At the risk of interrupting all the good, clean fun over the antics of Dan “Unfit to Report” Rather, I want to call your attention to a piece in the City Journal on the virtue of rote memorization.

Progressive educators today tend to frown on rote memorization, but that was the staple of an education until recently.

The City Journal piece is worth reading in full, but here’s a tidbit to whet your appetite: 

“The memorization and recitation of the classic utterances of poets and statesmen form part of a tradition of learning that stretches back to classical antiquity, when the Greeks discovered that words and sounds–and the rhythmic patterns by which they were bound together in poetry–awakened the mind and shaped character. They made poetry the foundation of their pedagogy. Athenian schoolboys learned by heart the poetry of Homer, through which they gained mastery of their language and their culture. They memorized as well, in versified form, the civic pronouncements of Solon, the founder of the Athenian political tradition.

“In every epoch of Western history we find educators insisting that their pupils serve an apprenticeship in the work of masters of poetry and rhetoric. Saint Augustine, as a schoolboy in North Africa in the fourth century, studied only a very few Latin classics in school, principally Virgil’s Aeneid, great chunks of which he learned by heart. But within its ’narrow limits,’ the historian Peter Brown wrote in his life of the saint, the education the young Augustine received was ’perfectionist.’ ’Every word, every turn of phrase of these few classics,’ Brown observed, ’was significant and the student saw this.’ The ’aim was to measure up to the timeless perfection of the ancient classic.’”