Archive for the ‘News’ Category
All photos are provided courtesy of Jeff Smith at www.fotosmith.usa.com
Tonight at 9 EST a local public school in Charlotte will be broadcast on cable news channel 14 (www.news14.com). I was interviewed and the kids (kindergartners!) were videoed playing and learning chess! The story is about chess growing nationally, which I think is absolutely true. And there are more girls playing these days as well.
Girls Academy was a lot of fun, and upon noticing that some of the girls were being reserved and answering questions really quietly, one of the parents suggested we all go outside and yell CHESSSSSSS really really loud. It was great! I think it helped the girls loosen up and feel more comfortable in the group. We studied middle game positions, what to do after the opening, and looked at several tactics involving Forcing Moves (checks, threats and captures). (The see-saw, Damiano’s mate…)
Also there’s a chess tournament this Saturday at one of the schools I teach at: Myers Park Traditional Elementary. A great start for beginners (rookie section) and a challenge for advanced players (championship section). See below for more details, or email me! email@example.com
Everyone had a great time at the April Queens’ Academy, the first to be held at Bookman’s in Tucson. There were lots of new faces and some familiar ones as well. We were excited to teach several newcomers how the pieces move and some basic rules, and they were playing games by the end of the 2-hour session!
For the advanced group, our focus was on preparing for the state tournament on April 26. I went over one of my games from state several years ago, and we talked about planning ahead and playing strategic chess. The girls did very well when asked to brainstorm about possible plans in the positions I gave them. They were all excited to tell me about all their plans when they played practice games later. Below is a position from one of our most advanced player’s games. She told me that her plan had been to trap black’s king in the center and attack by placing her pieces on strong squares. She has succeeded in doing this, but how should she finish it off?
Hint: Look for a two move checkmate.
A photographer from the Arizona Daily Star also came to the Queens’ Academy to take photos for a great article about 9 Queens and the upcoming Chess Fest! Check out the article at www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/290017.php
When my little brother, Gus, was in third grade, he insisted that everyone—ranging from my parents to his teachers to his friends—call him “Ripley” after Sigourney Weaver’s character in the “Alien” movie series. Gus was a huge science fiction fan, and he considered Ripley to be the ultimate protagonist: a brave and cunning lieutenant who consistently out-fought and out-smarted a dangerous alien race.
At the time, I questioned Gus and his name change based on the fact that Ripley was female.
“Why are you changing your name to a girl’s name?” I asked him, “Do you want to be a girl?”
“No, I don’t want to be a girl. I just want to do what Ripley does,” he replied.
As a seventh grader, I remember feeling frustrated with Gus and his inability to acknowledge the inherent differences between himself and Ripley.
The nature of biological differences between the genders is a hot topic in education. On Sunday, the New York Times published “Should Boys and Girls be Taught Differently: The Gender Wars go to School” an article that examines biological arguments set forth by certain advocates of single-sex education. Author Elizabeth Weir distinguishes between two camps of single-sex education: those who are in favor of separating boys and girls because they are essentially and biologically different, and those who “favor separating boys and girls because they have different social experiences and different social needs.”
Some advocates like Leonard Sax claim that there are biological differences between the sexes like “girls hear better than boys” and “boys are better than girls at seeing action. ” Sax uses these claims to justify not only separate classrooms for boys and girls but also separate curricula.
Sax points to Foley Intermediate School, a public school in Alabama that offers separate classes for boys and girls, as an exemplar of single-sex education. At Foley, fourth grade boys study snakes in science class, while fourth grade girls conduct science experiments related to cooking fried chicken.
This type of single-sex curriculum based on "biological differences" between the sexes is dangerous. The Foley program not only ignores the power of social norms but also reinforces traditional gender stereotypes cleverly disguised as "scientifically-based" assumptions about gender . According to Sax and his line of reasoning, should we only teach boys how to play chess because male chess players have traditionally performed better than females?
Although I am critical of the Foley program and Sax’s claims, I am in favor of certain forms of single-sex education that challenge gender inequities. Certain types of single-sex education programs like girls’ chess academies and tournaments have the potential to dismantle as opposed to reinforce gender stereotypes. By motivating and empowering girls to try their hand at traditionally male-dominated sports, these programs may shed new light on claims regarding the “biological differences between the sexes.”
Looking back, I am now impressed with Gus and his rejection of gender stereotypes. By “becoming Ripley” Gus not only rejected traditional gender stereotypes, he also questioned the extent of biological differences between the sexes. Why should we assume that all girls are interested in cooking, that all boys want to learn about snakes, or that all children should only model themselves after real or fictional characters of the same gender?
What do you think about the pros and cons of single-sex education, and about the different arguments surrounding these programs? Please leave your comments and thoughts below.