Dont we all love to complain about how our educational system is outdated and is solely responsible for all the evil we see sprawling about our precious planet? Sure we do, and we attribute our failures to it as well. “Oh you see, I can’t speak French because my teacher wasn’t good enough. I cant do math because it wasn’t taught well. I can’t write literature because the books at school were badly written. I blame the
patriarchy! educational system!
While I would love to rant on about our education system, that is not the point of this article. Its the way information is absorbed that interests me, because for a very long time I used to hate studying by staring at my notes and textbooks, hoping some of it will enter my thick skull via osmosis. As you can guess, it rarely worked if ever.
And The Villain is…
The strategy proposed for studying is rote memorization. And its no surprise as to why its garnered the kind of hate it has. Forcing yourself to study a subject you have zero interest in, that too in a repetitive fashion hoping some of it sticks will drive you insane. After all, they say that insanity is performing the same thing over and over again hoping something new will come of it.
But I’m here to say that it doesn’t have to be viewed as a tool for torture employed by our teachers. Its a tool for learning, and like any other tool, it can only be used efficiently if you know when and where you ought to use it. A screwdriver is used to loosen or tighten screws, but it cant be used to light a fire. We use rote memorization as to do the impossible, when its meant for one purpose alone.
Eh? What Do You Mean?
Rote memorization helps us familiarize ourselves with the subject at hand. We don’t absorb information with a single pass, it requires multiple passes for us to make sense of it and connect the dots. You learn the basics by practicing them until it becomes second nature. And rote memorization isn’t just for academics, it also expands into the territory of music and art.
Personally, I realized how important it is after I decided to learn to play the guitar. I started off by learning the scales and although I knew what the positions were on the fret board, the activity bored me to death. Not to mention I was just starting off, so it didnt sound so good because I kept missing out on a couple of notes, adding in some wrong notes to the mix and it frustrated me.
Once I had developed the dexterity to run across the fret board with minimal effort and without even having to look at it, thats when I started enjoying it. I took it as a challenge to see how fast I could play the scales both back and forth. Its in those moments I had discovered something the blew my mind away.
Scales were what allowed us to form melodies. Thats why they were important, but no one really told me why they were important which irritated me. Couldn’t they just tell me? or is it because they didnt know? Actually they did know, but if they told me why then they’d steal away the joy of discovering it on my own.
I’ve noticed a similar pattern with my handwriting practices using my non-dominant hand. At first it was pure torture. I didn’t know how to position the pen, how much pressure to apply, whether to place my palm onto the paper or to allow it to glide across the surface. Even if Id gotten it all right, I would have struggled either way since my hand had no prior practice. Slowly with practice I started to enjoy the struggle and seeing the progress I was making fueled my ambition even further.
Thats when another realization struck me like lightning. Artist are brilliant storytellers. Writers express their stories through ink and paper, dancers through their moves, and musicians through their music. Classical music is filled with rich examples of detailed storytelling which takes us on a journey which allows us to experience the artist’s joy, sorrow, melancholy, hatred and anger.
I wish I could say the same about modern music but it has been tailored to perfection to include only the happy bits of the human experience. There is nothing of substance left in it, and all of them are composed of the same beats that makes them catchy.
I want to be exposed to the entire range of emotions made available to us, to feel the artist’s anguish, anger, jealousy, joy, ecstasy because only then will I be able to relate with him.
But I digress.
Like how a blacksmith hammers hot iron into a weapon, the process of learning takes place in the same manner. Once you nail the basics, thats when you can start experimenting and get creative. Instead of tracing images, you could sketch it using just parallel lines, and give the object a new life. You could toy around with its design and even turn it into an actual product you can eventually sell.
So in conclusion, rote memorization is a very important tool that will only work if you have a passion you’re working towards. Implementing it for the first few days can be painful, but once you’ve got a hang of it, and start seeing some progress you’ll definitely look back and thank your old self for deciding to invest in such a skill.
Don’t make any excuses. The internet is your greatest asset, anything can be found online and it your job to make good use of this powerful resource. Make your time worthwhile and start designing the life you want to live, the way you want to live.