Learning Vs. Memorizing

I recently had an interesting discussion with my sister and nephew about memorizing versus learning. He was supposed to “learn” the states and their capitals. He did. A week later at a family event he couldn’t tell you 1/2 of them. When asked, he said, “I memorized them for the test. But I see no reason to know it this week. So I forgot it.” 

The candor of this 10 year old reveals quite a bit about this generation’s perspective of learning vs. memorizing.  They can “find” information in 30 seconds or less through Google so why should they use up brain space to memorize it. This is the mentality of the “Information Age.” Information is so easily accessed why memorize it?

My sister asked how he could learn something and then unlearn it so fast. I pose this…

HE NEVER LEARNED THEM. He memorized it in his short term memory for a test and then let it go. A frequent demand and liability of the current educational system.

This generation is demanding we re-think what they should LEARN. Should it be a lot of facts? Should it be ideas that one can find through Google in minutes? Or should it be skills and tools that will help them learn, help them research, help them function? Should it instead be how to use and apply concepts and facts? 

I keep reminding myself that 65% of the jobs our children will do in 2025+ haven’t been invented yet. How can I teach them the same things I learned and think they will be competitive?

The big question has to be asked… What is the purpose of education in the 21st century?

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2 Responses to Learning Vs. Memorizing

  1. ciabrownlee says:

    I have been watching different television surveys in the street asking people the simplest of questions. For example, “Who is the Vice-President of the USA?” And they don’t know! These are people in their twenties and older. I’m sure they had “Civics” or “American History” taught to them, but they can’t recall very much at all. I’ve not only been disappointed in their lack of interest but have wondered, “Did they ever get an education?” I think the principle of learning that you have pointed out is the answer. They simply found no reason to retain it, so they no longer remember such things. One of my biggest disappointments with the electorate in America is they appear to be so ignorant of our government.

    • jillbrownlee says:

      The sad part is that most of the classroom experiences of today happen outside of a meaningful context and with seemingly no relevance. Therefore simple ideas or facts slip out of ones memory “after a test.”

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