In honor of Memorial Day, some thoughts on learning by heart from Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute:
“Our lives are not anything other than living what we have learned – and what we have learned is in our memory. This is why I cringe every time I see “rote memorization” ridiculed. What would be so wrong in memorizing The Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence, The Raven? In fact, it is precisely rote memorization – that which is inexplicably and inexorably lodged in our memories — which provides the basis for all our current habits, including that of breaking free from them; including too the bad habit of having no memory – which leaves us bereft of any direction. The other day I ran across a kid in our Intermediate school whose sixth-grade class I entertained a couple months ago (for Dr. Seuss’s birthday) by reading Solomon Grundy and then having the class memorize it – outloud, altogether now! Solomon Grundy, Born of a Monday, Christened on Tuesday, Married on Wednesday….) and I asked the young man, two months later, “Remember what I read?” and without skipping a beat, and while skipping down the stairs, he reeled off Solomon Grundy, proud of his rote memorization. My God, I thought, what else was he capable of remembering? Memory is essential to our future – we need to practice it.”
Read the rest (it’s worth your while), here.