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Memorization
Old 07-01-2008, 11:42 AM   #1
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Memorization

At age 63, I have been away from school for many years. I recall when my kids were in school they were not required to memorize anything. I once questioned this, but was advised by an educator that there was not enough time to devote to this process as they had so many other mandated things to get done. They also questioned the academic reason for memorizing anything. I dropped the subject, as I am but an uninformed oaf!

This weekend I was watching C-Span and Bill Bennett (former Sec of Education) was speaking from the Reagan Library and he noted that he still recalls passages that he was required to memorize as a student many years ago and President Reagan also did when he was alive. This made me search my mind for recollections of things that I had memorized as a student. An incomplete list follows:

Gettysburg Address
Preamble to the US Constitution
Shakespeare (M of V, Hamlet, Macbeth)
Julius Caesar ("All Gaul is divided into three parts...")
Cremation of Sam McGee (poem by R.W.Service)
Lochinvar (Poem)

I can still recite many parts of these passages, but I am not sure what benefit academically it gave me as a student. Does anyone know of any benefits that I may have come to me because I was required to do this or is it just a quaint old educational activity?
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Old 07-01-2008, 11:53 AM   #2
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Gettysburg Address
Preamble to the US Constitution
Shakespeare (M of V, Hamlet, Macbeth)
Julius Caesar ("All Gaul is divided into three parts...")
Cremation of Sam McGee (poem by R.W.Service)
Lochinvar (Poem)
I can still recite many parts of these passages, but I am not sure what benefit academically it gave me as a student. Does anyone know of any benefits that I may have come to me because I was required to do this or is it just a quaint old educational activity?
Think of the years of entertainment you can give to your grandkids. My poetic recitation ability is limited to "There was a young man from Nantucket..."

I wish there was some way to make money from phone numbers, account numbers, and license-plate numbers. If I use a number three or four times it's stuck in my brain for years, including just about every phone number we've ever owned since I was in elementary school and several car plates that were turned in decades ago. Unfortunately our kid seems to be cursed with the same involuntary-memory trick, but spouse enjoys being able to use us as mobile phone directories.
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Old 07-01-2008, 11:56 AM   #3
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I can quote a few poems or passages, but many more song lyrics. Does it help to get trained in memorization? I think it can. It can train your brain to more easily remember things you may want to - like names when you get introduced to new people. It might help with concentration in some ways too, but I'm not an expert.
When we get older, studies show it is good to keep the brain active, so maybe it would be a better exercise for seniors than teenagers?

Or, it could just be a quaint old educational activity!
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Old 07-01-2008, 11:57 AM   #4
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Nords - I'm the exact same way. I have sort of a photographic memory, so if someone writes down a phone number for me, I usually never have to see it again.
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Old 07-01-2008, 12:10 PM   #5
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I had to memorize poems in school...there were dire consequences if I didn't...a smack on my behind.
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Old 07-01-2008, 12:11 PM   #6
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Gettysburg Address
Preamble to the US Constitution
Shakespeare (M of V, Hamlet, Macbeth)
Julius Caesar ("All Gaul is divided into three parts...")
Cremation of Sam McGee (poem by R.W.Service)
Lochinvar (Poem)

I can still recite many parts of these passages, but I am not sure what benefit academically it gave me as a student. Does anyone know of any benefits that I may have come to me because I was required to do this or is it just a quaint old educational activity?
At the risk of being instantly proven wrong, my view is:
In most of life when an unfamiliar or stressful event is encountered or a moral dilemma is present, we revert to the most familiar or most practiced, or to ingrained training.

While my early years are from a different culture and society, I know of them (I have a book of Service's poems, Used to listen to readings in Chilkoot Charlies in Anchorage), most of those you noted carry solutions, messages, ideals, that you likely agree with or hold valuable.

So I would say they would have been sort of marker buoys along the open ocean of life. To be deviated from when necessary.
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Old 07-01-2008, 12:13 PM   #7
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Nords - I'm the exact same way. I have sort of a photographic memory, so if someone writes down a phone number for me, I usually never have to see it again.
You might have "hyperthymestic syndrome."
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Old 07-01-2008, 01:39 PM   #8
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You might have "hyperthymestic syndrome."
Memory is a weird and fascinating thing. I love reading about it. I have read about one woman in particular who can remember every day in detail from her past; the hypertheymestic memory. It makes it very hard for her to function in day to day life.

Then there are the savants with numbers. My autistic brother has a tremendous capacity for number memory. Not on rainman scale, but similar.

What fascinates me about memory is how unreliable our general memories are and how we fill in our memories to make a coherent story and then think the whole thing is memory.

Memorization was big in my small rural school back in the 60s. Like: "Friends, Romans, Countryman, lend me your ears," "Four score and seven years ago. . ," "We the people. . ," and "Macavitys a mystery cat, he's called the hidden paw For he's the master criminal who can defy the law."

I have a huge mental collection of poems memorized that my father used to read to us. I can recite for you the entire Madeline stories: "In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. . . " And many, many A. A. Milne poems: "James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree, took great care of his mother though he was only three."

And plenty of silly poems:

Little Willy all frills and lace, fell into the fireplace.
By and by the room grew chilly, but no one cared to poke up Willy.

I think memorizing is great and especially appeals to young kids who love hearing the same things over and over again.
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Old 07-01-2008, 01:48 PM   #9
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I always hated memorization in school. At least the pointless kind. Why memorize a poem when you can read it? Why memorize the periodic table when you can reference it? How about mathematical formulae? Exact dates in history?

