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« Machineries of Joy | Main | Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone »

March 20, 2013



This may not be your point, but isn't rote learning a useful prelude to understanding? That is, it's useful way to get started; a confidence building exercise. There's no need to know the minutia of number theory to mentally verify the cost of a round down the pub though it is clearly an essential skill ;) One doesn't need to understand gravity to work out which is the heavier of two objects in your hands. Though you might if you want to understand why they both hit the ground at the same time. Ultimately, though, one has to start understanding (or at least thinking about the "why?" instead of just the "how?") to reap the benefits otherwise we all become automatons (which may be exactly how our political masters see us)

My mind is so peculiarly wired that I strive to understand whatever task is before me so that, for example, I struggle to learn foreign languages because I want to work out the grammar when the better start might be to learn useful phrases by rote. Though I've never really tried, I imagine learning to play a musical instrument is similar (and that I would have similar difficulties).

I very much agree with your final paragraph though (and I've never even heard of Macauley!)


That's a really useful way of looking at it Graham. I like that idea of rote-learning as a confidence building exercise and a prelude. And yes, I think the hidden (or not so hidden) subtext is that its about keeping people in their place; training them for their future position in society: don't argue, don't question, know your place, don't get ideas above your station... 'thinking for yourself'? 'working something out'? 'having an opinion'? God forbid.

And no, I've never heard of Macauley either :)

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