Should every child be made to play chess?

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Carl Hibbard
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Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Carl Hibbard » Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:34 pm

A good or bad idea from a BBC article here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13140772
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Richard James
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Re: Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Richard James » Mon Apr 25, 2011 1:59 pm

Undoubtedly a seriously bad idea.

Should every child have the opportunity to learn chess? Yes!

Should every child be made to play chess? No!

Realistically, they don't have much hope of success anyway. The government is trying to return the National Curriculum to the more 'conservative' concept of subject teaching and away from what they feel to be more amorphous concepts such as developing thinking skills and cross-curricular links, which is where chess would come in.

First of all, chess is, unlike literacy, numeracy and IT skills, an optional extra in life. If you make it compulsory you'll just end up putting many kids off chess.

Secondly, where are you going to find the teachers? Most chess players are male and most primary school teachers are female and have no real interest in chess. You can only teach a subject successfully if you're passionate about it. Having people who are not really interested or knowledgeable teaching chess sounds like a seriously bad idea to me.

Thirdly, there's the problem I've mentioned elsewhere that while children can learn the moves at 6 or 7, most children only develop the skills needed to play good chess at about 11-13. This can be circumvented by doing chess intensively at home, but not by just doing an hour a week at school.

What you should do instead, in brief, is this:

Develop a course using a wide variety of games to teach thinking skills. Make the course flexible enough that teachers can choose the games they particularly like. The chess part of the course would include mini-games and puzzles based on the moves of the chess pieces, but not, for young children, complete games. This is very much the lines along with CSC are thinking.

Develop a nationwide network of junior chess clubs run by professional chess teachers so that schools can feed through children who show a particular interest or talent in the game. These clubs might also run after-school community based chess courses for beginners (possibly using the Dutch Steps course).

Produce literature for schools to help teachers and parents identify children who might benefit from learning chess.

Arshad Ali
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Re: Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Arshad Ali » Mon Apr 25, 2011 7:33 pm

Malcolm Pein supports making it compulsory? Sounds like a daft idea to me. Agree with Richard's perspective and proposals above.

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Joey Stewart
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Re: Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Joey Stewart » Mon Apr 25, 2011 8:01 pm

Just teaching children to play chess properly without making illegal moves would be a huge achievement.
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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Christopher Kreuzer » Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:59 pm

Just read this article, and it struck me that there was a quote from the "World Chess Federation" (never heard of it) and from the Armenian Chess Federation and from the "chief executive of Chess in Schools and Communities" (Malcolm Pein) and from Raymond Keene, but nothing from the English Chess Federation. Were they contacted by the journalist, I wonder?

EDIT: Doh. By "World Chess Federation" they mean FIDE (seems obvious now!). :oops:

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Re: Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Andrew Farthing » Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:13 am

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:Just read this article, and it struck me that there was a quote from the "World Chess Federation" (never heard of it) and from the Armenian Chess Federation and from the "chief executive of Chess in Schools and Communities" (Malcolm Pein) and from Raymond Keene, but nothing from the English Chess Federation. Were they contacted by the journalist, I wonder?

The journalist left a voicemail for me on Wednesday, which I didn't pick up until late in the evening. When I returned the call first thing Thursday morning, I was told that she would be out of the office until today. I haven't been contacted since.

Michael Jones
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Re: Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Michael Jones » Wed Apr 27, 2011 12:32 am

Joey Stewart wrote:Just teaching children to play chess properly without making illegal moves would be a huge achievement.


That, along with any more significant progress, depends on how early they start, how much time is devoted to it, and whether they're at all interested in it. Given the number of other lunchtime/after school clubs they have to compete with, very few schools are likely to run a chess club more than once a week, which really isn't enough to get beyond the basics in less than a year (maybe more than that). To achieve any real progress they'd have to play more often than that - either at home or at a club.

As far as the UK is concerned, I agree with Richard's point of view: give them the opportunity, but don't make it compulsory. Armenia is clearly in a different position in that chess has a much higher profile there, so children are less likely to consider it "uncool" (a common reason for kids here either to give up chess or not start playing in the first place, when without the peer pressure they'd be more likely to keep at it). Even so, though, there are obviously going to be some Armenian children who don't like chess, and trying to force them to play sounds like an incredibly bad idea.

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Re: Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Alex Holowczak » Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:40 am

Michael Jones wrote:Even so, though, there are obviously going to be some Armenian children who don't like chess, and trying to force them to play sounds like an incredibly bad idea.


There are some English children who don't like football, but they're forced to play it at school. Is it an incredibly bad idea to get them to play football?

There are some English children who don't like Maths, but they're forced to do it at school. Is it an incredibly bad idea to get them to do Geography?

There are some English children who don't like behaving sensibly, but they're forced to at school. Is it an incredibly bad idea to get them to behave sensibly?

You could apply your logic to absolutely anything.