I had no patience for that, and so I wasn't good at it. I always believed (and still believe) that the important point is understanding the theory behind something and its implications. Memorization of lines in a play doesn't fall into that same category -- in a performance, you aren't going to be reading. But things you can easily look up shouldn't have the memorization emphasis.

Of course, I still remember a good chunk of The Raven that I memorized in 7th grade. Once upon a midnight dreary / while I pondered, weak and weary...
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Old 07-01-2008, 02:43 PM   #10
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I always hated memorization in school. At least the pointless kind. Why memorize a poem when you can read it? Why memorize the periodic table when you can reference it? How about mathematical formulae? Exact dates in history?

I had no patience for that, and so I wasn't good at it. I always believed (and still believe) that the important point is understanding the theory behind something and its implications. Memorization of lines in a play doesn't fall into that same category -- in a performance, you aren't going to be reading. But things you can easily look up shouldn't have the memorization emphasis.

Of course, I still remember a good chunk of The Raven that I memorized in 7th grade. Once upon a midnight dreary / while I pondered, weak and weary...
There was a story about Henry Ford. Someone interviewed Henry Ford and asked him many facts about the USA, names of Presidents, etc, and Ford failed the test miserably. This flabbergasted the interviewer. Good old Henry Ford seemed amused by the exasperation. When the interviewer mused how such an important man didn't know facts a fair number of children in the US did, Ford told him that some of the smartest people in the world worked at Ford, and they were only a phone call away, and that meant HE didn't NEED to know such things..........
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Old 07-01-2008, 02:55 PM   #11
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Ford told him that some of the smartest people in the world worked at Ford, and they were only a phone call away, and that meant HE didn't NEED to know such things..........
He went on to found Google and Wikipedia, right? It was that someone else. I could Google it I guess, but that seems like work.
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Old 07-01-2008, 03:20 PM   #12
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Here's an interesting Flash application that tests memory in an interesting way. It combines memorization of numbers, along with position recollection. Then, one not only has to remember the correct numbers in a specific location, but they must be selected in a specified order. Using some uinknown algorithm, it then spits out the "age" your brain is working at.

Hard to describe, just check it out...I wasted 30 minutes or so on it today.
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Old 07-01-2008, 04:21 PM   #13
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Old 07-01-2008, 04:22 PM   #14
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Here's an interesting Flash application that tests memory in an interesting way.
i got a 28 but i don't read japanese? so i don't know if that's good or bad.

we had to memorize "if" in grade school. then i had to memorize singing my haftorah (oddly, similar to japanese) for my barmitzva. of course it turned out to be the longest one of the year. ugh!

never liked memorizing. but i always wished i was better at it. photographic minds always facinated me. i saw a program on the woman martha described. wow. what a life that would be. i didn't know whether to be envious of her or sad for her.

there is some measure of grace in forgetting yet no dignity in alzheimer's. memory is a double edged sword both on the way in and on the way out.
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Old 07-01-2008, 05:03 PM   #15
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Nords - I'm the exact same way. I have sort of a photographic memory, so if someone writes down a phone number for me, I usually never have to see it again.

I was watching a TV college course on psyc.... they said very few people have a 'photograhic memory'.... they said the test was to have them spell something backward that they have as a photograph.... so in other words, you could spell photograph and hpargotohp at about the same speed.... if you can not, then it is not photographic...
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Old 07-01-2008, 05:07 PM   #16
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Here's an interesting Flash application that tests memory in an interesting way. It combines memorization of numbers, along with position recollection. Then, one not only has to remember the correct numbers in a specific location, but they must be selected in a specified order. Using some uinknown algorithm, it then spits out the "age" your brain is working at.

Hard to describe, just check it out...I wasted 30 minutes or so on it today.
Doesn't seem to work.... looks like japanese all over the place with no instructions...
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Old 07-01-2008, 05:19 PM   #17
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didn't need instructions. seemed obvious enough (but then, i'm pretty good at figuring out patterns). you just click the circles in the same numeric order that circled the numbers.

example

9 5 7 8 2

click first the 2 circle position then the 5 then 7 then 8 then the 9 position, all in order from the lesser to the greater numeric value and in the same circles in which the numbers previously where shown.
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Old 07-01-2008, 05:27 PM   #18
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A kid in my eleventh grade math class remembered an entire four place log table. I don't think he tried to memorize it but he did and never made a mistake.

He finished tests FIRST. The rest of us had to stop to look up the logarithms.

That was so cool!
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Old 07-01-2008, 05:53 PM   #19
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I always thought the point of rote memorization was to train the mind to organize and relate data so that it could be recalled. Like Nords. I can recall phone numbers from long ago. When we lived in Hawaii in the 60's, our number was 457-418 (there were actually so few phones on the island that the phone numbers were only six digits long. They added a digit shortly before we left in 1970. Then it was 457-7418).

The longest thing I ever memorized verbatim (and certainly one Nords can appreciate) was the poem "The Laws of the Navy" which begins

Now these are the laws of the Navy,
unwritten and varied they be.
And he who is wise will observe them,
going down in his ship to the sea.

and then carries on for an additional 26 four line stanzas.
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Old 07-01-2008, 06:03 PM   #20
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Being an Operating Room nurse requires a tremendous amount of memorization & organization . You sometimes have two or three large tables behind you filled with every instrument imaginable and you have to be able to recall where it is and how to use it on demand . So I'd have to say I'm great on memorizing . Plus I still remember all the poems from elementary school.
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