If memorization is no longer important, how will students be tested?
Remember when the answer was on the tip of your tongue? Perhaps you were out with friends talking about “That movie with that guy, you know, that guy who was in that other movie with Al Pacino.”
We don’t live in that world anymore.
Now think of your typical 10-year old. That person never lived in that world. That person will never be in a situation where they can’t find an answer.
If you’re of a certain age, you can remember talking about that guy in that movie. The answer was on the tip if your tongue. Someone tossed out names, you argued, rejected, went quiet. There were some moments in which you never got the answer.
That was then.
Clearly that is no longer a thing. Undoubtably, there is someone in your group who does a Google or IMDB search and voila – that guy was Stephen Tobolowsky, and he did an AMA on Reddit.
If you’re old enough to remember having the answer on the tip of your tongue, then you’re old enough to have lived in a world that prized memorization.
We were tested on our ability to retain facts. Who won the war of 1812? How many people signed the declaration of Independence? How many elements on the periodic table?
For the last question, there’s a solid chance that a ten-year old has the periodic table app. We’re past the point of needing to know the number of elements, and we’re at the point where we need to know why.
That said, our education is moving the other way. The education in the US is moving more towards testing and measurement. As the world moves away from the need to know details, the schools move towards the need to know details.
I don’t know the right answer here, but I feel like it is more on the side of why, and less on the side of what. The correct live is important, since the 10 year old will be coming to Higher Ed in seven years. In higher ed, they’ll be asked to turn from what to why. It won’t be the first time, since they’ll be over a decade into having the answers at the their fingertips.
So what do you think? Should we still prize memorization? Am I on the wrong track?