Kindred’s Special: Chess Kids Wake Up

What are the fundamentals of growing up that makes a youth find enjoyment, challenge, love of life, and a life to look upon in old age that reflects meaningful purpose and what God intended for all of us? Today I see a social malfunction of teaching our youth that mystifies me greatly. Before getting to the meat of my column, let me first of all say that as far as learning and playing chess is concerned, it is a time of joy, challenge, the making of friends, and developing early on the merits of discovery in critical thinking where making decisions, judgments, and forming strategies put the chess student leaps and bounds ahead of discovering and practicing these maturing functional experiences earlier than most who do not play chess at all.

What disturbs me about modern society, educators, and  government and industrial professionals, from scientists to CEOs of major corporations is the narrowness of valuing the school years that develop young minds. From No Child Left Behind to intellectual leaders crying for science, math, and technology be concentrated on makes me shudder to put it mildly.

I have not the credentials of an educator, professional, nor am I a PhD as many professors, school administrators, and teachers can boast and probably deserve for the years dedicated to achieving those dreams. But too many of them fall flat on their face when it comes to the importance of education of young minds and their writings and voices often shortchange the real value of public or private education.

I have lived a long life and I am very sad to say this but there has been a total lack of educating our young people toward real living and substituting a drive for a college degree as the ultimate aim while ignoring the basic tools children need after school years whether it be high school or college.

Yes, we need talented groups to enter the workforce in many fields. And for most jobs today, it is almost mandatory to have a degree or at least some higher education beyond high school. Those dropping out and lacking a high school diploma have two strikes against them unless they are brilliant and discover wealth because of their talent and drive to achieve. Lets call it the percentages of success going up with the levels attained.

The importance of understanding that No Child Left Behind, for all its wonderful goals, is self defeating. What children need is quality instruction, teachers who love their profession (reminds me of Goodbye Mr. Chips), who work with children to instill good study habits, for schools to provide well rounded education in both the general subjects of the 3-Rs but also in music appreciation and playing an instrument, developing to their potential the English language and to select a foreign language to study as this, like music, builds mental discipline.

Beyond this, I must say that I had an American History teacher, Mr. Nolan Powell, who taught not only the basics but gave to his children a wealth of the importance of the stock market, how to balance a checkbook, a bit of how economics worked in our society, and how limited taxation benefited growth of business, employment and family wealth.

It really boils down to adolescent attitudes and governance of their tiny lives in a big world. There is no substitute for earnest effort to achieve dreams. You can go to the mall, have fun, and there is nothing occasionally wrong with this because it helps to create relationships with friends out of school and to meet interesting people your own age who may attend other schools. There is a time to play; there is a time to study; there is a time to develop your personality; there is a time to talk with parents; there is a time to discuss with peers or adults you admire things that interest you or have questions about.

Life is a long journey. It passes by so, so slowly the younger you are. But as you mature, then time seems to speed up. And finally you look and realize that you are no longer a child but a grownup. What have you accomplished in preparation? Have you set goals and have they been achieved scholastically? Have you used your time to develop your potential as a student and mature enough to start down life’s walk with confidence and joy of pursuing those things that interest and challenge your mental capacities?

Lets face it. Playing poker, betting on games and spending time as some chess nuts do that are satisfied to earn crumbs from blitz chess stakes and looking at opponents as “the suckers” will do what for you? Studying chess for 6-8 hours daily with the hope of achieving a title will achieve what in your life?

Don’t get me wrong! Chess is a great joy. But few manage to benefit from it to the degree that they can proclaim at the end of their life: “I fulfilled my ambitions and goal.” Chess is a wonderful experience and know and play it with a certain degree of expertise is a rare benefit of your prowess for strategy and tactics. For you, above all others, can experience the joys of the aesthetic beauty of chess that only those who attain some expertise at the game can really appreciate.

Take it from this lover of chess and one who has achieved a sense of happiness: Life is wonderful in all its aspects!

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