Friday, March 21, 2008

Chess in Rural Areas

I was touched by this New York Times article in Thursday's paper. The article describes a new program in Idaho schools where second and third graders will learn to play chess with their teacher and an expert player. The program teaches children skills in "math, history, and vocabulary," as well as provide practice in areas like courtesy and creativity.

One of the most striking features of the program is that it will benefit students in rural areas. One teacher, who teaches in a remote town with a population of 250 people, said "it was good for her students to be exposed to a sophisticated game like chess." In this town, the expert player was available only via the Internet, but that seemed to be working fine.

I was struck by the teacher's comment, because she appeared to be perpetuating a rural stereotype that rural people are simply and unsophisticated. At the same time, I was heartened to see something very sophisticated, the interaction with the expert player, in a rural area. I hope these children enjoy this unique opportunity to learn chess at school.

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