The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Bridge in Schools

Rather than build a coherent response to the NYTimes essay on Bridge in schools, just some thoughts:

  • Obviously, good for Bridge.
  • You are a superintendent for a school district, and you are willing to admit that Bridge is too complicated for you? Seriously? Why not just say “I don’t have time to learn.”
  • There are a lot of choices about which games actually help students (as this BGG thread covers). A good game should reward being able to look ahead and concentration. Useful skills. Actually, I should say “Useful habits.” The skills in chess and bridge don’t actually translate well to many real world tasks, but the practice of analyzing a situation and looking ahead do. On the plus side, a good bridge player should know exactly what 13 minus an integer is. And that comes in handy in elementary school.
  • In my mind, probably bridges big win over most other games is that it explicitly forces you to acknowledge  someone else’s state of mind. Sure, you want your bid to mean something or you want your partner to switch to a heart, but other people can’t read your mind. They can only react to your actions, not your intentions. THAT is a valuable lesson that far too many adults haven’t learned.
  • I don’t believe any of the hype about “Students who learned GAME X have better scores by half a grade level.” I think students that like mental challenges test better. Even the results phrased like “Game X improved test scores” may just be related to motivation. If being in the Gifted Program lets you skip out of a boring class, that can easily cause people to try harder. I suspect most gains are not intrinsic improvements, just having some skin in the game.
  • Using a social game (unlike Chess) is  a good idea in the age of the iPod.
  • Sad note, Nobody puts any value on children having fun. They are selling bridge (to adults) as “Play Bridge and your kid will learn math better.” Not as, “Your child may enjoy playing bridge, and maybe pick up a few useful habits.” Bluntly, school is boring. So making it fun is good in and of itself. And bridge is cheap (a few decks of cards).  And once you learn you can play at lunch, or on the bus.
  • I would assume that many bridge clubs would teach for free, but I guess the donations go for printed materials.  And bridge teachers may be intimidated by teaching to 8 year olds. Probably quite different than teaching to adults.
  • Apropos of nothing, the youngest player I see at local sectionals is around 12. The next youngest players are in their late 30s, I think. the ACBLs average age of 67 sounds reasonable, but remember how averages work. One 12 year old cancels out 5 80 year olds. I suspect the median age at tournaments is in the low 60s, but younger retirees are more likely to travel than a nonagenerian. (That said, our local nonagenerian is tremendously good. My partner and I hope he gets boring hands, because he plays the hell out of the cards).

Written by taogaming

May 1, 2011 at 10:34 am

Posted in Bridge, Ramblings

3 Responses

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  1. I think the median age of ACBL members is 68. In the rest of the world, that effect doesn’t exist. I don’t know why it is the case, but I can think of some possible reasons. 1) The ACBL caters its events to retirees, or at least to people whose life is not ruled by work or school schedules. That puts up a barrier to 20-50 year-olds with a career or a family. 2) American culture emphasizes sports, movies, and video games over board and card games. I assume this is because our culture is advertisement-driven. No one is making money off bridge, so it’s impossible to compete with the market for costly entertainment. In Europe, for example, ads are nowhere near as prevalent as they are here, and bridge is popular among young and middle-aged people. 3) Up until about 1965, young women were taught that bridge was an important social skill. When that more ended, young women stopped playing bridge. Where young women go, young men go. So young people didn’t enter the bridge ranks starting somewhere around 1970. Instead, they became employed. That’s not changing anytime soon.

    On the other hand, the world of bridge is changing now. On-line bridge has made bridge accessible to younger people, significantly so because there is no time commitment beyond a hand or two. If the baby starts screaming, mom or dad can drop out and someone will take the seat. In traditional bridge clubs, that just doesn’t work. The 24-hour nature of on-line bridge means that a bridge enthusiast with a family can play for an hour once the rest of the family is asleep or out doing something short. Unfortunately, I don’t see the transition from on-line to face-to-face bridge’s happening. The opposite seems more common; some folks who used to go out and play in clubs find it more convenient and convivial to play on-line. They can control who their opponents are, which is a big plus. The international nature of on-line bridge also makes it hard for distant partnerships to go to face-to-face tournaments; someone has to travel. So either the future of bridge is on-line or something like that (I’m under no delusion that our current state of technology is the state of the future), or the face-to-face event organizers have to think outside the box and find a way to make their events attractive to the people who aren’t coming, to make a club or tournament as attractive or more so than to play from one’s desk. That isn’t happening. In particular, the ACBL’s ne plus ultra of marketing tools, the masterpoint, has required massive hacking to force players to go to face-to-face events, and it is only working a little. While 2/3 of ACBL members are non-life masters, which means the masterpoint color hacks may give them some impetus to play in clubs and tournaments, after LM, it doesn’t work much. In fact, the on-line points leader this year would sit sixth overall if the two groups were combined.

    Anyway, that’s why I think your “apropos of nothing” is the case.


    May 3, 2011 at 1:14 pm

  2. How did my name, email address and website automatically print out here under Leave a Reply?? Scary! Or did I already post here?? So old, I can’t keep track.

    Anyway, I appreciate the dialog and especially the insights of Jeff G. I invite any and all to take a read at my website AND become a bridge booster–or at least subscribe to my blog.

    My thing to promote bridge is this: 1 – if it isn’t promoted to general casual player won’t ever get back to anywhere near its glory decades 30s-60s. Learn from bridge history.Then there was a pop culure CLIMATE for bridge and so all levels thrived.

    I don’t DO internet bridge–just sociable bridge with other old ladies. Spend enough time sitting in front of computer doing my blog. Besides, internet bridge misses the whole point of face-to-face interaction.

    Back in the 20s and 30s, here’s what my book Bridge Table or What’s Trump Anyway? has to say about school kids and bridge, based on Middletown in Transition by Robert and Helen Lynd, two sociologists, in a scholarly study of pop culture in that era: “Auction bridge was very little played among the working class in 1925” but “partly through the contagion of the younger group innoculated in high school, it [contract bridge} is reported to be growing south of the tracks, spreading there first through women’s groups . . . the Lynd’s reported contract bridge reaching down even into the sixth grade to the point that leaders of local girls’ clubs complained it was a hindrance to recruiting for other clubs.”

    Which is a kind of stuffy way of saying–the way for bridge to grow in schools and in the general public is as a SOCIAL and IN thing to do. Inevitably some of those who get into bridge will move on to the delights of competition and serious bridge. But that will always be a MINORITY, the elites.

    The rest (like me) will spend a liftime enjoying bridge for the social delight it is and be part of clubs that last 50 years — as mine did until 2010.

    Don’t spoil bridge in schools by making it entirely a “good for you” structured thing.Have some fun.


    maggy simony

    May 3, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    • I assume that you’ve left a comment on another wordpress blog, and wordpress remembered. I don’t think you’ve commented on my blog before.


      May 4, 2011 at 6:41 pm

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