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Learning Or Memorizing

By Kevin Chen, Clarion Staff

Learning and memorizing are often categorized together; they are both required to promote academic growth. Learning provides the ability to understand and memorize, but memorization is merely the action of storing certain bits of information. While both can yield results in the school grading system, students as a whole seem to lean towards memorizing required knowledge. Memorization usually consists of focusing on required terms for a big test, then consequently forgetting said terms a day after. This type of habit should be disregarded, as it doesn’t encourage retainment of newly obtained knowledge and flat out puts the student back at square one.

Learning, however, brings understanding of knowledge, which can be applied to events outside of the classroom. This is the true purpose of our education system. Whereas memorization of facts holds little value and only provides information about how a fact is relevant, learning can help you understand the fact’s significance, the reason why it’s true, and can allow the individual to link it to other areas of learning.

Of course, memorization is still useful for remembering necessary formulas and historical events to understand their importance in our lives.

Still, though, consider math- a subject that requires memorization, but yet the memorization causes more damage than benefits. An equation is asked, it’s responded to with an answer, but the answer is purely memorized. The students do not know the process of getting to the answer, they do not know what the variables of the equation represent, and they do not know how to apply the equation to real-life scenarios. Such a form of learning will only harm students and the generations that follow.

This kind of learning is called rote learning and, according to The Atlantic, is most common in the Eastern world: China, India, Japan, and Greece are all proud users of this repetitive memorization method. These eastern countries place high on international intelligence tests despite the drawbacks of memorization. However the U.S. is condemning rote learning and supports meaningful learning: a process of learning in which students can piece evidence together to understand a concept. Despite this claim rote learning is still practiced widely in America by both teachers and students.

According to an article by high school pre-Calculus teacher Ben Orlin (When Memorization Gets in the Way of Learning) his math class had only memorized equations and facts rather than understanding it. “To them, math wasn’t a process of logical discovery and thoughtful exploration. It was a call-and-response game. Trigonometry was just a collection of non-rhyming lyrics to the lamest sing-along ever.” This represents how insignificant Orlin’s lessons were to his students, especially if he compared them to a game that even five year olds could comprehend.

This memorization process can’t be countered by teachers who intend for students to actually learn and develop upon subjects like calculus, physics, chemistry, etc. If teachers want longer, more complicated problems, they’d stay up at night to grade, if teachers want to teach new ways to understand a topic, they’ll have to dish out time in their already busy schedule. If teachers want their students to improve on tests, they’d have to give them more time on tests to properly solve problems. The situation is complicated for both teachers and students. No matter what teachers want to do, memorization always seems to slither through their plans.


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