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Thoughts About a Generation of Armenian Chess Masters

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Old 03 Apr 13, 16:06   #1 (permalink)
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Post Thoughts About a Generation of Armenian Chess Masters



I want to finally comment on an article that appeared on Motherboard lauding the Armenian Ministry of Education for making chess education in schools compulsory. Apparently the Armenian government has finally realized that the incessant brain drain will leave the country with an inadequate leadership in the not so distant future. The idea [...]

I want to finally comment on an article that appeared on Motherboard lauding the Armenian Ministry of Education for making chess education in schools compulsory. Apparently the Armenian government has finally realized that the incessant brain drain will leave the country with an inadequate leadership in the not so distant future. The idea is that by playing chess regularly, kids will learn how to strategize and hone their decisiveness. This move contrasts with the Chinese method of producing a master intellectual race by meddling with genes. The Armenian government has already spent $3 million on facilities and equipment.

“Chess develops various skills — leadership capacities, decision-making, strategic planning, logical thinking and responsibility,” Minister of Education Armen Ashotyan told Al Jazeera in a recent interview. “We are building these traits in our youngsters.”

Yet in parallel the Armenian government should also be taking initiatives to ensure that those youngsters will remain in the country 10 or 15 years from now. It’s no secret that the quality of education provided by public colleges and universities is by and large mediocre at best and bribe taking is a common practice within faculties. Investment in information technologies and science industry is still relatively low, which means the jobs they will expect probably won’t be there when they graduate and want to enter the workforce unless policies change now. Ashotyan himself paradoxically stated last November that scientists are better off working outside Armenia.

My clear concern is that they won’t be able to apply those traits of critical thinking and leadership in their own society and would rather be compelled to pursue conduits through which to conduct those skills outside Armenia. Drastically needed nation building may not happen to its maximal capabilities if this upcoming crop of new talent is not permitted to utilize their skills alongside an explicit criminal-obsessed subculture that tends to spurn intellect. You can only have so many players on the national chess team.

On a related note, another highly effective, ancient method for shaping intellect, reading books, has taken a hit. The booksellers dealing out-of-print and newly issued titles mainly in Armenian and Russian (some used books in English were sold as well) have been ordered to clear out from their space in an underground stretch on Abovyan Street. The new owner, who undoubtedly is developing retail space, apparently believes that no one reads anymore. Those merchants, whose services I have employed several times, now have nowhere to go.

Fact is, the number of bookstores in central Yerevan can be counted on one hand, despite that Yerevan was perplexingly named the 2012 book capital of the world. That underground market was essentially the first stop, for me at least, in locating hard to find titles, whether the long out-of-print two-volume memoir of Anastas Mikoyan or the Armenian translation of Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence. There are dozens of titles by Armenian authors that I have been meaning to purchase, and now I fear that if the few vendors selling used books at the Vernissage–and their number has dwindled since the ban on sidewalk vending–they will become virtually impossible to obtain. I daresay the coveted works of Paruyr Sevag and Hovhannes Tumanyan have yet to appear in Kindle or Nook electronic formats.

As youngsters are taught to develop their strategic decision-making processes and become superior analytical thinkers, they nevertheless will likely be more inclined to leave the country when they reach adulthood upon realizing that opportunities for personal and career growth potential are far from plentiful. And while Armenia claims to have a 99.6% percent literacy rate printed books, and thus avid readers, are increasingly harder to find. That’s why Armenia’s leadership needs to act. Until the government begins to take much needed initiatives for white collar job creation and promoting dynamic platforms for intellectuals to thrive, the brain drain will likely continue for generations to come.


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