FTS-100: The Game of Go (Fall 2005)


In this course we will investigate the ancient game of Go and its relationship to Asian culture. We will study the basics of play, and learn about the history of the game and some of its outstanding practitioners. We will gain some appreciation of Asian arts, cultures, and politics through readings and writing projects.

Each first term seminar serves as an introduction to a liberal arts college environment. We'll strive to develop your ability to think analytically and critically, and your ability to communicate your thoughts through writing and speaking with greater quality and clarity.

This course satisfies one of your three writing (``WRIT'') course requirements.

Reaching me

All office, phone and schedule information will be maintained in my web page, http://www.gustavus.edu/~wolfe. If my office door is open you are welcome; if I'm busy, we'll set up an appointment. Email and phone calls work, too.

All course handouts, as well as some supplementary materials, will be available through my web page. A link to for this course is in my homepage http://www.gustavus.edu/~wolfe/.

Primary FTS Goals

Each FTS strives to develop critical thinking skills. You will be challenged to read actively and critically, to question what you read, and to express your critical thoughts orally and in writing. Your critical thinking skills will be measured in class discussion, written essays and in your ability to analyze Go positions.

Each FTS provides you with opportunities to improve your writing skills. You will write five essays and will receive feedback on each. Although the first essays are straightforward, rest assured the later ones will challenge most of you. Two of the essays will go through a revision process. Note that revision literally means to see again. It is enough simply to correct spelling mistakes and make local corrections when you revise, but you are challenged to convey your ideas in a new, clearer and more engaging way.

FTS is structured to encourage you to develop your speaking skills. This is done primarily through participation in class discussion. You will also give one brief PowerPoint presentation on a topic related to the course. In each class, you should feel free to express your own views. Don't be afraid to disagree with others, but always do so respectfully. By the end of the course, you should be able to comfortably participate in class discussions and be able to do so with clarity and depth. In this course, the quality of your class discussion will not impact your grade heavily provided you give it the old college try.

Each FTS will also address questions of values. Each individual approaches any activity with his or her own set of ethical, social and aesthetic values. Go is no exception. We'll investigate our own aesthetic values in the context of the game. We'll compare Asian aesthetic, social and ethical values in the context of our readings on Asian culture. You'll go into more detail in your investigation of values in a research paper contrasting Eastern and Western values in the context of an activity, behavior or art form of your choosing.

As your first term seminar instructor, I have the responsibility of advising you in your first year at Gustavus. Often, I will take initiative in bringing up issues (academic and non-academic) which all students might face as they become accustomed to the Gustavus community. I also expect that you will take initiative in bringing up any issues or challenges you face as you get to know your way around Gustavus.

Texts and references

In addition to the books on sale at the Bookmark, I have a large library of Go books in my office. Please stop by and feel free to browse as much as you like. I'd be happy to lend out books as well.

The first five books are required:

The Everyday Writer's ease of use and organization has led us to require its use by all Gustavus students.

Go! More Than a Game introduces the basics of Go play. Shotwell's attempts to introduce more advanced concepts than most introductory books, and the book features a brief but well-researched chapter on the history of Go. I read Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go many times as I advanced through the kyu ranks. Due to masterful writing, each time it reads as a totally different book, bringing me new insights into the game.

The Master of Go is a novel describing the tensions surrounding a match between a revered older player and an up-and-coming younger player. Kawabata won the Nobel prize for literature. First Kyu chronicles a young player's addiction to Go (Baduk) in Korea.

Miura's book asserts that Asian is to Western as Go is to Chess. Miura, a high-level executive from several Japanese firms with major operations in the States, states his case in the context of business strategy in Japan. The Girl Who Played Go follows the paths of two Go players, one a Japanese soldier and the other a Chinese girl, during escalating hostilities between Japan and China. (I have both these books in my office.)


Students are encouraged to discuss the course, including issues raised by the assignments. However, papers and assignments should be individual, original work unless otherwise specified. Feel free, however, to ask a fellow student to read and give you feedback on your work.

For any assignment, you should cite any help you receive, whether it be from a reference or a classmate. (You need not cite my help, nor discussions from class.)

Any cheating may lead to failure in the course and notification of the Dean. This includes copying anyone else's work, deliberately facilitating copying and failing to give credit for information you received from another person or outside reference.

