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The Importance of Rote Learning

Written By: Sam Blumenfeld  |  Posted: Friday, July 8th, 2011

            The 1850 edition of Noah Webster's Dictionary defines "rote" as: "To fix in memory by means of frequent repetition." That certainly is the essence of what we mean by rote memorization. My 1988 dictionary, however, defines "rote" as: "A fixed, mechanical way of doing something." That definition misses the mark of what memorization is all about. The true purpose of rote memorization in education is to create automaticity, so that, for example, when a child sees a letter or group of letters he or she automatically says the sounds. The child does not have to think about it. The response is automatic.

            Repetition, in fact, is not only the easiest way to learn something, it often is the only way to learn something. Today's public educators, of course, look down on rote learning and consider it akin to a form of child abuse. Imagine, forcing a child to actually memorize something! They see rote learning as an old-fashioned teaching method associated with birch rods, dunce caps and other quaint paraphernalia of the strict, disciplinarian educational practices of the past.

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