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Gov. McAuliffe and the Big Lie: “Our children are learning how to memorize.”

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Not yet sworn in, Virginia’s new governor has solemnly declared the big myth in education. Some would call it the Big Lie. Cynics would call it the big joke.

Try to find students who have memorized anything at all. This is not easy to do. As American test scores remain mediocre in international tests, we are being kicked around by foreign students who know something we don’t: facts.

According to McAuliffe’s view, children in American public schools are effectively chained to their desks and whipped until they know such useless trivia as, well, anything.

This view, which happens to be the official view of the far-left Education Establishment, is detached from reality. Just watch Jay Leno looking for someone who knows where the pilgrims came from, when the Civil War occurred, etc. Leno, whose program is produced in Hollywood on our West Coast, asked a woman what body of water lies to the west of California. She couldn’t recall. College teachers are reporting that freshmen show up in their classes not knowing what six-times-seven is. According to HuffingtonPost: “37% of Americans unable to locate America on map of America.”

But Gov. McAuliffe, a Democrat, thinks there’s too much memorizing going on, and we have to put a stop to it.

Truth is, not much memorizing is going on at all. That’s because there has been a vendetta against memorizing facts and knowledge for almost a century. Progressive educators promote the idea that children should not be burdened by knowledge. (If you are trying to dumb down the schools, wouldn’t this be the quick way to do it?)

Always this vendetta is presented in the same fantastical rhetoric: the situation in the schools is just too horrible; children are forced to memorize useless junk which doesn’t help them at all. We’ve got to find a better way to do things.

According to one PhD: “We are doing children a great disservice when we engage them in education that focuses on memorization to the exclusion of thinking. Obviously the biggest offenders to me in early childhood are spelling words, math facts, geography – all of geography.”

For thousands of years, the wisest people considered geography the Queen of the Sciences. It’s where everything else starts--History, in particular. The not-so-wise people don’t agree.

The official dogma today is that children should focus on critical thinking, creativity, higher-order thinking skills, networking, and everything else but knowing things for sure. The basic sophistry is to trade hard knowledge for soft skills. One might even say “alleged skills.” Experts don’t agree that critical thinking and creativity can be taught. These are things that naturally develop as children learn foundational knowledge.

The ideal situation is that children acquire knowledge little by little, day by day, as their education progresses. Trying to learn a lot of information the night before tests is not very helpful, because almost everything is forgotten. The correct technique is constant repetition of an ever-growing body of basic knowledge (see video).

Somebody please remember to tell Gov. McAuliffe before he tries to make schools worse than they are.

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-------------------RELATED MATERIALS

SHORT ARTICLE: “Memorization: it isn’t all bad”

LONGER ARTICLE: "47: Teach One Fact Each Day"

SATIRICAL ARTICLE: "California, Hawaii and Alaska are neighboring states."

Quote used in title appeared in Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads section, December 12, 2013

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