Memorizing gets a profoundly bad rap in the Western world. It makes robots of children, the belief goes, or androids of students who can only recite upon command, devoid of any creative thought. This follows Western philosophy, which promotes the idea that humans are more developed than animals. "The mind is not a vessel that needs filling but wood that needs igniting," proclaimed a statement attributed to Greek historian Plutarch.
Today's Internet-savvy world helps enable this approach, allowing us to go through life committing very little to memory. Why should we bother, when knowledge is available at the click of a button?...We have facts at our fingertips, and, as a result, schoolchildren are doing less and less work committing facts to memory.
Here's where I go to the research, which declares this is a dangerous trend. Real learning doesn't happen unless information is imprinted to long-term memory, the cognitive scientists say, and that transfer of knowledge into the storehouse of the brain can be accomplished in part through memorization and practice. Here's the key: Once a child locks away key information, he can free up the active memory for thinking deeply - and even being creative. British educator David Didau puts it this way: "It's worth memorizing certain things to the point that they're effortless, so then you don't have to think." American psychologist Daniel Willingham wrote that "the bigger storehouse of information a brain has, the better the brain will comprehend information coming in...thus allowing more thinking to occur." Expert problem solvers actually derive their skills on "huge amounts of information" and experience stored in long-term memory, one research team wrote in Educational Psychology.
In other words, you can't just look it up, Google it, or ask your neighbor.