CHESS IS COOL IN BROOKLYN PUBLIC SCHOOL: Middle School Challenges Stereotypes

Most urban schools have been characterized and characatured for violence, drugs, and low education standards. In such places, students are discouraged from intellectual endeavors and are reluctantly corralled into athletic pursuits as their only chance for success. In most of these high schools the heroes are on the football or basketball team. But a high school in the heart of Brooklyn is defying all of the stereotypes of urban education and winning spectacular acclaim, in the process.

Intermediate School 318, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is a middle school that has made Chess it’s hallmark. IS 318 is a Middle School and yet they have just become the first middle school ever to win the National High-school Championship (held by the United States Chess Federation). At IS 318 Chess is better than sports. The children idolize certified Chess Masters, a status achieved by at least two of the teams African American members. At IS 318 varsity letters are not the emblem of esteem, chess trophies are the ultimate sign of achievement.

The Middle school serves as a reminder of “the possible”. IS 318 is not a rich public school or one of the often mythologized charter schools. It is a public school, in which 60% of the student body hales from families that live below the poverty line. The students at IS 318 learn critical thinking skills and sharpen their aptitude for strategy. They prove that many of the charges leveled at public schools are often wrong. A new documentary, “Brooklyn Castle” attempts to capture the incredible story of this middle school. The success of the school has required a significant investment. Every student at IS 318 gets to take an initial chess course and then choose to continue the pursuit in elective courses. But this has required dedicated classrooms, specialized instructors and significant resources.  Like many extracurricular programs, the Chess Program and school are facing cuts. Readers can donate to the program by visiting, http://www.is318.com/

Enjoy the promotional video for “Brooklyn Castle”, the documentary on IS 318