The Value of Chess
I just finished David Shenk's book, Immortal Game: A History of Chess,
and came upon this passage at the end:
We face in our modern, splintered world not only a crisis in education, but
more pointedly a crisis of understanding-- of thought and of willingness to
engage in thought. We live in an age where the intellectual challenges are
unprecedented; just to be an effective consumer one has to be able to navigate
a hundred half-truths and advertising tricks every day. Ironically, in our
information age, truth is harder to come by because it is so surrounded by
facts, slick presentations, and tools of distraction.
One common response to our splintered, postmodern, slippery-truth age is not
to think but to instead fall back on a fixed set of beliefs, a strict
ideology. In consequence, we have--inside the United States and worldwide-- a
growing schism between enlightened, skeptical, thinking individuals and
close-minded, fundamentalist ideologues. We are also literally in a war that
is rooted in these differences.
This summarizes so succintly, my frustration over the last 7 years. For we
have a situation where literally our country is divided in half. And while we
can appreciate our inter-connected world and the easy access to knowledge and
information, it is this wave of knowledge that is drowning half of our
Shenk's solution is pretty simple, and seems to have merit… teach chess.
…We must also address the underlying schism. The single greatest danger to
ourselves and future generations is to stop thinking, and it behooves us to do
anything we can to encourage spinning, skeptical minds. To do this, we will
need powerful thought tools like chess that help our minds expand, grow
comfortable with abstraction, and learn to navigate complex systems.
So, this fall, I will be teaching chess as my local elementary school.
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