Learning can’t always be fun

The start of the new school year will invariably include pleas by principals to make learning fun.  But the truth is learning often requires discipline that is by its very nature boring (“What I Learned in Secretarial School,” The New York Times, Aug. 12).

I’m thinking now of the importance of rote memorization.  Unfortunately, it has fallen out of favor because it is seen as antithetical to creativity.  But there are rules that need to be learned and retained if creativity is ever to develop.  Every subject taught requires memorization if mastery is to follow.  I remember having to memorize rules for spelling, for learning Spanish etc.  Students today are rarely required to do so.  Perhaps that’s why grammar is no longer taught in most schools.  Students complain that it’s boring.  Their inability to write clearly is the price paid for caving in to their demands.

Learning is a process that is built on a sequence of skills and knowledge.  Teachers can’t always make their instruction fun and enjoyable.  I’m not saying they shouldn’t try, but I am saying that students are shortchanged when they are not required to memorize.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

2 Replies to “Learning can’t always be fun”

  1. Perhaps it’s an obvious point, but the daily media experiences of today’s kids are way more stimulating than the daily media experiences of kids in the 1950s and 1930s. Today’s kids are growing up with routine access to huge amounts of exciting digital content — way more exciting than the black-and-white TV shows of the 1950s and the radio broadcasts of the 1930s. By contrast, teaching today — particularly the memorization aspects of teaching — offers largely the same level of stimulation/excitement as it did back in the 1950s and 1930s. If so, it’s inevitable that students today are more likely to feel bored than their parents, grandparents or grandparents did.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: There’s no question that young people today are exposed to far more exciting images than those in the past. But memorization is necessary in learning no matter when it occurs. Avoiding it has produced graduates who can’t spell or identify a complete sentence.

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