Now, From Memory

This week has been really all about memorization. Between 60+ chinese characters and 6 songs worth of lyrics, clearly memorization has reached new heights in my life. But this contrasts my long-standing beliefs in studying process rather than the result (a.k.a. memorizing). In language, for instance, I would place higher importance on grammatical structures and tenses rather than vocabulary. In math, I would value what formulas represent and how to use the formulas over memorizing the formula itself. In some ways, this points to why I am more of a humanities-oriented individual — more thinking, less memorization.

Increasingly, though, memorization as learning has taken center stage. Is it useful to be able to memorize things efficiently? Yes. There is no doubt about it. The practicality of being able to recall specific information is great. If you know how to memorize information, you can reap the rewards. But it’s still not as useful as knowing how and why to do something. You’re memorized knowledge is useless unless you have a way of applying and contextualizing that information.
In some cases, it’s the only way. But do you need to be in a classroom with a teacher to memorize? No. Memorization is primarily an individual learning process. Why then do we pay tuition to take classes where all you do is memorize? Are we somehow better at memorizing with a teacher?

Obviously, I am turning this into a black and white issue when I realize that education is a combination of learning methods. But I want to continue to examine styles of learning whether it be rote memory or contextual learning and teaching.