By: Dennis Bates
I know it’s out of fashion to suggest this these days, but I’ve never been a slave to fashion of any kind, so this kind of thing is nothing new to me. What I suggest is that students would learn a lot more if they had to memorize things, like we used to. And I mean learn, as in remember and have something made part of you so your actions flow from things you have stored inside you.
When I went to school back in the dark ages in the 50’s and 60’s, we had to memorize everything. There were addition combinations, multiplication tables, division tables, spelling words, periodic elements, parts of speech, and on and on. When I was a senior in high school we had to memorize the titles and the first lines to a list of English poems. You either got an A on that assignment or you failed it, and you could take it over and over until you got them all right, which gave you an A. Still some people failed, but most of us got an A.
More than 40 years later, I still remember a lot of those titles and first lines because I memorized them. I didn’t necessarily understand them all then, but little by little I learned to understand and see the beauty of them. I can still tell you what the parts of speech are. Consequently, I can still write coherent sentences when I chose to. I can do a lot of math in my head because I know that 6×6=36, and so on.
So who learned and retained? Was it those of us who memorized now and learned why later or those of us who didn’t memorize things because it would stifle our creativity, hurt our self worth, and somehow interfere with all the processes that make us worthwhile human beings? Never mind we can’t read or do simple math without a calculator; we have a sense of worth, but just don’t know what to do with it or how to define it.
There was no educational crisis back then, no child left behind because he couldn’t pass a silly standardized test that doesn’t measure anything but how much we are going to deduct from the salaries of teachers who are already underpaid to begin with. There were reading groups, spelling words to memorize, and so on.
If that misguided nonsense is true in education, it is doubly true in our churches. I can recite the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the 23rd Psalm without knowing what page they are on in the hymn book. Why? It’s not because I’m a genius, but because I had to memorize them before I could become a member of the church.
I’m not saying any of those things are salvation itself, but I’m saying that without knowing those fundamentals, it’s like trying to get into a locked room without having the keys to open the door. It’s harder that way, maybe even impossible.
The scriptures tell us over and over that we should put God’s laws in our minds and write them on our hearts so we can know Him. How do you do that unless you memorize the basics so you have the keys to open the door?
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