intermittent thoughts on my life and work as the chess coach at IS 318, a public middle school in Brooklyn
Awesome interview!You totally have a book’s worth of stuff to say.You wouldn't be writing, How to play the Rossolimo Sicilian.You'd be writing, How to teach kids how to play the Rossolimo Sicilian. Among other stuff.The book would be a gift. Go for it. Unless the thought of writing a book causes undue angst, in which case, skip it.:-)
You mentioned in your interview about grading papers. Are your kids writing chess-related papers?
Let's just hope you are only teaching them chess, and not political philosophy or economics.
anon 1, thanks! anon 2, I don't have kids write about chess, but I'm glad you asked because I'm thinking I should. If for no other reason than it would be fun to read about their worst losses. What I had meant was that I correct kids' tactics workbooks and grade their openings tests. We had a big "black response to 1. e4" test today, so I have that to grade this weekend. I also spend a lot of time writing opening handouts for kids. I have probably 60 or 70 of them now. anon 3, maybe you never know what you are teaching someone?
That is a really good interview.I think you do important work.I think your judgment to get fully certified was a very wise one--it's as if you made your ability to establish chess programs "portable" rather than dependent on a non-profit. It's nice, I imagine, to be your own one-person force for good :).I believe that the gender gap in chess is the result of societal factors rather than gender difference. It's not important whether my theory is correct in full or only in part. I'm not a researcher in this field. I mention it to admit my own bias on this point, to preface the point I am going to try to make. I think it is unfortunate that a game easily played by both genders is so tilted towards one gender. I see (and applaud) efforts by you and others to get more girls involved in the game. I believe that one of the simplest way to grow adult chess participation is to make chess a game in which a lot of women play. I think this would create a more robust chess federation.I'm also interested to see, over time, if all these new student players ever generate a larger adult participation, or if chess instead is going to become a 'something kids do' in the way, for example, US soccer became a "kid's sport" in some regions of the country without generating a big adult participation or following.On the book front, I agree with you--it's much easier to write a weblog than to write one's own "publishable matter". I'm frequently amused that "writing for submission" (in my case, writing poetry) required so much more "effort" than simply typing in a weblog. I think it's the "social network" thing--the rush of near-immediate feedback. You've got one huge advantage, it seems to me, in that you did not merely try to get a master's thesis published. On the other hand, the world is deprived of a tome with a title like "Semiotic theories of Non-abridgement Dynamics in teaching young scholars the Archangelsk Variation of the Ruy Lopez". This will let you find the book you want to write, informed not only by school theories, but also by your own classroom experience. I am very interested in the Creative Commons movement (www.creativecommons.org), whichencourages the creation of new creative material (literature, music, art) to be liberally licensed for re-use. Rather than a "book" through a traditional publisher, I could imagine you could do a great deal of good by creating a Creative Commons chapbook and a website (or just a group of posts and strategically organized links here) which lays out out easy to teach openings for kids, for example, similar to your piece/handout on the Rubinstein French (also ideas on teaching endings, teaching tactics, and so forth)Such a work could do more "good", in some ways, than a traditional published book, because I think that one barrier or gatekeeper to schools less able than IS 318 to see the vision of a chess program is cost.I like the charity donorschoose.org, in which school teachers ask for donations for specific things for their schools. I love how each month there are requests to start or expand chess programs. This interests me because (a) I always wish I could "reach through" the screen and tell the teachers that they could get tournament sets in bulk much more cheaply than their funding request projecs and (b) it shows to me a kind of "hunger" to bring chess to more kids. It's here that I think you do good already in a "broader" way in your participation, writing and example, as opposed to your classroom work--by showing an example of how it can work. It's here, too, that your writing can do more than merely give you a traditional publication credit. You can help "get the word out" with free materials which people can use for free for non-commercial purposes under Creative Commons licenses, and help fuel a movement to get more chess into schools. It's not, of course, that there's anything wrong with writing a traditional book (and making a few royalties, hopefully). It's that the fun part of seeing oneself in a "bigger picture" is that it's probably more fun to be some kind of chess Jane Addams fueling expansion of a a social good (fun chess play) than to be merely someone who got a book published.Do you think you'd ever want to get your Ed.D and teach teachers how to teach chess?My goodness. Long comment. [departing soapbox].
I am posting this here so that people will consider two things:1. The USCF has been paralyzed ever since the Fake Sam Sloan was identified by Brian Mottershead as being Paul Truong thus throwing the USCF into chaos more than usual for the organization; and2. The money being waisted on legal fees to defend law suits that are generated by the actions of Truong and Polgar could be better spent on scholastics and helping US chess players in numerous ways. USCF Statement on Susan Polgar By Bill GoichbergNovember 22, 2008USCF STATEMENT REGARDING SUSAN POLGARSusan Polgar, a member of the US Chess Federation's Executive Board, has recently made misleading public statements regarding the Kamsky-Topalov match and USCF's open letters to FIDE. The purpose of this statement, approved by a majority of the Executive Board, is to set the record straight.1. USCF's open letters to FIDE were written at the request of the Kamskys and did not interfere with their objectives. It was appropriate that USCF voice public support for our world championship contender, who we believed was not being treated fairly.2. Nothing in USCF's public statements was in any manner critical of the Bulgarians. Although the Kamskys had earlier called for a neutral match location, we appreciate the bid from the Bulgarian Chess Federation which made possible the match after FIDE retracted its offer of sponsorship.3. Susan Polgar has commenced a legal action against USCF for $25 million that we believe is without merit, requiring the federation to incur significant legal fees that could be better spent supporting United States chess players. Ms. Polgar does not speak for the USCF or a majority of its Executive Board.Bill GoichbergPresident, US Chess Federation
Most of the people I know who are involved in scholastic chess have a lot of other things to do than worry about Susan Polgar, Bill Goichberg, Paul Truong and Brian Mottershead. They are trying to teach kids chess, not making very much money doing it. They never relied on the USCF for much other than the rating system and they have way better things to do with their time than think about USCF politics. The USCF reminds me of the Detroit auto makers. Bankruptcy might be a good thing and maybe allow some of the real innovators (like the dude who organized the US Chess League) to come up with an organization that makes sense in the 21st century.
Anon November 24, 2008 10:46 AM,Bankruptcy might actually be good for the USCF-hard to tell. I suspect that a Trustee in Bankruptcy would not be happy with a board member who has bankruptcy "problems." At least a trustee would work to put the organization's finances in order.Scholastics are a profit center which is why some people want control of the USCF. Believe it or not, there are people who make a living from scholastics--but you knew that already. :-)
In this economy, not sure that scholastics will be such a profit center. Many families are putting vacation plans on hold this year and that includes trips to Orlando, Nashville, Dallas for scholastic tournaments. And if they haven't done it yet, I expect they will by Spring when the reality of the crisis starts to hit more people. Many coaches rely on private lessons and people are cutting back on those and/or using internet based coaches who are usually less expensive. Schools are cutting back on their chess budgets and I wouldn't be surprised if organizations like chess in the schools felt the effects of the economic downturn/meltdown/whatever you want to call it. Every non-profit that I contribute to has sent out urgent fundraising appeals in the last month or two.
And yet I understand there was a record turnout at a scholastic tournament this past weekend. Chess teachers have not seen a downturn in New Jersey. Admittedly, you may be right about the prospect for a dismal Spring. Let's hope not.
Interesting that chess teachers have not seen a down turn in New Jersey because they have seen a down turn in neighboring states but maybe New Jersey is more insulated from the economic meltdown. Everyone I know who works on Wall Street says that it will get worse, a lot worse, before it gets better.
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