Any grade disputes should be lodged before the scheduled time for the final exam. I will fix obvious grading errors promptly (and will thank you for pointing them out). For students especially fond of debate, I reserve the right to regrade a whole paper, exam or journal.

Gustavus's academic honesty policy is stated on page 31 of the Academic Bulletin. The following code will be written in full and signed on every examination and graded paper:

On my honor, I pledge that I have not given, received, nor tolerated others' use of unauthorized aid in completing this work.

Writing assignments and Grading

You will be asked to write about five short essays, varying in length from 2 to 6 pages. (A typical page consists of 250 to 300 words.) All papers should be typed. I recommend a line spacing about halfway between single and double-spaced; this should provide enough room for editing marks between lines. Be sure your essays are always stapled together and that your name is always on them. Although these essays will be graded very critically, your final grade will be higher than the average of the individual grades as explained below. The five essays are:
  1. (5%) Why I signed up for a course on Go. An informal one-page essay which will be graded leniently, but assessed critically.
  2. (10%) How to play Go. A 2-3 page essay whose audience (a prospective Go player) is reasonably well defined.
  3. (15%) Movie review. A 2-3 page review of the movie The Go Masters. The 15% is broken down into 5% for the first draft, 10% for the final paper.
  4. (25%) East meets West. In this 4-7 page paper, you will choose one activity, behavior or art form performed in both the East and the West. Discuss how the performance of the activity differs in each culture and how these differences reflect differences in values. Each student will review a classmate's draft. The 25% will be broken down into 5% for the paper you review, 20% for your own paper.
  5. (optional) Go as a metaphor. In this 3-5 page paper you will explain one way how Go acts as a metaphor for life. The more specific you can be, the better. You can discuss how a specific aspect, strategy or idea in Go recurs in life, or you might explain how Go provides guidance for how to succeed in some specific (but common) real-life situation.

In addition, you will be asked to submit daily assignments related to the course by e-mail. The messages should be in plain text (not a Word file), and use attachments only when absolutely necessary (such as when you include a Go game.) Sometimes the daily assignment is spelled out, but in general for each day on which there is a reading assignment, you should e-mail me any thoughts or questions you have related to the reading. If you have no thoughts, then be creative: Compose a Go problem, write a short poem, song or joke, report on an interesting game in the news or a web site, or anything you wish, so long as it is related to the course.

You are free to allow your daily assignments to vary in length and depth. Some days they might be short, some days long. But I will reduce the grade of a student who writes short, quick entries the overwhelming majority of the time. I expect each student to write a more extensive (page or two entry) a few times during the semester, at times of the student's choosing. I'll mark these with a star and each student should earn a minimum of two during the semester. You'll typically receive 0, 1 or 2 points for each day's assignment. Two points means the assignment was taken seriously; I'll make no assessment of the quality of your writing in your daily assignment (so long as I can read it.)

During the semester, and before the last day of classes, you should attend:

Tell me promptly via an e-mail that you attended the event. Successful completion of this requirement will give you full credit for Participation in on-campus cultural events.

You are at risk of failing if you:

  1. miss more than 3 class days,
  2. do not actively participate in class activities, or
  3. fail to submit a required assignment.

All other students will be graded based on:

Those who regularly miss or are late for class, who fail to actively participate, or who fail to complete all required assignments risking failing the course.

Your paper grades will be converted to numeric grades according to the table on the left below. Your final course grade will be the weighted average of your assignment grades, converted to a letter grade according to the table on the right.

paper grade to
numeric grade
    numeric average
to course grade
A 99 93-100A
AB 95 90-93A-
B 90 87-90B+
BC 85 83-87B
C 80 80-83B-
CD 75 77-80C+
D 70 73-77C
F 50 70-73C-

However, I reserve the right to subjectively adjust your final grade (if so, probably upward). Please see me if you have any questions about how you stand.

Late policy

Essay assignments are due at the start of class on the due date. Please staple (do not fold or paper clip) your homework together. One paper (or draft) will be accepted up to 72 hours late without penalty; any more late will be heavily penalized. You may not, however, submit the first draft of the East meets West paper and related peer-review assignment) late without fair explanation and, if possible, advanced warning, since these two assignments effect your classmates' schedules. When submitting an assignment late, be sure to write the date and time of submission on your assignment. This late policy is intended to accommodate illness or conflict. Please do not ask for additional exceptions unless your situation is unusual. In any case, all assignments must be submitted by the last day of classes.