Go And The Gifted Child
© 2002 Milton N. Bradley
There are many kinds of "giftedness" beyond that expressed by a high score on a standard IQ test, but however identified and measured each presents essentially the same problem to parents, teachers and developmental psychologists - how best to nurture and develop those so identified.
In our society's search for equity, in recent years great emphasis has been placed upon providing help and remediation to the less fortunate who have mental, emotional and physical disabilities, and this is unquestionably a noble and worthwhile effort. But the reality is that essentially all of human progress has been the result of the insights and talents of a select very few gifted individuals and not all the rest of the vast mass of humanity. The sum of the output of all of the millions of "ordinary" musicians who have ever lived does not equal that of one Mozart, nor did the insight of all of the people who ever lived equal that of one Copernicus in determining the true state of our solar system. So it should be apparent that if our society is to continue to progress, identifying and nurturing the "gifted" among us must receive a far higher priority than it has heretofore, cries of "elitism" notwithstanding.
It has long been known that the human brain is "incomplete" at birth, and that most of its important development takes place between then and adolescence. In a feature article in The New York Times of June 24, 1986 entitled "Rapid Changes Seen In Young Brain" it was reported that "...there are twice as many synaptic connections ..... in certain regions of children's brains than those of adults. The number of synapses seems to fall by half in early adolescence." The article further states " ... the child's brain develops virtually all potentially useful neural interconnections by the age of 2. But it is childhood experience that shapes the architecture of the brain, strengthening the neural circuits that are used and ultimately sacrificing those that are not used."
These facts have always been more or less intuitively recognized by parents, many of whom have traditionally attempted to enhance their children's intellectual development via such devices as "flash cards" to teach them specific skills such as arithmetic and language. But even when augmented with physical exercise and sports training to enhance motor development, and training in music and the arts to enhance cultural development, all of these historic attempts have missed the most important single skill which can determine the individual's ultimate success or failure in adult life, that of REASONING. In this area, the game of Go stands alone in its unique ability to teach this almost infinitely valuable skill in the disguise of a pleasurable and non-threatening yet almost infinitely challenging strategic board .game
The extraordinary pedagogical attributes of Go improve both the mental development and REASONING processes and academic performance of all children, but are even more efficacious for the gifted. Not only are gifted children naturally attracted to the challenges posed by the subtle and incisive tactics and profound strategy of Go, but they most readily learn how to play and then move on to the higher skill levels where the benefits to their thinking processes and study habits are actually developed and refined. For this reason, in this writer's view it is inevitable that Go will ultimately become an integral and essential element in the education of every gifted child.
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