer the program. If Utah were to discontinue the program, it would be the only state to not participate.

Rep. Michael Noel, R-Kanab, said, “We want to be like the rest of the states and not just some red-headed stepchild.”

During the committee meeting Tuesday morning, the room was full of supporters of the bill, some of whom traveled long distances to express their voice. Of this group were several current and former participants who spoke about how this program has changed their lives and careers. One such was Mike Wagner, a history teacher at Tabiona High School.

Wagner said, “I think that no small part of the fact that I teach history can be related to the fact that I participated in this program when I was younger.”

While some committee members seemed concerned about the cost of keeping the program going, but no one at the hearing opposed the bill. The bill passed unanimously and will now be taken to the full House for further consideration. If passed, Utah History Day will usually take place on the last Friday in January.

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