I grew up thinking that rote memorization was very important. By the end of Freshman year at SJC I was actually able to stand at a black board in McDowell Hall and prove each theorem from the first five books of Euclid from memory. I attempted to memorize all 600 parts of a fully inflected Greek verb. In high school I attempted to memorize the periodic table of chemical elements, symbols, atomic weights. I still remember that an electron weights 0.00054 amu. Now I cannot even remember the proper name for that table. I know I could google for it.

After St. John’s I went to the University of New Haven and took three semesters of calculus, getting straight A’s. I did EVERY problem odd and even in Purcell’s 900 page calculus textbook. I am amazed at how much I have forgotten in my life.

In a way, open book tests make more sense. It doesn’t matter how much you can memorize. What matters is knowing WHAT to look for, WHERE to find it, and how to use it once you have found it.

I now totally depend upon google, spell checkers, spreadsheets. I could not even begin to do long division with a pencil and paper.

At age 61, it sometimes takes me 30 minutes to remember something that I easily remember on other days (e.g. Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba who is sent to his death at the front lines by King David.)

I have a file on my Blackberry for things that I cannot remember. I was not able to remember that Falkland Islands was the scene of a battle in the 1980s. I have a hard time remembering places like Barbados, Grenada, Antigua and I often meet people from those places.

I had to add words like DERIVATIVES and those things they add onto bills in congress… EARMARKS… I had to go to my WordPress blog and go to REMINDER to find that term, EARMARK.


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