Why bring this up?

Morgan Freeberg has a neologism for us:

A regurgication is an education dealing entirely with either muscle-memory, memorized verbiage, memorized glossary entries, foreign language accents, or anything else that is entirely separated from command of the topical concepts. Accomplished scholars who have fulfilled all the requirements of their regurgication will be able to reliably pass entrance exams, questionnaires and interviews, so long as none of these challenges demand too much by way of what’s called “thinking on your feet.” But they won’t be able to detect contradictions in the material, nor will they be able to respond intelligently to someone else who has found such a contradiction.

Some things, of course, you have to memorize: think “multiplication tables.” (You can’t assume we’ll always have calculators handy.) But if I’ve escaped this particular form of miseducation, it’s simply because I have had the useful combination of decent recall and the ability to reword stuff more or less on the fly.


  1. jsallison »

    6 September 2013 · 7:03 pm

    Memorize the multiplication tables? I thought I learned how to multiply so I didn’t *have* to memorize the tables. I’m proud I spelled all that correctly after my after work Mattingly & Moores (aka cheap bourbon & branch).

    On a side note, while watching the animated Hercules with my 5yo granddaughter, I noted that Zeus had presented baby Herc with a baby Pegacorn, possibly a MLP Pegacorn. Granddaughter drew herself up in my lap to her absolutely towering 3+ feet or so (ouch, ya lil monsterette) and pronounced: “Baba, that’s not a My Little Pony! He doesn’t have a cutey mark!”

  2. CGHill »

    6 September 2013 · 7:06 pm

    As some other hive mind was fond of pointing out, resistance is futile.

    I learned the tables up to somewhere around 25 x 25, though I admit to a certain weakness in the 23s.

  3. jsallison »

    6 September 2013 · 8:05 pm

    otoh, I finally got comfy using a slipstick at the very same time certain folk of a geekly bent were wandering about with their holstered HP-35′s. Throw out a random equation and yell ‘Draw!’ I’d beat them enough to ensure depression on their part, but not always.

    Later, I had a platoon sergeant who’d recently bought a pocket calculator who’d challenge me with a random equation. Having no slipstick handy I’d splat out my answer on the fly. Dang he’d get PO’d when I beat him ;)

    Did I mention I taught myself some jackleg trig to get excel spreadsheets to do tricks I’m absolutely sure Gates didn’t see coming? Slamdunked my Master’s thesis with it. ;)

  4. jsallison »

    6 September 2013 · 8:21 pm

    Okay, the functions were there, already, but who else compensates for altitude from firing point to target point using military 10 digit grid coords (accurate to +/- 1 meter and Pythagoras is your friend)? And converts from magnetic to UTM grid north to determine whether the gun/target line is within safety limits? Trust me, you do not want a 120mm projectile fired from an M256 cannon to not go where you planned for it to go.

  5. jsallison »

    6 September 2013 · 8:26 pm

    And yes, I do none of that anymore and content myself with annoying my granddaughter. But not too much, she will have a say in picking out my retirement home, the one with a golf course, don’tcha know?

  6. CGHill »

    6 September 2013 · 8:28 pm

    … you do not want a 120mm projectile fired from an M256 cannon to not go where you planned for it to go.

    Yea, verily.

  7. McGehee »

    7 September 2013 · 6:47 am

    Memorize the multiplication tables? I thought I learned how to multiply so I didn’t *have* to memorize the tables.

    The first ten, at least, should be learned by rote once the concept has been taught — they’re a fairly bite-sized chunk to be able to regurgicate and they make the big multiplication problems easy to handle using the digit-by-digit process.

    The Pee-Chee folders my older brother had contained the table up to the 12s, and since at the time nobody was telling me I had to know them, I memorized them voluntarily. That let my teachers spend their time drilling them into my classmates when the need arose.

  8. fillyjonk »

    7 September 2013 · 10:04 am

    In some cases, like the multiplication tables cited here, rote learning is fine. I know how to multiply but it’s faster to have “12 x 7 = 84″ stored somewhere in my brain for when I need it.

    However, I’m increasingly seeing college freshmen unable to synthesize information, unable to take an example calculation and apply it with different data (which is hella scary to see), and who shut down when you ask them to think. Also, the much-vaunted “Critical Thinking Skills” seem to be limited, it’s like people’s BS detectors have been turned down to “low.”

    It’s really hard and really frustrating to try to break people out of that mindset, and it’s really not good for your “drop/fail” percentage or your faculty evaluations.

  9. CGHill »

    7 September 2013 · 11:58 am

    I have seen people stare in disbelief upon hearing that some of what I do occasionally requires actual algebra. If we’re going to ditch “In God We Trust” as the national motto, as various folks have suggested of late, I recommend that we replace it with “I Was Told There Would Be No Math.”

  10. fillyjonk »

    7 September 2013 · 12:50 pm

    Oh, I had a student on an exam once tell me “This is algebra and I suck at algebra” when I asked them to compute how many grams of CaCO3 (formula weight: 100 g/mol) they would need to weigh out to make one liter of a 0.5 molar solution.

    I wanted to write, but didn’t, “This isn’t algebra. It’s either basic division or multiplying by a decimal.” But then again, I’ve seen a frighteningly large number of adults who seem to be stymied by working with decimals. (I remember having trouble with them….in the third grade.)

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