EDUCATION: More than job-training

Rote Learning is a Good Thing


Some professional educators talk about rote learning as if it were a bad thing. Like the person who wrote this advertisement for a school in Philadelphia:

In Waldorf schools children learn by doing and by interacting rather than by wrote [sic] memorization.

Memorization and rote learning are not trade-offs for “doing and interacting.” All have their place in the educational process. For example: learning the difference between the words rote and wrote requires a little rote memorization.

wrote: verb, simple past tense of the verb to write

rote: noun, used most frequently in the expression “to learn by rote,” meaning to learn in a mechanical or repetitious manner. “Rote learning” is learning acquired by memorization with incomplete understanding.

It has become almost a mantra: “rote learning bad; creative thinking good.”

Becoming educated is a process. Some of the tools we need for acquiring knowledge must be memorized. How else is one supposed to learn the alphabet or the multiplication tables? The facts, dates, and rules that we memorize are hooks in the cupboards of our minds, places on which to hang new information.

Demanding “creative thinking” while denouncing “rote learning” is idiotic. Creative thinking is the product of a furnished mind. Memorization and repetition are the building blocks of learning.

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