At Trinity Academy, one of our distinctive features is that we have developed a comprehensive and purposeful memory curriculum. The prevailing view among progressive educators is that memorization is merely drill-and-kill, and that information can be so easily accessed through available technology that memorization is unnecessary. Building on the theories of Jean Piaget and John Dewey, progressive educators deny that objective knowledge exists, but that knowledge is constructed by the learner. They question the value of memorizing someone else’s constructs. Yet, memorizing, particularly, for young children is a key part of classical pedagogy.
In his article, In Defense of Memorization, Michael Knox Beran suggests that “Memorization helps to etch the ideals of their civilization on children’s hearts and minds.” The benefits of memorization according to Beran and others include mastery of language, cultural assimilation, recognition of beauty by comparison to a standard, the ability to appeal to the hearts of others, and the development of character. To fully reap these benefits, we should use care in the selection of material for our children to memorize, but we should take full advantage of the natural facility with memorization of our young students.
John Piper, author of Divining God, offers eight arguments for memorizing scripture. I would suggest that there is a secular parallel to many of his arguments.
- He suggests that memorization makes meditation possible when you cannot read. Memorization makes contemplation possible when you do not have access to books.
- Piper says memorization conforms our minds to God’s viewpoint. Memorization of the highlights of our written culture can help us conform to that which is best in our culture.
- Having God’s Word in our memories makes it more accessible to overcoming temptation through God’s warning and promises. Our literature is full of admonitions to right living that can serve a similar secular purpose.
- Scripture guards our minds, making it easier to detect errors and lies. The same holds true for memorizing parts of The Constitution and other historical documents. If we know what our documents say, then we can hold our leaders accountable to governing within the parameters set by our founding fathers.
- Memorized scripture provides a weapon against the assaults of Satan. Knowing our cultural legacy by heart provides a weapon against tyrants and fascists.
- Memorized passages offer the strongest and sweetest words of ministry and comfort to others. Many of the poems or speeches we memorize can serve a similar purpose of comfort, encouragement, or exhortation.
- Lastly, according to Piper, memorized passages from Scripture offer a matrix for fellowship with Jesus because He talks to us through The Bible. Our forefathers, both political and intellectual, speak to us through their words that have been passed down through the ages. We should know their words, too.
In an excellent exhortation for the memorization of Scripture, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, Chuck Swindoll wrote, “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than the memorizing of Scripture…No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become more alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified.”
We have the opportunity to grow our children’s confidence in a way that will bear fruit. Purposeful planning and input from stakeholders in our school community have led to the development of a comprehensive curriculum and the selection of specific material, both biblical and secular. The goal of this curriculum is to give the students a core of knowledge that will sustain, encourage, and liberate them!
Lower School Teacher