A lot of people, especially the academic elite, like to pooh-pooh the notion of learning by rote. They claim that this type of education results in schools turning out graduates who have memorized a lot of facts but don’t know how to think for themselves. While this may be true if taken to the extreme, I see a great benefit in learning by rote.
When I was in elementary and middle schools, most of my teachers utilized the rote method of teaching. They drilled the facts about history, arithmetic, English, science, and other subjects into our little heads by constant repetition. To this day, my mind is filled with little axioms such as “no taxation without representation” “i before e except after c”, “you can’t divide by zero”, and “cells are the building blocks of life.” That was just a minute sample. Obviously, there would be no way I could include them all here, as they would be far too numerous.
The information I learned during those years has served me well during my entire life. However, once I got to junior high school, things changed. My teachers began expecting me to do a lot of the research and learning on my own. They would only cover a portion of the material during class, and without a great deal of repetition. This continued to a greater extent when I reached high school. When I got to college, things got even worse, as most of the learning was left to one’s own initiative and the classroom pace was very quick, leaving no time for any repetition.
The funny thing is that while I still retain much of what I learned in elementary and middle school, I have forgotten almost everything I learned in junior high, high school, and college, even though they were obviously more recent. If the methods used in the latter part of educational experience are supposedly so much better than those used in the earlier portion, then why has this happened? If I learn something and then quickly forget it, what good is it to me?
It is my belief that students would be far better off if teaching were done by rote all the way through college, provided that they were also taught how to think for themselves and apply this knowledge to everyday life situations. That would be a great potential improvement to our system of education that almost everyone seems to be overlooking.