by James Bailey |

Ms. Slaughter usefully contrasts the chessboard and the network as alternate metaphors for how to process the world around us. Have students really been encouraged to see their world in terms of a chessboard? They sure have. Here are just four examples:

1. Lofka’s Elements of Mathematical Biology

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The game of chess itself is so well conceived a conventionalization of the battle of life that it is well worth the while to make a seeming digression to analyze the fundamental elements of this remarkable game… From the battlefield of chess we now turn our eyes on the scene of the great biological contest…

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2. Eddington’s Space, Time, and Gravitation

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The application of this [chessboard] analogy is as follows. The recorded games are our physical experiments. The rules of the game, ascertained by a study of them, are the laws of physics… The chessmen are the entities of physics.

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3. Huxley’s Science and Education

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Suppose it were perfectly certain that the life and fortune of every one of us would, one day, depend on his winning or losing a game of chess… Do you not think that we should look with a disapprobation amounting to scorn upon the father who allowed his son, or the state which allowed its members, to grow up without knowing pawn from knight?

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The chessboard is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of nature… Well, what I mean by education is learning the rules of this mighty game.

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4. Wells’ Mental Adjustments

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A great philosopher [i.e. Huxley] asks us to suppose that our whole being and all that existence means to us is dependent upon our some day winning or losing at a game of chess… Yet the worth of existence depends on success in a game infinitely more complicated than that of chess… Our moves in this game are the reactions by which we seek to adapt ourselves to the play around us.

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to be continued…

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