Friday, September 02, 2005

Banned! Revisited

In the comments to my previous post on this topic, CelticDeath (apparently finding 5 minutes reprieve from baby care and foolishly failing to use it to catch up on his sleep) mentioned a letter from the "Evans on Chess" column in the September 2005 edition of Chess Life. Here is the letter and Larry Evans' response:
Chess Banned At My School!
Anonymous, Northwest Louisiana

I have a master's degree in biology and serve as a substitute science teacher at a small private high school that has some remarkably gifted students. I have also played chess for 42 years, though never good enough to make an impression on the outside world. Nonetheless, I feel as though chess has greatly enriched my life and I started letting some of my students play at breaks, or when we finished work, or on their off day. The game caught on and is immensely popular. Their biggest thrill is to beat me (although they don't realize how minor an accomplishment that is). Some of the older students want to start a club and one parent bought five sets for them to use.

Then the administration issued a policy forbidding all forms of board games. I went to a meeting with a set I bought for $3.99 in 1972 and gave a five-minute talk on what value I placed on the game and why. I said I played at least 4000 games on this set, then asked how many of their kids would be playing their $40 video games in 30 days, much less in 30 years.

I knew what I was up against when one of the do-gooder's voiced her objection. Chess, she pointed out, was inappropriate under the new No Child Left Behind Act because there are definite winners and losers, and educators need to see that everyone succeeds!? I told them next year's football season would be interesting under that philosophy. Ignorance never loses an argument and in this case I was definitely on the losing side. The ban stood. Hopefully this is an isolated case, but I'd like to know if others have run into this type of resistance.

A. Alas, this idiocy also happens elsewhere. In 1998, for example, Oak Mountain Intermediate School in Shelby County, Alabama (a suburb of Birmingham) banned chess (because it's too competitive!) but had two baseball stadiums with night-lights for evening play.

This flies in the face of more and more schools adding chess as an elective. "I have, in my years of teaching, been fortunate enough to see how beneficial chess is to kids. It's absorbing, it's intellectually productive ... it's just the best tool to teach good decision making." -- Jim Celone, a New Haven, Connecticut math teacher whose after-school chess classes every Friday are wildly successful.
Two thoughts from this quarter:
  1. I guess we shouldn't be so worried about Grand Ayatollah Sistani's proclamations forbidding chess. We seem to have enough problems at home.

  2. While Maverick Philosopher's original post was undoubtedly a poke at the politically-correct left (as Michael Goeller pointed out), both of the cases cited above occurred in the solidly red Deep South.

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