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Re: Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Michael Jones » Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:40 am

Alex Holowczak wrote:You could apply your logic to absolutely anything.


No, you couldn't. Behaving sensibly is a prerequisite to getting any work done (and, if the non-sensible behaviour is disrupting the class, to anyone else getting any work done); maths, I think most of us would agree, teaches certain things which are useful if not essential to everyday life. Chess and football, though one may be useful for developing the mind and the other for exercising the body, are certainly not 'essential' in the same sense. I was compelled to play rugby at school, although I maintained at the time, and continue to do so ten years later, that this was very definitely a bad idea.

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Re: Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Alex Holowczak » Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:16 am

Michael Jones wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote:You could apply your logic to absolutely anything.


No, you couldn't.


Sure you can; I just did. :wink:

Michael Jones wrote:Behaving sensibly is a prerequisite to getting any work done (and, if the non-sensible behaviour is disrupting the class, to anyone else getting any work done); maths, I think most of us would agree, teaches certain things which are useful if not essential to everyday life. Chess and football, though one may be useful for developing the mind and the other for exercising the body, are certainly not 'essential' in the same sense.


I was stretching the point with sensible behaviour. I would argue that some sort of physical activity on the curriculum is a good thing. Similarly, I would argue that some kind of mental activity would be worthwhile. At the moment, the only kind of mental activity that education is interested in are academic subjects. I think there should be some focus on things that develop mental ability without tying it to an academic subject.

Michael Jones wrote:I was compelled to play rugby at school, although I maintained at the time, and continue to do so ten years later, that this was very definitely a bad idea.


I too had to play rugby, but thoroughly enjoyed it. I think it'd be far better to teach rugby in schools than football, because it's far less yobbish in nature. What is and isn't a good idea is very subjective by nature.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Christopher Kreuzer » Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:39 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:There are some English children who don't like Maths, but they're forced to do it at school. Is it an incredibly bad idea to get them to do Geography?


Was there a reason for switching from Maths to Geography here?

Krishna Shiatis
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Re: Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Krishna Shiatis » Wed Apr 27, 2011 6:04 pm

I do not think that anyone should be 'made' to play chess.

I do however believe that it is worthwhile to have the choice in school. I believe that in many ways, chess is a metaphor for life. If you have a good start in life (opening) you go into middleage happier and more fulfilled (middlegame) and if this continues you have better chances of a good 'old age' (endgame). The converse is also true.

Also, chess rewards forward planning and strategy - as does life. Many of the problems faced by our children today (boredom, lack of focus, taking drugs, anti-social behaviour, teenage pregnancies) could all be addressed at a much deeper level by teaching chess formally.

Children/teens respond better to indirect advice.

Teaching chess would certainly not solve all the problems in society, but it would certainly help address some of them. After all, that is what (IMO) a good education should be, to raise our young to be happy, responsible, lovely, thoughtful, polite, well mannered and productive members of our communities.

Matthew Turner
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Re: Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Matthew Turner » Wed Apr 27, 2011 7:21 pm

All Schools recognise the importance of physical exercise in a child's wellbeing. That is why all children play sport at School. We all accept this now, but at one time this would have been a controversial view. There is no reason why in future a similar argument could not be accepted about a child's mental fitness. I am not sure this means all children need to learn chess, some schools might teach bridge instead or perhaps sudoku puzzles. I think that would be very beneficial for students across a large spectrum of academic abilities.

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Re: Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Carol Williams » Wed Apr 27, 2011 7:37 pm

I agree with Richard & Krishna - choice not force!

Whoever at the BBC decided to write this article without talking to Richard James knows nothing about children or chess!

Arshad Ali
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Re: Should every child be made to play chess?

Postby Arshad Ali » Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:56 pm

Matthew Turner wrote:All Schools recognise the importance of physical exercise in a child's wellbeing. That is why all children play sport at School. We all accept this now, but at one time this would have been a controversial view. There is no reason why in future a similar argument could not be accepted about a child's mental fitness. I am not sure this means all children need to learn chess, some schools might teach bridge instead or perhaps sudoku puzzles. I think that would be very beneficial for students across a large spectrum of academic abilities.


Speaking as a former teacher, it is unrealistic. I've seen efforts in schools by well-intentioned amateur teachers and volunteers to "teach" chess (which they often don't know themselves); these efforts come a cropper. Schools will have to pay for skilled chess teachers and in order for them to be effective the groups will have to be small and the effort continuous -- an hour a week is risible. In addition, if the children are force-fed, they may well develop a lifelong aversion to the game. This is -- to use an American expression -- yet another half-assed idea that cannot work in any measurable terms.

There are teachers in the London area such as, for example, GM Aaron Summerscale, who work with willing pupils in independent schools. But this is another kettle of fish altogether: the students come of their own free will, there are no discipline problems, and the teacher knows his job and can structure a program of instruction.


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