Artwork by Mike Magnan
Should all kids be forced to play chess?
Armenia is making the game mandatory for schoolchildren. Will that make them smarter?
Best Opinion: National Post, BBC, Education Stormfront
Armenia has come up with a novel approach to school reform — it's making chess lessons mandatory for all students age 6 and older. A spokesman for the country's education ministry says compulsory lessons will "foster school children's intellectual development" and improve their critical thinking skills. The government also hopes that its $1.5 million investment will help the tiny nation of 3.2 million become a "chess superpower." Is forcing kids to play chess really a good way to help them learn?
Absolutely, chess teaches kids how to think: Chess strengthens the mind, says psychology professor Mark Sabbagh in Canada's National Post. Teaching the game in schools will force students to learn "planning, thinking ahead, imagining the strategies of another person." These skills give kids the ability to act on reflection, not just impulse, which is a gift that will help them succeed in life.
"Armenia's gambit to become chess superpower"
But it shouldn't be compulsory: "Chess is obviously a skill," says British education reform advocate Katherine Birbalsingh, as quoted by BBC News, so it's smart to teach it to kids. But cramming mandatory lessons into an already full school day is a bad idea. "There is so much to learn, so many subjects to put into the curriculum, it would be a shame to lose something like music or art for chess."
"Should every child be made to play chess?"
Chess is no silver bullet... but it might just help: At a time when technology is whittling away at our attention spans, says Education Stormfront, "being able to focus on a problem and to be able to creatively solve it" is an increasingly rare skill. "I'm not saying chess is the answer," but if it helps today's frazzled, multitasking children learn to concentrate, maybe schools in the U.S. should give it a try, too.
"Reading, writing, arithmetic ... and chess?"