In a short piece from the education section of the London Times, Don Tapscott tosses out the provocative idea that there is “no useful place in school for old-fashioned rote learning”.

A far better approach would be to teach children to think creatively so that they could learn to interpret and apply the knowledge available online. “Teachers are no longer the fountain of knowledge; the internet is,” Tapscott said. “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,” he said.

Tapscott denies that his approach is anti-learning. He argues 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”. He said: “Children are going to have to reinvent their knowledge base multiple times. So for them memorising facts and figures is a waste of time.”

While some will object to his rewriting of the traditional model of education, Tapscott is exactly right.

The whole concept of someone being well-educated based on how many facts they can recall no longer applies (if it every really did).

When I tweeted the headline and link to this article, @audhilly took exception to the idea: “disagreeing with you big time… rote = practice = craftsmanship. I’ll agree with you when musicians stop making music”.

Audhilly is also right but we’re working with two different issues here.

There are, and always will be, some skills like music which require rote practice in order to achieve some level of mastery.

But understanding English history (and many other academic subjects) is not one of them.

BTW, I like that phrase “reinvent their knowledge base”. Another I’ll have to steal borrow. :-)