Mnemonics Returns to Education
The relationship between mnemonics and education has been enduring if occasionally tempestuous. Mnemonics’ place in formal education was to support the central purpose of the liberal arts curriculum, teaching effective oral communication. From the Middle Ages to the early 20th century, rhetoric was the core of the university curriculum, and mnemonics was viewed as a critical component of that curriculum. But during that period, mnemonics was sporadically criticized as ineffectual or even detrimental to true understanding and as such deserved no status in a serious education. Rote memory, the critics observed, has nothing to do with the acquisition and use of knowledge. The times have changed. Rhetoric no longer has hegemony within the university curriculum, and formal courses in mnemonics have vanished from the classroom at any level. At the same time, a pragmatic appreciation for the value of mnemonics in support of learning has given new life to selective application of mnemonic techniques in formal instruction. The upshot is a substantial body of solid research on mnemonics in classroom application.