Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Remembering; the Lost R in Education

So, in this world of instant access to virtually anything what should we require our students to remember? What sorts of things do we need to have at our fingertips? What things do we need instant access to that will enrich our lives? What is it that's just plain fun recalling instantly from memory. My son, Andrew, who has Down Syndrome, can recall almost everything that's happened in his life that he has enjoyed in vivid detail. He can remember what he was wearing, who he was with, what the weather was like and what snack he had when he went to the movies to watch a Harry Potter movie ten years ago.

But what about the factual information that makes up our adult lives? Is it important to distinguish a noun from a verb, to know who the Secretary of State is, to know the capital of Holland, or even where Holland is, to know how many ounces there are in a pound and how many pints in a gallon? Or is it important not to clutter our minds with minutia so that we have room for the important stuff like using computers and navigating the endless features of our cell phones?

I know which side I would come down on but I'm from an older generation that simply uses a cell phone to make phone calls and take the occasional picture. But my memory is full of the most incredible things apart from the number  of pints in a gallon, pounds in a ton and meters in a kilometer. I get an incredible sense of joy when I recognize a drumlin, an  erratic or a raised beach when I'm driving around the countryside. It's a genuine thrill when I can recall the name Copland in response to a crossword clue "composer Aaron". The fact that I can remember long-ago-learned facts when I can't remember what I did yesterday is somehow rewarding, reassuring and satisfying.

But what of today's younger generation who do  not seem to be committing things to long-term memory with the same gusto that we did in our youth. What will they have to recall in their old age? 

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