I'm researching the pros/cons of brute memorization as it applies to the classroom.
For instance, a recent art history exam required I memorize the artist, title, year of composition, and significance (yes, he had an itemized "significance" for each piece, don't get me started) for a list of ~50 different pieces. I completely understand that such knowledge is useful in conversation, and in simply piecing together and appreciating the ebb and flow of the past -- but I am skeptical as to its actual benefit, given that most people simply forget this information a year, semester, or even a day later. With increasing availability of internet access and search -- specific figures, dates, etc are becoming less and less important to remember, as all this information (and more you'd never normally remember) is so easily and readily obtained.
This CNet article
got me thinking about this, and reafirmed my long-standing grievances. Is forced memorization fading away along with the slide rule and slate board? What is the use of such a practice if you simply forget all the information shortly afterwards? Would a course not better serve to enrich by having a more discussion-, analytical- based environment -- helping students form more profound connections that will undoubtedly last longer than a list of dates and people? For courses such as art history, wouldn't integrating internet access during class, allowing for instant retreval and cross-referencing of pieces and ideas being currently discussed, be a logical step away from having our heads buried in textbooks or staring blankly at PowerPoint presentations? Why not free up our brains from the barrage of factoids and focus on actually doing something with this knowledge?
I'm interested in your thoughts, and in any articles, resources, people, etc that argue for and against this idea. My initial Google-fu has not turned up much. I've heard of some schools that don't even give examinations, or distribute grades. This isn't directly related to what I'm getting at, but interesting simply because of it's deviation from the typical concept of "school". Basically, I think that memorization should be a natural result of interest and energy invested into a subject. Think of the knowledge you have almost effortless recollection of, simply because it "came with" larger ideas you are genuinely concerned with. I'm open to any insight.