Ashley teaching teachers to "think chess"

Susan Saulny wrote an interesting article featured in the New York Times on GM Maurice Ashley concerning an increasing trend in chess circles: teachers learning chess as a teaching/pedagogical method. Ashley teaches a class called, "Introduction to Logical Thinking Through Chess" at the City College in Harlem. The idea of the class is to improve teaching by imparting problem-solving strategies that are part of a good chess player's arsenal.

"A lot of times in education we try to teach kids the one right answer and that leads, in my opinion, to robotic thinking… Real life isn't like that. Is there ever one right answer? Generating alternatives for the sake of alternatives is a good thing."

He adds…

"Knowledge flips every day. What we know becomes wrong tomorrow. We need kids who know how to think."

GM Maurice Ashley at City College in Harlem.

GM Maurice Ashley at City College in Harlem. Photo by James Estrin, NY

Ashley, who is widely-acclaimed as a chess player, educator, spokesperson and promoter, has extolled the virtues of chess by his example. Having earned the title of Grandmaster in 1999, his story as a Jamaican immigrant and rise to the heights of chess is well known. What chess fans may not be familiar with is Ashley's approach to chess thought.  His disdain for rote memorization as an effective teaching method is instructive.

"My method has always been not just to teach chess moves, but to better accelerate thinking and concentration skills."

This class was organized by Alfred S. Posamentier, who like many administrators, are seeking to integrate chess into the various levels of the learning environment. It goes without saying that chess is not a panacea for the systemic problems that plague the educational system, but it may provide for a better learning environment and help to provide a framework for instilling discipline, concentration and analysis.

Read "Chalkboards? Try Using Chessboards," New York Times (registration required), 12 April 2005.

Listen to "The Mind of a Grandmaster," an interview in which GM Ashley discusses the intricacies of chess thought.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 13 April 2005