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Why is Learning by Heart Viewed in a Better Way than Actual Learning and Understanding a Subject

Branka Turcin, IX A

Knowledge is a vast universe filled with all kinds of mysteries, all of them being different in their own manner. Something, that caught my attention since a very young age, finding subjects such as physics, geography and even history some alluring topics to read about and talk about. That’s why, when I first started school, my excitement was at a very high level, which is commonly seen in kids at that age. But everything shattered when I first had to learn by heart some poems whose titles have flown out of my mind, together with their lyrics. I despised that task and perceived it as completely nonsense because I believed it wasn’t helpful for me to learn something which was just a click away.

Hence, my question is: Why is learning by heart viewed in a better way than actual learning and understanding a subject? In this article, I’ll try giving it a proper answer.

To begin with, learning by heart is not a bad thing. Even though, it may be the wrong answer in many situations, learning by heart has a lot of pros, some of them being quite obvious, while others can be surprisingly true. At first, it can improve information retention at any age, making you memorize all kinds of facts that can be helpful at any time in life. Also, it might improve neuroplasticity in the elderly and stave off typical cognitive decline by seven to fourteen years. Incredible isn’t it? It may not be the cure the doctors are looking for, but a way of not having a feckless mind when you are old.

But, returning back to our main concern, why is then, learning by heart a bad thing? The answer is simple, it kills children’s and our creativity and we don’t even realise it.

When we must learn a certain lesson in a school subject, in order to get a well-received grade, our main goal is to quote it, not understand it. But why? Because otherwise, we may seem lazy when put head to head with someone who actually did it.

The educational system has a big hole when it comes to this topic, not because it promotes the fact of knowing multiple things about various subjects, but mainly because it is concentrated on the same structure for all children, no matter their personalities or their talents. People’s brains are all different, if John can quickly memorize the lesson for tomorrow’s test, doesn’t necessarily mean that Tim is capable of doing the same thing in the same period. We can’t spend our whole day learning for school or university, let’s be serious.


Moreover, I’m very sure that at least once, in your life as a student, the thought: “Why do I need to study music or art at school?” has crossed your mind, something commonly seen. But why is that? Well, the answer is simple as Sir Ken Robison once said in one of his TED speeches, school doesn’t promote these vocational subjects, it views them as insignificant, even though, they are way more important than we realize. Not only here in Romania, but also in other countries, which may seem unreal to us, since we do believe that the whole world is a spectacular place except our own country.

If you are not exceptional in Math, English or physics, does not always point out the fact that you are not learning, just that you may not be meant to understand them, something teachers and even parents can’t acknowledge. Learning is and will never be the same thing as quoting. It’s neither having a ten in all subjects nor participating in international contests and having the best results…it means knowing how to replicate what you read and what you understood, in real life. That’s what the universities and even the employers are looking for, a jack of all trades, not a parrot.

School is not preparing us for real life. School is all about getting big grades, which leads to the so big desire to have tremendously high grades in every subject, even though you don’t understand a thing, or forget the information learnt in a matter of a few days. Remember when I pointed out the fact that we don’t care at all about vocational subjects? Even though they are indeed, not the most important things we learn at school, they have a role in increasing our general knowledge and understanding of the so-called “Love of Beauty”. But since they aren’t part of any key exam of our life, students, don’t “waste their time” (at least some of them).

Because of this despair, competition and pressure on our shoulders, we are learning by heart as much as possible, we don’t care about what remains, only about having that shiny 10, and no teacher can comply, because you do know the lesson after all.

But there is still the question: Why is learning by heart viewed in a better way than actual learning and understanding a subject? In real life, this rule does not apply, but in the old, outdated school system, where the competition is that high, it is the only tie-breaking criterion, even though it kills our creativity.

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