For decades now, education experts have disparaged rote memory. Now, of course, we educators emphasize critical thinking skills. How critical thinking can occur without knowledge of the salient facts escapes me. But that argument is an argument for a different day.
For the purposes of this post, let us consider what is happening to both our culture and our gray matter by neglecting to use our memory cells.
From this book review in the Washington Post:
...These days, it seems, we hardly remember anything. We have gadgets that do it for us: day planners, GPS devices, cellphones that log every number we've ever called, tiny motherboards with gargantuan gigabyte capacities. We're lucky if we know five telephone numbers by heart. A recent survey revealed that a third of all British citizens under age 30 couldn't remember their home phone numbers without checking their mobiles. Thirty percent couldn't remember the birthdays of more than three family members.Read the entire article HERE.
But the devaluation of memory has deeper cultural implications: Fully two-thirds of American teenagers do not know when the Civil War occurred; one-fifth don't have a clue whom we fought in World War II. Why waste brain cells on remembering when we can summon facts so easily on our cellphones?
Now comes science writer Joshua Foer - a formerly absent-minded young man who became the 2006 U.S. memory champion - to argue that in exchange for scientific progress, we may have traded away our most valuable human resource.
Devalued though human memory has become, it is what makes us who we are. Our memories, Foer tells us, are the seat of civilization, the bedrock of wisdom, the wellspring of creativity. His passionate and deeply engrossing book, "Moonwalking With Einstein," means to persuade us that we shouldn't surrender them to integrated circuits so easily....
Certainly, we can "conserve" our gray matter's memory banks, and Google-search facts instead of remembering them. Let us also remember, however, that online material can be edited or disappear entirely.
Furthermore, perhaps something else insidious is afoot in the melding of education and technology. I will discuss that aspect in "Brains Rewired? Part Two."