Friday, November 1, 2013

Why Memorize?

Go a head and Google "Is the internet making us dumber?" or "Is technology making us stupid?"

What did you find? Where do you stand on this debate?

While we can learn anything and everything, what do we remember from the hours we spend on the internet? 

Recently, you memorized a sonnet. A difficult task if one tries to remember 14 consecutive lines on a page, especially if it doesn't rhyme. Now you understand why poems would often rhyme.

From David Gilbert's novel & Sons

I remember with dread memorizing "To be or not to be..." from Hamlet my junior year in high school, but that was it. My education did not require much memorization. And I'd argue that I wish it did.

Shakespeare still echoes in my head every time I teach Hamlet, but I feel less than when colleagues would launch into soliloquies from memory. Frankly, many of these colleagues that I have in mind are much older and that was part of their education from a young age - rote memorization. Yet one colleague in his sixties, when he was around my age, dedicated himself to memorizing beloved poems, and he now has almost a hundred committed to memory - so it's never too late. He inspires me to memorize poems like my grandfather could - fond memories of him reciting to my brothers and me.

There's something to be said for the power of ownership in memorizing a poem.

Who knows when those words will arise later in life? Heaney once commented that a few memorized lines of poetry may save your life someday (I will find that interview - so I can quote it directly).

A book that has changed my mindset about memory and learning, one that I wish I had read as student, has been Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. So often we think in terms of a fixed mindset, that we forget the power of a growth mindset. And that with practice and focus, anything is possible.

For an amazing example of a growth mindset, checkout:

Joshua Foer: Feats of memory anyone can do

Yet who said?

“Never memorize something that you can look up.”

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