From Memorization to Mindsets
By Garrett Smiley
The Downfall of Rote Memorization
Although memorization still has a place in learning, its power has been significantly weakened by the internet. Previously, skilled labor was driven by knowledgeable individuals recalling the proper facts or equations for the problem at hand; now, however, the most important skills include fully understanding the context of the problem, asking the right questions, and locating credible sources of information to answer them. The ethos of a liberal arts education–teaching students how to think–has never been more relevant.
We do not believe the solution to the failing education system is accelerating every student through the traditional curriculum faster or making chemistry class more rigorous, as many have claimed. Instead, education should create adults who love themselves, their peers, and society, and who put information to work to serve others. Students need to follow their curiosity and discover things they think are important and beautiful in the world. We have more tools than ever at our disposal, but we have a species in a meaning crisis that doesn’t know how to use them.
Knowledge alone is not power. Power resides in asking the right questions and applying knowledge where and when it is most needed.
The Importance of Mindsets
As mentioned above, information is everywhere these days; however, if high-quality information is ubiquitous, why isn’t “genius” also ubiquitous? Most of the western world has access to the entire intellectual history of our species via the smart device in their pocket. Clearly, the issue isn’t the amount of information or the ability to access it. Instead, the bottleneck is the number of people who feel driven to use those resources and apply what they find to better themselves and the world around them.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery
In our quest to cultivate an enthusiasm for learning, we believe learning facts and content are important, but they need to be removed from the pedestal on which traditional schools have placed them. Students benefit from understanding fractions, why the periodic table looks the way it does, and the formative events in our history. However, learning these facts and others like them is only a means to an end; we must also consider why this information is taught, and how it can be applied.
No matter how well young Albert Einstein learned the rules of math or physics, he would never have revolutionized our understanding of the universe had he not been curious or rebellious. No matter the size of a boxer’s biceps, they’ll never be a champion with the disposition of pacifism. In other words, the attitudes and thought patterns that students hold matter just as much as the content they encounter. Let’s call these thought patterns mindsets – the beliefs we desire all students at Sora to possess.