Monday, January 24, 2011

A House With a Foundation

Last week, we talked about debates over the value of "rote learning." According to the most recent stats on the Waiting for Superman web poll, 44% of readers think rote learning provides content, while 42% think learning by rote is a passive act. In other words, this site's readers are pretty evenly split.

And yet if you go to Google News and type in "education," after stories about "achievement" and "funding," chances are, one of the top hits will be something about global competitiveness in science and math.

Americans are supremely concerned about how well our children are doing compared to the rest of the world, particularly in these subject areas. We're told children are the key to future economic success, but only if they go on to perform well in engineering, medical research, and technology. And to do that, they need to start in high school math and science classes.

Let's pause and think. What's one thing that makes high school chemistry challenging?

Memorizing the Periodic Table.

What's one thing that makes Algebra tough?

Remembering the quadratic formula.

What's one thing that makes Anatomy difficult?

Learning the names of the bones.

Do you see a pattern? Sure, we have reference books and calculators to help, but if you have to look up every step of a 20-step problem, it will take a lot longer and be a lot more frustrating.

All of a sudden, after years of telling children memorization isn't important, we want high school and college students to do a lot of it in order to succeed in math and science. By this point, however, they haven't spent enough time stretching their brains. It's hard work. It doesn't come naturally.

So, if we tell educators memorization isn't important, that it's optional and supplementary -- even when children are young and it comes easily -- is it any wonder that we see a decline in the fields that most prominently require it?

What do you think?

(This week, stop back by to hear more on this subject with guest posts by Jennifer Courtney.)

1 comment:

Jessica said...

As a mom with a 4 year old and a 2.5 year old I am so thrilled to have discovered CC method!
I have been casually researching homeschool options for the past 3.5 years and CC resonates with both my husband and myself.
It is the most logical educating system for our family :)

I just found your blog and look forward to digging in more deeply!