Recently, however, I ran into someone decrying the use of memorizing a timeline, because, they argued, it would make history dry and boring. It would detract from the learning they hoped to depart. They put forth the belief that the student must find interest in a subject area to learn it and that we should not bore them with facts or dates or memory work of any kind. They equate, somehow, that enjoying a subject equals learning a subject.
But look, no matter how much I enjoy gymnastics, I can not do a flip or a handstand, or some days even walk, without falling down. We all know that the enjoyment of a thing does not equal being educated about a doing a thing. Imho, this is a dangerous educational philosophy and a dangerous theological assumption.
I, and others, equate memory work with real learning and believe that real learning and the satisfaction of the hard work required to experience real learning bring enjoyment at such a deep level that it will cause the students to hunger for the fruits of it as often as possible. Hard work, which long term memory acquisition is, allows a person to own the material, and to know it in such a way that they can manipulate it, own it, toy with it, make connections, think strategically, form conclusions, teach and be a powerful influence because of it.
I believe this to be true:
Memoria est mater studiorum
Or, in the vernacular:
Memory is the Mother of Learning
If you don't have something memorized, you really don't KNOW it. You might be familiar with it, but you don't own the knowledge. If I go in for heart surgery, I sure don't want my surgeon to be familiar with the cardiac system. I want them to have it memorized and know what it's capable of doing and know what they are capable of doing. I count on their long term memory to carry them through a complicated process and keep me alive. Would you really trust your heart surgeon with your heart as long as they knew "where to look it up" or which books to consult mid-surgery?
Back to memorizing a timeline. Why do it?
- A timeline is like a map. It orients you to time and place. It is not a boring black line on a piece of paper with a few illegible names scrawled along it occasionally - a bleak picture indeed. A timeline is a living, breathing thread of humanity that runs the course of History. A time line is prisma- color, full of places and people that have their own languages, smells, tastes, beliefs, foods, atmosphere, life span, education and level of comfort.
- Memorizing a timeline is foundational to understanding history, geography, politics, economics and so much more! A timeline is to history as maps are to geography. Your window to understanding expands with the more you know about the people and places on a timeline.
- Memorizing a timeline allows us to avoid one of the most egregious errors of our post- modern time, and that is the error of judging the past and people of it by our culture, standards and understandings. Memorizing a timeline allows us to immediately place people, dates, maps in context. When I say Persia to my 20 year old and the 14 yo asks where we mean, the 20 year old goes to Iran and starts drawing boundary lines around what used to be Persia, depending on the time period I am talking about. When I say the Austria-Hungarian Empire to my kids, they automatically think pre- WWII and a big chunk of Europe. They have a basic understanding already in place, which allows them to have a more experienced understanding. Without the basics, they can't advance. They are forever stymied.
- Memorizing a timeline allows us to gain a deeper and broader understanding of Christ and His place and purpose in History. There is not time without Christ, nor is there purpose without Him. To truly understand Church History and the importance of Salvation in it, we must understand people and places throughout the world who are devoid of it and the redemptive power of Christ to ourselves and others at our time and place in History. Christ and His Redemptive love is the one thing that transcends time, place and people groups.
Do you memorize timelines? Why or why not?
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