Chess advocates want game to have greater role in school

MONROE — Along the Gulf Coast in southwestern Louisiana, Henry Heights Elementary in Calcasieu Parish teaches by this simple mission statement:

” … to provide an education that allows all students the opportunity to grow and develop to their fullest potential.”

Ina F. Delahoussaye, parish director of technical assistance for school improvement, believes chess may be the key.

Chess — a 2,000-year-old game said to be “the touchstone of the human intellect” — is seeing a dramatic increase within the scholastic community, though it has flourished in some places more than others.

Numerous studies have concluded chess develops mental abilities used throughout life such as concentration, critical thinking and abstract reasoning, and can be used as a tool to teach problem-solving and reasoning.

Delahoussaye used grant funding to start scholastic chess clubs in southern Louisiana years ago, following an analysis of the game’s effect in improving academic outcomes in other states.

Chess clubs since have proliferated along the I-10 corridor, and a Louisiana Chess Association roster of state winners attests to its growth there.

But schools in the northeastern part of the state have been slower to incorporate chess as a valid teaching tool, and existing chess clubs are small in number.

“As for northern Louisiana, it is a shame, but we don’t have much activity there,” said Adam Caveney, president of the LCA. “There is a position on our executive board reserved for a representative from north Louisiana, but unfortunately, this position has been vacant for several years.”

The main issue may boil down to distance.

Monroe and Shreveport are a long drive to New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Lake Charles, considered the “Mecca” for chess in Louisiana.

Wanda Witherington, of Farmerville, hopes to see that change.

“If we could get interest going in the northeast like they have in the southern part of the state, our children would benefit greatly,” she said.

Witherington co-sponsors an active chess club at Cedar Creek, a private school in Ruston.

Here is the full story.

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