Our sixteen year old son is being required in his junior year to memorize the state capitals. This is at the excellent public Brookline High School. It’s like the educational system is trying to give us examples of how bad it’s become. What next? Have them spend a month making a papier-mÃ¢chÃ© recreation of a fort? Grade them on how well they cut out paper snowflakes to decorate the classroom?
The amount of time our son is being required to spend memorizing whether Bismarck is the capital of North or South Dakota will dwarf the total amount of time he would spend in his lifteime looking it up at Google. This is information that adds nothing to this comprehension of the world. Memorizing the dates of the states’ admissions to the union might at least sometime in his life help him notice a relationship of some consequence — that Texas was admitted before the abolition of slavery has some possible effect on his understanding, whereas that Austin is the capital will only matter if he runs for governor of Texas and doesn’t want to look foolish in the debates.
It especially hurts me that this sort of crap education is going on in history, a field essential to filing away our natural human arrogance by showing us that we got where we are because of what other humans did. And what could be more fascinating than our own story? Obviously, then, we want to teach it by telling students that there will be a quiz on Monday, so could they please memorize the fricking state capitals.
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