SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The facts are clear enough: 99% of all children who are taught chess in schools in North America stop playing the game within 3 years. Other countries that use the same model have experienced similar results. There is something very wrong here. In 2008 David Lavin, soon after being elected president of the CFC (Chess Federation of Canada) asked me where were all the children from CMA’s chess program– that had been running for more than 2 decades–since the CFC’s membership had actually dropped during that time!
The truth is that this is the reality of school chess in Canada and the US. The easy approach to teaching chess has failed. There is more to teaching than providing information and memorizing rules. The current programs do not bring in their share of members to the chess federations, nor have they tried hard enough to promote the game to our youngsters. What may be good for chess business is definitely not as good for the children who want to learn the game…
One of the best known and most influential chess blogs in the English language–or anywhere for that matter– has run a series of indepth articles this past week on this very subject, but focusing mainly on what happens in Britain (where the same model as in Canada is followed). The author is none other than junior chess trainer Richard James. He is known to many as a foremost authority on the theory and practice of chess pedagogy for young people.
I highly recommend the reader to take a careful look at Richard James’ writings. Especially if you are a parent of school age children or are someone interested in getting involved in school chess. You will learn a lot and have your eyes opened to what is wrong with the present system in place in many countries…
EXCERPT FROM TODAY’S ARTICLE:
”Keeping kids at it”
”I really don’t see the point of putting children into even low-level tournaments when they hardly know how the pieces move. We’re fooling the children, along with their parents and teachers, into thinking they’re real chess players when in fact they’re no such thing. Giving children all the accoutrements of real chess such as clocks, scoresheets and grades when they are more or less playing random moves really does them no favours.
Children find the baubles and trinkets they win in the UK Chess Challenge attractive but the superficiality of bogus rewards of this nature is well documented. They go to the chess club because they want to win the prizes, not because they want to play chess, and as they get older and the attraction wears off they drop out of chess.
If we want to give prizes of this nature (and that’s open to debate) we should do so for demonstrating improved skills rather than just for winning games. There’s another thing as well: in many countries there is concern about putting children into competitions too soon, not so much because they’re not good enough players, but more because they lack the emotional maturity to cope with the pressures of playing competitive chess. Some young children can deal with this, but others cannot….
In most Primary Schools where chess is ‘done’ there’s a club which meets for half an hour one lunchtime or an hour one afternoon, and children get no other opportunity to play. There’s no way children in this sort of environment will ever get anywhere unless they’re doing significant work on chess at home as well. Parental support is absolutely essential for young children to become good players, and the younger they start the more support they need...
If you want to produce strong young players you need to set up junior chess clubs rather than encourage chess in primary schools. Parents need much more commitment to take their children to a club than to pick them up an hour late from school. Clubs will have higher standards of play, attracting children from a wider area, and will be able to meet longer hours and perhaps more often….”
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS