Does anyone actually teach decontextualised facts? I’ve made this argument previously, but it seems to be popping up again, with Heather Leatt’s response to an article in the T*S prompting yet more immature thinking on the matter.

The argument seems to go something like this: I can teach children to remember twenty quotes from Romeo and Juliet, but that doesn’t mean they understand the play. Well of course not, but who actually does this? Who’s advocating it? Seriously!

Even the most Gradgrindian, paid-up member of #TeamTrad™ doesn’t force thirty, doe-eyed eleven year-olds to repeat random facts for hours on bloody-end. This isn’t reality. It isn’t even parody. No-one does this.

When I quiz Y7 on the key people in this unit on mediaeval power, I don’t do so with no explanation because a) I wouldn’t be doing my job and b) that would be mental. It would be a literally, [insert dubious Einsteinian attribution here] insane thing to do. It would also be pointless.

Having learned something by rote, or by heart if you prefer the more romantic phrase, allows any person to better deal with the matters at hand: knowing the various monarchs, in chronological order, who reigned during the Hundred Years’ War will aid understanding of the Hundred Years’ War. That’s the whole, actual, entire point. Learning by rote does not mean not understanding. It’s just a very effective way to help us understand more quickly.

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