By Heart

I’m sure that one day we’ll all get brain implants that will whisper in our ears all the things we want to remember. As it is, we’re stuck with unimproved gray matter.

Fortunately, memorization seems to be getting less important these days, if you believe educational progressives. Today we don’t need to actually remember anything. We have Google.

The sum of all knowledge can be found on the internet — if you know what to look for. Teaching kids how to make good searches is worthwhile; teaching them to evaluate information is even better.

A few years ago I would have replied, “Yeah, but we don’t carry the internet around with us all the time. What happens when you’re away from the computer?” That argument is dead; now we all carry phones that can Google.

Unfortunately, Google can’t think for us.

In my classroom, I’m asking when Julius Caesar was murdered. Twenty kids whip out phones and start touching tiny keyboards. The one with the quickest connection wins.

Now I’m asking, ‘What would be different if he hadn’t been murdered?’ Twenty blank looks. How do we Google that?

Rote memorization is on the educational blacklist, and has been for some time. I teach Latin, which gives me an excuse to be medieval. I would feel comfortable in the 5th century, huddling over a desk, copying manuscripts. I can make my students memorize things because “that’s the way Latin has always been taught.” Since Latin is already considered ‘dead wood’ by many educators, using obsolete methods to teach it doesn’t really annoy them.

The students who arrive in my classroom have never had to memorize anything – not even their own phone numbers. More


In my Latin classes the most interesting discussions often have almost nothing to do with Latin.

Things we have talked about recently: the stock market, aliens, abortion, mortgages, profanity, nature vs. nuture, feminism, prostitution, spelling reform, social justice, immunization, the calendar (BC/AD), and the health care bill.

My students know much more math than I do, but they do not know how what compound interest or amortization are. They do not know the difference between stocks and bonds, or what Wall Street has to do with the economy. I know these things not from formal education, but from life experience.

This is why I love teaching Latin. Ironically, if I were a math teacher, I might not be able to teach them about the stock market. As a Latin teacher, I can allow tangents to go almost anywhere. This is because: More

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