Old school or new? Memorize or retrieve?

I’m struggling. Which is most important for a fifth-grader:  1.) to carry in one’s head the obscure facts that unlike the Cherokee Indians, the Iroquois lived in longhouses and ate roots or  2.) to aquire the skill to evaluate and select authoritative online information  from websites like http://www.nativeamericans.com/ in order to access that type of information when needed?

This weekend I waged this mental war while helping my son with a joint social studies and literary art project. I was struck by the number of resources he was asked to find and facts he needed to memorize in order to obtain a satisfactory grade. I found myself clinching my jaw and biting my tongue in opposition to the way he was required to complete his task, knowing full well this old school mentality is totally counter-intuitive to current knowledge base learning and information retrieval. Are we teaching facts or skills? Are we giving our children food or teaching them how to farm?



  1. JC,

    I, too, worry what effect rote learning and statistical measures will have on the future of intellectual endeavors. It seems the current standard in education is to mold minds to follow rather than to create, innovate, and lead.



  2. I had similar thoughts just last week when I helped my son “memorize” the topography of OK landscapes. It’s difficult to believe that some educators are employing some of the same outdated methods that were used when I was in 6th grade. I don’t know where the breakdown is though. Is it a lack of knowledge, willingness, or is it related to some arbitary requirement?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s