Back in kindergarten, I once took my favorite book at the time (given to me by my grandpa) to read to the class. It was The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. I was super excited because I was the only kid in the class capable of reading at the time. In fact, my kindergarten teacher accused me of merely memorizing the words and telling the story from memory (but relinquished when she remembered that at first I was having difficulty reading “fancy that”, and sounded it out). I suppose an argument could be made that I was taught those specific words, and reading them from memory, but that sounds a lot like normal learning. Or is it?
That’s right, I was that smarty kid in class. Top of the grade. I was the one who got taken out of the normal class to go to advanced classes, probably to not frustrate other kids. I handed that math test back before most kids got to the back of the page. I impatiently waited for the teacher to read the next word for the spelling test. In the fourth grade, I learned all the state capitols and won the geography bee. Or did I?
Looking back on all of my K-12 accomplishments, I can’t help but notice most of them theoretically could be attributed to memorization. I don’t really know all the capitols anymore, just a lot of them. I still have the multiplication tables down, but I use them frequently. All of the rules of derivatives and integrals are firmly there too. But did I learn them, or memorize a process?
Spelling? Let’s not pretend that is anything but memorization. Sure, it is nice to be able to spell a word correctly, but if texting has taught us anything, just getting the phonetics down is sufficient to get a message through – and that’s the goal of language.
Today’s meditation ended with, “Then, what do I know?” I guess Socrates said it best.
Is it my fault that I memorized? No, the system rewarded me for that. Is it a bad thing? I’m not really sure. Perhaps, however, the best teacher could be one that teaches curiosity of the facts rather than the facts themselves.
One if my favorite thoughts is that everyone I meet knows something that I don’t, be it through experience or having been taught. I wonder if those who didn’t memorize things experience things a bit differently than I do now.