In defense of memorization

In defense of memorization

It’s fairly apparent that the educational theories of the Seventies have not born good fruit. In fact, it’s well documented that kids today are less well-educated, on the whole, than their predecessors. Among those failed theories was that rote memorization is bad, or as the critics said, “Drill and kill,” as in “Kill the learning spirit” or some such drivel. So out went the multiplication tables and vocabulary lists and in came self-esteem-based and value-neutral learning.

Michael Knox Beran, writing in City Journal, says that it’s time to bring back memorization and rote learning.

If there’s one thing progressive educators don’t like it’s rote learning. As a result, we now have several generations of Americans who’ve never memorized much of anything. Even highly educated people in their thirties and forties are often unable to recite half a dozen lines of classic poetry or prose.

Yet it wasn’t so long ago that kids in public schools from Boston to San Francisco committed poems like Shelley’s “To a Skylark” and Tennyson’s “Ulysses” to memory. They declaimed passages from Shakespeare and Wordsworth, the Psalms and the Declaration of Independence. Even in the earliest grades they got by heart snippets of “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” or “Abou Ben Adhem.” By 1970, however, this tradition was largely dead.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli