Learning and memory

/ 27 March 2007

I love this post! It’s a meditation on the whole “are you smarter than a fifth grader” phenomenon, which among other problems attempts to assert that there are certain core things fifth graders should know — and then goes on to list them as a set of questions with specific answers. Of course, as the blogger points out, the accurate answers to these questions are easily found via Google, and it’s hardly information that most of us bother to keep in our heads.

I actually think memorization is a good thing -- memorizing songs that sustain you, poems that heal, prayers you'll need when you're in crisis, and so on -- but memorizing the names of the five great lakes? I remember that "HOMES" will tell them to me (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior) -- but why bother? (and I say that as someone who grew up in Great Lakes terroritory).

As this blogger writes:

"Am I smarter than a fifth grader? Yes, and it’s not because I have memorized all of this stuff. It’s because I’m an adult who can find the information that I need in mere seconds when I need it, critically consume information, and act upon information in professional, ethical, and productive ways. What do you want your fifth grader to be learning in school?"

My answer? I want my kids to be like this guy, and I don't much care whether they can answer the "what should a fifth grader know?" questions without access to the net. I suppose that DOES point to one major drawback, however, my assumption that my kids will always have access to the Net -- very glaring evidence of our privilege.