Monday, March 25, 2013

Mandatory School Subject: Chess...

The little country of Armenia has made the study of chess a required subject in its public schools.  There seem to be two objectives: grooming chess masters (to make Armenia a chess powerhouse), and training young minds to think.

Where and when I grew up (New Jersey, in the '50s and '60s), chess was popular.  We had no actual chess classes, but we did have a chess club that offered instruction, and it was easy to get matches at any level.  I was a semi-serious player in junior high school, active in the schools chess club; less so before and after that.  I do believe that having an enjoyable pastime that required intellectual discipline and active thought was helpful in developing my mind.  I can't say it was all chess, though, as I had several such pastimes.  More important to me at the time was my interest in designing electronic systems.  Later – specifically, while teaching myself how to program in the '70s – I remember noting that the process of designing and writing programs “felt” a lot like the process of seriously playing chess.  There's the body of practical experience to learn from, elements of strategy and tactics in the design, and even the notion of sequential execution (that is, the way chess moves occur in a specific order is analogous to the way computers execute instructions one after the other).  On occasion, I've even thought of programming as involving an active opponent :)

I can't help but wonder what the results of this experiment will be...

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