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Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

How To Think

Shane Parrish, e-Clippings, Mar 17, 2014

Doug belshaw shared this piece over the weekend and while I think it's an inspirational story I think that it's misleading in a fairly pernicious way. In a nutshell, the basis of the story lies in describing the methods used by an inner-city school with poor and minority students to create chess champions out of them; all the other champion schools, we are informed, are private or elite schools. They key to this achievement is to work closely with the students, making them slow down, think through alternatives, and display grit and resiliance (every time I see the word 'grit' I think of those advertisements from when I was a kid asking prospective entrepreneurs to 'Sell Grit', which was some sort of newspaper, so to this day when I see the word 'grit' I think the word 'scam').

The thinking program offered here reminds me a lot of Edward deBono, and it might even work for chess, but I don't think it would work for the much wider range of less-structured problems people will face in their lives. Now I too was a chess champion while in school and what I learned was that winning wasn't so much about 'seeing x moves ahead' (though this was definitely useful as it was seeing and recognizing board configurations as a whole - you'd go way beyond the other player's perspective of seeing the game as pieces and moves and begin thinking of it as patterns and outcomes. But this has nothing to do with yelling at little kids and making them fear failure.

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