“I’m supposed to make sure that Dzovinar goes to the state museum twice for different exhibits on science this summer and make sure that she ‘stays current’ with algebra. That’s what the teacher said—‘stays current’ as if algebra happened to be something that changed like the news.” Strawberry Measles stopped by the coffee club after a meeting with her daughter’s teacher. She was enjoying her mini-rant. Some of the regulars began talking about the education reform efforts before going back to chessboards and rounds of backgammon.
When our news outlets aren’t reporting the latest celebrity press release or the desire to send US troops to stop the war on Betelgeuse, they focus on the state of education. We’ve seen the failings of “No Child Left Behind” and the false positive outcomes that result from teaching to standardized testing rather than teaching for the sake of learning. The movement behind No Child Left Behind seems solely to promote privately operated charter schools, granting licenses to select corporations to generate profits from these efforts to denigrate public education. We’ve seen other business efforts that also attempt to “fix” the school systems. I remember when Chris Whittle and partners were going to repair school systems with Channel One. Whittle profited with the sale of the idea to another corporation. I don’t know what students gained from that effort. Profit seems to be the primary factor in motivating a variety of educational reforms.
My friends in the field of education are frustrated by political efforts, which seem to lack any basis in experiential reality, at reform. Few teachers are asked what they need to make learning a success for all students.
Teaching to inspire a depth of learning does not appear on the agenda. We practice a form of hypocrisy when we speak of the necessity for lifelong learning without generating the pleasures of learning among the students.
A two-word suggestion for those who want to improve education: play chess. Teach and play chess in all grades of the public schools. I haven’t talked with any teachers about this suggestion. I haven’t lobbied members of Congress or talked with chessboard manufacturers to develop a “schoolpak.”
What could students possibly learn from mandatory K-12 chess in public education? Some outcomes:
Executing a plan
Dealing with loss and gain
Learning to defer gratification
I realize that this suggestion will profit no one other than the students. What more is necessary?