From The Telegraph, rote learning is stoopid:
“Kids should learn about history to understand the world and why things are the way they are. But they don’t need to know all the dates.
“It is enough that they know about the Battle of Hastings, without having to memorise that it was in 1066. They can look that up and position it in history with a click on Google.”
Tapscott dismissed the idea that his approach is anti-learning, instead arguing that the ability to learn new things is more important than ever “in a world where you have to process new information at lightning speed.”
Rote learning is testable, and we care about what we can test.
Context and interpretation are just as important as dry facts, not more or less. You can’t have practical applications without either.
The trouble with rote learning, and dates especially, is that they often aren’t crucial to the understanding of a topic at the elementary or secondary school level. An example:
WWII is often cited as beginning in 1939 and ending in 1945. Would it make any difference if we told school children it happened ten years earlier or later? No. The beginning and ending of WWII only matters when you consider the conflict in greater depth, and when you do that you realize there aren’t clearly bookends anyway (WWII could be considered a continuation of WWI for example, and hostilities began [resumed] in the East before 1939 while the US didn’t get involved until later.)
Google is no substitute for knowing facts where they are appropriate.
Full disclosure: I have difficulty remembering the year of Canadian Confederation. But I do know it was in the 1860s which ought to count for something.