Memorizing Versus Learning
The topic of memorizing versus learning is something that I believe is greatly overlooked in education. I was inspired to write today’s topic based on a blog post that I read from moderndaychris titled “The Truth About Testing.” Understanding the difference between memorization and learning can give educators a different point of view on what they teach and how they teach it. The best way that I can explain these aspects is by using myself as an example. In my years of schooling I was an A student. I did extremely well, but that was of course not without hours and hours of devotion to studying (memorizing). There were times when I dreaded school because I did not look forward to taking exams or studying for them. Courses such as science, history and math were the hardest and my least favorite. Most of my time was spent memorizing dates, formulas, facts, facts and more facts. And you know what happened after the test was over? I forgot almost every single piece of information. I forced it out of my brain so that I could prepare myself and make room for the memorization of more dates, formulas, facts, facts and more facts. I also believed that there was no point in storing said information since I would never use it again. All to pass the test. Is this considered learning because I got an A on my exams? I personally don’t think so. As a student, I immediately knew when I was learning something. I knew that I was learning when I looked forward to going to a class that I would normally be more than happy to skip. I knew that was learning when I took interest in the what the teacher or professor was saying instead of worrying about what would be on the exam. I knew that I was learning when I conducted further research on a topic on my own time. I knew that I had learned something when years later I can still remember the name, occupation and significance of Cardinal Richelieu. I knew that I was learning when I wasn’t thinking “why the hell are we studying this?” or “what is the purpose of talking about this?”
Now all of the above pertains to courses that were my least favorite, as I mentioned. It is important for educators to recognize that if a student feels a connection to a subject, they are most likely to excel and breeze through it. That is how it was for me and English. I always felt like I was learning in English class. It was not only because I knew and felt that what I was learning would be used for the rest of my life, but because I enjoyed the feeling that writing and English Studies gave me. You see, one is not memorizing in English Studies. English Studies is more about creating. Students are creating their own words, and using their minds to analyze and interpret words that are not their own. English studies is not all about facts because you can never be wrong. As long as the writer provides evidence and examples, their beliefs and their theories are never wrong. English studies also gave me a sense of power in that I could make people see and believe things about a text that they did not notice before. I could change opinions and inspire arguments and thoughts by simply stating an observation or interpretation.
There is always so much talk about how the United States is falling behind in the math and science placement standings, and I laugh every single time I hear that. You know why? There are high schoolers that cannot even write correct sentences, and literally struggle to write a five-paragraph essay. There are grown adults who do not know the difference between “there” and “their,” “its” and “it’s” and so on. There are people who use words like “supposivley” and “conversate” and think that “thru” is a formal word. Need I go on? And so this brings me back to the wonderful question of “why?” Why do students need to learn about photosynthesis and trigonometry? Why? Why isn’t there more emphasis placed on grammar and writing? Why doesn’t the education system see or understand that these elements of English Studies are what students will need and use for the rest of their lives? Why can’t certain subjects be taught for specific training and career purposes? All that I needed to know about math and science I learned in elementary school. Everything that I was taught after that was never used again. Interesting.
We are always taught that it is okay to ask “why?” “Why am I being taught this?” Asking myself this question made it aware that I wasn’t learning. It made it aware that whatever I was being taught would never be used again. It is a question that is often asked by students and overlooked by the educators who hear them. Is it a question that is not taken seriously. Is it a question that provides insight into what is wrong with the system. So what is more important to educators? Learning or the numbers?
Peace and Love