By Adam Droge
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 — learning how to conduct real historical research, analyze evidence and create presentations showcasing their work. Afterwards there are a series of competitions involving their research presentations which start at the school level then move up to the district/regional level, state level and finally even the national level.
Rep. Jack Draxler, R-Logan, said, “[Utah History Day] is 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, who is 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 the subjects of 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 by designating 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 the morning of Feb. 4, the room was full of supporters of the bill, some of whom traveled long distances to express their voice. Several current, and former, participants who spoke about how the 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, no one at the hearing opposed the bill. The bill will now be taken to the full House for further consideration. If passed, Utah History Day would typically take place the last Friday in January.