Last year, a terrific documentary was produced about the extraordinary chess team at I.S. 318 in Brooklyn. The film is called “Brooklyn Castle.” Its producer and one of the star players were on the Jon Stewart “Daily Show,” and the chess program was also featured in Paul Tough’s book “How Children Succeed.”
The chess program at this inner-city middle school is phenomenal. Most of the players are black and Hispanic. They work very hard, and their team has won more chess championships than any other school in the nation. The teachers are fantastic. If you see the film, you will be reminded about why public education is a treasure in America.
The strange thing about the film is that it starts off as a somewhat conventional tale about poor kids who overcome the odds and succeed, but midway through the film, it turns into a struggle for survival as the kids and teachers learn that the city cut their budget. Somehow, the students sell enough candy bars and dream up enough gimmicks to pay heir way to the next championship, and life goes on. But at the end of “Brooklyn Castle,” you understand how precarious this project is. There is no funding from Bill Gates or Eli Broad or the Walton Family for one of the most inspiring stories in American education today.
Well, it has happened again. Mayor Bloomberg cut the budget, and there is no money for after school programs like the chess team at I.S. 318. Unless the kids can raise $20,000, the famous chess team is dead.
About a month ago, Eva Moskowitz held a fundraiser for her Success Academy charter school chain and raised $7 million in one night.
Wouldn’t you think that just one of those hedge fund managers would adopt the chess program at I.S. 318?