Because It Is

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
    Author Image

    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Bobby, be grateful your son is intelligent and that God has given your house a mind to value that. Our schools are full of kids who come with very little, and basically have to be shown how the arithmetic number line is made by adding one–hence, eighteen plus one is nineteen; we do that four times and we get twenty-two. It’s probably something your son and my two sons figured out before they were in kindergarten, but it’s too often something that a lot of their peers might not have figured out.

    Still, I think that a lot of what gets loaded onto schools, parents, and kids is utter [**unmentionable**], but that’s just the way it is. BTW, whenever my colleagues (usually secular Leftists) grouse about the burdens that various layers of bureaucracy and political waves dump on us, I point out that our interest group has never failed to support the movements that made such bureaucratization possible.

  2. I’m not familiar with Common Core, but it sounds like they are incorporating some of the concepts of Singapore Math, which seeks (and generally succeeds) to avoid mere shallow memorization of math facts/procedures, but to instill a deeper intuition of how numbers work, and relate to each other. For example, remember long division? Do you actually know how it works, or do you just remember how to turn the crank, and have to take it on faith that that process is guaranteed to produce the desired quotient?

    Maybe this kid doesn’t need it, but Singapore has a stellar track record, and a reputation for (a) going slower in younger years, teaching concepts multiple ways with various kinds of explanatory diagrams and physical manipulatives, and (b) providing a deeper, more solid foundation on which students can excel and speed up later.

    • Rube,

      Well, the war on memorization that began in the 19th century has made it so that about the only kids who do it any more are homeschooled or otherwise educated in some private setting. Thus, we need not worry about too much “shallow memorization” today.

      Parrot, pert, poet worked pretty well for a long time and it did not keep students (when we followed that pattern from learning how numbers work). Part of the problem with this approach is that it conflates Parrot and pert just when children should be doing what they do best at that age: memorize. There is a time for memorization and a time for analysis. We don’t have to choose between or conflate them.

    • That’s why Singapore has achieved so much over the past 5 centuries in math and science and Gauss, Fourier, and Maxwell were all Singaporeans.

  3. RSC,

    Any reading recommendations on “the war on memorization that began in the 19th century”? That’s a topic I’d look to investigate further.


    • Well Dewey would be a start. One could look at the founders of American public education. The war really intensified in the 20th century as subjectivism took hold but it has roots in the 19th century. It’s important to distinguish between theory and practice. In the 19th and early 20th centuries the animus against memorization (always “rote”) was theoretical. In the 2nd half of the 20th century that theory became practice as educators abandoned memorization as “cruel” and “boring” etc. People of grandparents’ generation lamented the loss of memorization. They were all made the memorize math tables, poetry etc. My Dad’s generation still memorized but by the time the boomers were in school, the theory and practice of memorization was fading fast. The theory behind it was that education = self-discovery. The inward turn, the subjective turn is behind it. Hence the current passion for “self-esteem” wherein pupils feel good about their self-orth (they are image bearers!) but cannot perform basic math functions or diagram sentences.

Comments are closed.