Monday, February 21, 2011

Teaching Chess is Subversive

Teaching a game like chess, or Go, is one of the best ways to teach children to think logically about problems. Thomas Jefferson maintained that in order to preserve liberty, it was essential that the citizens be educated. He wrote, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." On page 195, of The Trillion-Dollar Conspiracy: How the New World Order, Man-Made Diseases, and Zombie Banks Are Destroying America by Jim Marrs, in a chapter titled 'How to Create Zombies', he writes, "The current education system seems to have forgotten about developing students critical thinking. John Taylor Gatto, who taught school in New York City for more than two decades, summed up this fact of modern life in his 1992 book, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. After teaching for some years, Gatto grew to understand that the education system does not exist to increase students' knowledge and power, but to diminish it."
Neil Postman, along with Charles Weingartner, in their book, Teaching As a Subversive Activity, writes, "Now, what is it that students do in the classroom? Well, mostly they sit and listen to the teacher. Mostly, they are required to believe in authorities, or at least pretend to such belief when they take tests. Mostly they are required to 'remember'. They are almost never required to make observations, formulate definitions, or perform any intellectual operations that go beyond repeating what someone else says is true. They are rarely encouraged to ask substantial questions, although they are permitted to ask about administrative and techical details (How long should the paper be? Does spelling count? When is the assignment due?)." From Marrs, pg 205-6: (They) concluded that contempory curriculums are designed as a distraction to prevent students from knowing themselves and the world about them. And the dificiencies of a weakened education system are passed along to future teachers. "It starts almost immediately," noted the two authors, "because the (teachers) have been victims-in this case for almost 16 years-of the kind of schooling we have producing intellectual paraplegics. The college students (future teachers) we are now talking about are the ones who were most 'successful' in conventional school terms. That is, they are the ones who learned best what they were required to do: to sit quietly, to accept without question whatever nonsense was inflicted upon them, to ventriloquize on demand with a high degree of fidelity, to go down only on the down staircase, to speak only on signal from the teacher and so on. All during these 16 years, they learned not to think, not to ask questions, not to figure out for themselves. They learned to become totally dependent on teacher authority and they learned it with dedication."
A generation of Zombies has been taught to "accept without question." Contrast the investigative reporting of Woodward & Bernstein during the Presidential crisis known as 'Watergate' with the so-called 'reporters' such as Judith Miller of the venerable New York Times, who printed whatever lies presented her, without question, by the Bushwhacker administration. Day after day the Times was used as a shill by the Bushwhackers while it printed "All the news that's fit to print." Bogus 'evidence' of 'weapons of mass destruction' was printed constantly because the Bushwhackers said, "Trust me." This while the Bushwhacker in chief looked under his table for WMD he knew to be nonexistant, while smirking with a shit eating grin on his Alfred E. Newman (What, me worry?) face! Where were the reporters questioning authority?
That could be the reason so many parents are looking elsewhere to have their children taught how to think for themselves. For those who believe in a future for the human race, what could be better to help those who come after than teaching children to think for themselves by questioning everything? The Dalai Lama said, "Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality."
"...rugged individualism is an expression nobody hears much anymore, but folks used to hear with regularity. Rugged individualism encompassed a range of characteristics-independence, self-sufficiency, thinking for oneself. In the 1970's the axe was laid to all three. Negative terminologies like 'loner' and 'misfit' redefined the individualist. 'Independence' was scrapped for interdependency, self-sufficiency for redistribution, and 'thinking for oneself' was equated with intolerance. Today, any close reading of the newspaper reminds us daily that the 'loner' requires psychiatric intervention, and maybe drugs as well..."-Beverly Eakman, Walking Targets: How our Psychologized Classrooms are Producing a Nation of Sitting Ducks (
I thought of Bobby Fischer upon reading the following quote on Grandmaster Kevin Spraggett's excellent website
"The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don't know how to be submissive, and so on-because they're dysfunctional to the institutions."-Noam Chomsky
No matter where, or how much, we search, we will be unable to find another Bobby Fischer produced by our zombie producing teaching system. If another Bobby Fischer were to come along, we would never know it. The reason is stated very eloquently by Jim Marrs on page 148 when he writes, "In years past, if a child was acting up or caught staring out the window, he or she received a rap on the knuckles with a ruler and was told to stay with the rest of the class. Today, the child is sent to the school nurse, who often tells the parents the student has been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and advises them to see a psychiatrist, who usually recommends the administration of Prozac (94 percent sodium flouride), Ritalin, or zoloft-psychotropic drugs that have been shown to produce psychosis in lab rats."
From my sixty year old perspective, if there is any hope for our society, it will come from those who teach youngsters to think critically through the teaching of games like chess, and Go. The reason is that a student, if told this is the best move, will often begin the process of thinking for himself by asking, "But what about THAT move, Coach?"

1 comment:

Parx said...

Very nice essay, although it would have been even better without your non sequitur about the Bush administration. I am repeatedly disappointed with the lack of critical thinking ability in the _Graduate School Interns_ I have supervised. I can only imagine what limitations a high school graduate has.