Chess in the Park
Saturday, September 30th – Morningside Park
Monday, October 9th – New Rochelle, NY [Columbus Day]
Want Your Children to Succeed?
Where are the black and brown Mark Zuckerbergs? That was essentially the question — the challenge — that the late musician Prince asked Van Jones, civil rights activist, founder of the Dream Corps, and host of CNN’s The Messy Truth with Van Jones.
What we need to understand is that when Mark Zuckerberg was about eleven, his parents hired a computer tutor, a software developer named David Newman, who came to the house once a week to work with Mark. “He was a prodigy,” Newman told The New Yorker writer Jose Antonio Vargasme. “Sometimes it was tough to stay ahead of him.” (Newman lost track of Zuckerberg and was stunned when he learned from the interview that his former pupil had built Facebook.) Soon thereafter, Mark started taking a graduate computer course every Thursday night at nearby Mercy College.
The fact that Zuckerberg’s parents hired a computer tutor and paid for graduate computer course tells us that we need to look beyond the individual. As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Outliers which The New York Times printed the first chapter:
[Y]ou couldn’t understand why someone was healthy if all you did was think about their individual choices or actions in isolation. You had to look beyond the individual. You had to understand what culture they were a part of, and who their friends and families were, and what town in Italy their family came from. You had to appreciate the idea that community — the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with — has a profound effect on who we are. The value of an outlier was that it forced you to look a little harder and dig little deeper than you normally would to make sense of the world. And if you did, you could learn something from the outlier that could use to help everyone else.
In Outliers, I want to do for our understanding of success what Stewart Wolf did for our understanding of health.
With Chess in the Park, we are taking lessons from Outliers and other sources to help close the achievement gap by advocating teaching young people skills such as chess and computer programming. With that end in mind, we are putting together a team of high school and middle school students to build a chess-playing robot (see below). Our first team member is New Rochelle High School student Zaleik Walsh.
Habitat for Humanity of Westchester has made a donation to help our chess robot-building team.
The first member of the robot-building team is Zaleik Walsh. He is a New Rochelle High School student. He is a member of the robotics team at NRHS. Click here for his United States Chess Federation profile. Below is a video of him playing the saxophone.
We are organizing a group of local high school and middle school students to build a robot that can play chess. The design will be based on Joey Meyer’s Raspbery Turk. The Raspberry Turk is completely open source and is written almost entirely in Python, runs on a Raspberry Pi, and incorporates aspects of computer vision, data science, machine learning (a form of AI or Artificial Intelligence), robotics, 3D printing, and—of course—chess.
“In the past,” says Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Baidu Research and founder of the “Google Brain” project, “a lot of S&P 500 CEOs wished they had started thinking sooner than they did about their Internet strategy. I think five years from now there will be a number of S&P 500 CEOs that will wish they’d started thinking earlier about their AI strategy.”
Even the Internet metaphor doesn’t do justice to what AI with deep learning will mean, in Ng’s view. “AI is the new electricity,” he says. “Just as 100 years ago electricity transformed industry after industry, AI will now do the same.”
Steve Denning’s Forbes article, “Roger Martin: How ‘The Talent’ Turned Into Vampires” begins to shed light on why we need to rethink our educational system:
How did America—a country dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal—become one of the most unequal countries on the planet? Why do the nation’s leaders now spend so much of their time feeding at the trough and getting ever more for themselves? Why has public-mindedness in our leaders given way in so many instances to limitless greed?
These questions are being raised, not in some anti-capitalist rag from the extreme Left, but in the staid pro-business pages of the Harvard Business Review, in a seminal article by Roger Martin, the former dean of the Rotman School of Business and the academic director of the Martin Prosperity Institute: “The Rise and (Likely) Fall of the Talent Economy.”
One key factor, argues Martin, is a fundamental shift in nature of the economy. Fifty years ago, “72% of the top 50 U.S. companies by market capitalization still owed their positions to the control and exploitation of natural resources.” But in the latter part of the 20th century, a new kind of organization began to emerge: an organization that prospered not by natural resources but through “the control and exploitation of human talent.”
“By 2013 more than half of the top 50 companies were talent-based, including three of the four biggest: Apple, Microsoft, and Google. (The other one was ExxonMobil.) Only 10 owed their position on the list to the ownership of resources. Over the past 50 years the U.S. economy has shifted from financing the exploitation of natural resources to making the most of human talent.”
In the past 50 years, our economy has dramatically changed but our educational system has changed very little. What worked over 50 years ago when most of the economy was driven by the control and exploitation of natural resources is no longer working now that our economy is based on making the most of human talent.
It is easier to enhance creativity by changing conditions in the environment than by trying to make people think more creatively. And a genuinely creative accomplishment is almost never the result of a sudden insight, a lightbulb flashing on in the dark, but comes after years of hard work…. If you do anything well, it becomes enjoyable…. To keep enjoying something, you need to increase it’s complexity.
~ Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Our schools do not allow our children to develop their creativity, instead schools literally train children in bad habits and bad attitudes! The secret of commerce, that kids drive purchases, meant that schools had to become psychological laboratories where training in consumerism was the central pursuit.
Since bored people are the best consumers, school had to be a boring place, and since childish people are the easiest customers to convince, the manufacture of childishness, extended into adulthood, had to be the first priority of factory schools. Naturally, teachers and administrators weren’t let in on this plan; they didn’t need to be. If they didn’t conform to instructions passed down from increasingly centralized school offices, they didn’t last long.
In the new system, schools were gradually re-formed to meet the pressing need of big businesses to have standardized customers and employees, standardized because such people are predictable in certain crucial ways by mathematical formulae. Business (and government) can only be efficient if human beings are redesigned to meet simplified specifications. By the end of the Twentieth Century, school spaces themselves were opened bit by bit to commercialization.
Read The Underground History of American Education and you’ll learn that the new purpose of schooling—to serve business and government—could only be achieved efficiently by isolating children from the real world, with adults who themselves were isolated from the real world, and everyone in the confinement isolated from one another.
Only then could the necessary training in boredom and bewilderment begin. Such training is necessary to produce dependable consumers and dependent citizens who would always look for a teacher to tell them what to do in later life, even if that teacher was an ad man or television anchor.
[L]earning is the human activity that least needs manipulation by others; that most learning is the result not of instruction but of participation by learners in meaningful settings. School, however, makes them identify their personal, cognitive growth with elaborate planning and manipulation.
~ Ivan Illich
You can’t just give someone a creativity injection. You have to create an environment for curiosity and a way to encourage people and get the best out of them.
~ Sir Ken Robinson