Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #28
“Memorizing has zero value,” Seth Godin says. “If it’s worth memorizing, it’s worth looking up.”
This quote from Godin, which our principal shared with us as a staff several years ago, was a bit of a controversy.
I mean, after all, in the world of high school memorizing is near and dear to our hearts.
I mean we all can remember having to memorize things.
I once had to memorize “The Road Not Taken” and recite it in front of the class (I failed to get through it all) and I had to remember to the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence (I did it).
And I’m not totally against memorizing. I think there are plenty vital facts to memorize (check out E. D. Hirsch Jr’s Cultural Literacy: What Every American Should Know).
But I think what Godin is getting at is not so much the act of memorizing. Rather, what he is deftly trying to get at is the importance of remembering useless details.
Every time I play Trivia Crack, I realize who much useless details I have memorized - state capitals and where professional teams are located.
I think the point Godin is trying to make is this: only have kids memorize vital details. But more important than that, teach kids to have a thirst for knowledge and a desire for curiosity.
As it stands - or as it is taught in traditional American education - curiosity is killed by the act of having to memorizing so much trivial information.
So if you had to tell your class to memorize just one thing from each period of the semester, what would it be? Find that and build your lesson around that. But more importantly, how can you spark a curiosity in your kids to have them research and explore a topic in greater depth.