Chess As A Departure Point Into What Matters Most
Chess helps kids perform better academically. That's a very good thing. Today, it's also the least relevant aspect of this 1,500 year-old game. Nearly every school is already devoting all their class time and resources to cognitive development, while neglecting to teach their students how to pay attention, how to manage their emotions, and how to let go of stress. Without these skills, even with perfect grades and test scores, children are unlikely to develop into well-adjusted, fulfilled adults. Fortunately, like any other skill, these things can be taught, and chess is uniquely well-suited as a means of doing so.
In chess, there is no physicality as in sports to distract you from your thoughts. Everything is mental, and like in any competitive activity, challenging emotions arise. Chess, therefore, offers an unusually clear opportunity to teach kids how to develop self-awareness, self-control, concentration, compassion, and emotional balance.
Chess is incredibly rich in metaphors for life. Everything translates between the two directly and practically. By introducing students to the chess principle first, the corresponding life lesson becomes much more accessible to them. I lead my classes in regular discussions of how we can apply these chess principles on and off the board.