Rote memorization tasks are a hot button issue for me right now. My 6th grade son just lost 2 hours of his life that he will never get back trying to memorize a list of helping verbs. A few weeks ago, he spent about the same amount of time trying to memorize a list of prepositions. The next memorization task coming up is the Presidents of the United States – in order. I can only imagine the tears that will come with that one.
As a parent it frustrates me to watch my son struggle to remember a list of things when he doesn’t even understand the reason behind why he is memorizing them. As an educator, I struggle to find the meaning in such an inane assignment. “Why do I have to do this, Mom?” my son asks. “If I can Google it, why do I have to memorize it?” Out of the mouths of babes. I totally agree with him. My husband and I are both middle school educators. After thinking on this a bit we both came to the conclusion that other than basic math facts and maybe the periodic table of elements we don’t understand why a teacher would assign rote memorization tasks in this day and age, especially when there is no practical application attached to the task.
I am going to put it out there. I believe that rote memorization is a waste of time for the student and the teacher. The time a student spends trying to commit facts to memory could be better spent reading a book, playing a game, looking for a solution to a problem, or having a conversation. Hell, I would rather my son spend that time playing Minecraft (but that’s for another blog post!). The amount of teaching time wasted listening to students recite a list of states and capitals is absurd. We all know that the content goes in one ear and out the other, forgotten as soon as the recitation is over. Furthermore, to score these types of tasks and make them a part of a student’s academic record is a sure-fire way to kill the joy of learning.
So I ask once again, what is the point of spending time on something that can be easily found in seconds by “Googling it”? Shouldn’t the focus be on engaging learners and fostering creativity? Shouldn’t students be spending their time solving problems and given opportunities to innovate? Learning how to communicate and collaborate with others is an invaluable skill that will certainly come in handy in many aspects of their lives. It is 2016. Can someone explain to me why this is still going on in our schools?
I would love to hear your opinion on the matter. Please tweet at me and share your thoughts @TheConnectedEdu. #shiftED – it needs to happen now!