I've been thinking what I might say about this "cultural by-products"
business (some awful metaphors lurching about there in the darkness,
about the way they make cattle feed in Britain), and Cathy raises
what I think is a peripheral issue, but an important one.
Two observations. The dispute she alludes to in medical faculties
runs right through the health sciences, and is absolutely central to
the institutional restructurings that have been going on in such
faculties for over a decade now, whereby problem-based learning has
become, if not the most common educational practice in medical and
health science faculties, certainly the powerful and accepted
alternative to the classical "memorize the definition of the femur"
I don't think, though, that it usually presents as a dispute between
scientists and clinicians -- at least the people in those faculties
that I've met at problem-based learning conferences or faculty
development seminars have been equally divided between scientists and
> It seems to me we have the same kind of debate going on here. The
> Classicial rhetoricians valued memory highly because memory gave
> rhetoricians things they could use. But memorizing for its own
> sake, I think is problematic. for one thing it leads to that sense
> of "fact." As if things were unchangeable.
I guess I agree with this, though I think there's another issue
behind it, which is that memorization favors the people who already
have internalized the social structures which undergird it. Those
classical rhetoricians could _assume_ that the people they were
asking to memorize stuff already shared with them fundamental values
and habits and assumptions that nobody had to address explicitly.
Further, I think memorization itself is influenced largely by acts of
valuation and ordering: I remember thousands of lines of poetry, not
because I ever memorized it, but because it fits into my world and
illuminates it. Skiing through the woods the other day, I heard
myself repeat Frost's "Dust of Snow," which I certainly never
> After wandering through this argument I have discovered my own
> position. Memorizing is valuable only when we show at the same time
> how and why something was made, and if we balance memory with
> practice--problem-solving, stragice learning etc.
I'm hesitant even to accept this . . . "we show at the same time"
sounds to me a lot like "we say at the same time." How does that
translate into classroom action?
Russell A. Hunt __|~_)_ __)_|~_ Department of English
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