There Is No Satisfactory Alternative To Go
© 2002 Milton N. Bradley
As one of the world's great strategic board games, Chess shares certain important characteristics with Go that also makes it a valuable pedagogical adjunct to the standard curriculum, and it has often been used in that role outside the Orient in places where Go was unknown. As Shelby Lyman noted in his nationally syndicated Chess column in Long Island's premiere newspaper Newsday on Sept 10, 1991, "Chess works in an educational environment because ......it is a sport....and it is played for fun." He continued "... children playing Chess engage their full intellect, will and strength to a remarkable extent. They alertly attend the chessboard: observing, remembering, generating ideas, testing those ideas, making decisions and mistakes and learning from those mistakes." He concluded "Chess has an advantage over most school subjects: it combines both theory and practice. Ideas are honed and tested in the crucible of competitive play. Poor formulation or poor execution of ideas loses games. Careless, faulty thinking is ruthlessly refuted on the chessboard."
The validity of Lyman's contention that Chess can improve student performance was recently abundantly demonstrated in New York City's Mott Hall School, as reported by Brent Staples in the Sunday New York Times of Dec 15, 2002, and described in considerable detail in the section of this web page entitled "Teaching The New 'R' Of Reasoning".
Go is far superior to Chess as a pedagogical tool because it not only fully shares all of these considerable assets, but also possesses several others of transcendent importance that Chess lacks almost completely:
This unique integration of left and right brain function in playing Go was recently directly demonstrated for the first time by MRI brain scans, in experiments described in the report referenced in the section of this web page "Comparison Between Chess and Go".
For these reasons, Go not only provides unlimited scope for even the most brilliant to exercise their mental capabilities to the fullest, but an effectiveness in improving the brain function and academic performance of even underachievers unmatched by any other known pedagogical mechanism.
There are some significant caveats that must be addressed in implementing a school Go program, especially in the US:
The benefits Go provides can only be achieved over a period of months and years during which the student actively studies and plays Go, and progresses well into the advanced stages of skill. The reason is that a deep understanding of and ability to appropriately address the complex interactions between Go's strategy, tactics, and elegant structural concepts are what actually improve the student's intellectual capabilities. Coupled with Go's subtle development and inculcation of improved study habits, this then translates into improved academic performance.
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