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Education Reporter

Memorizing & Testing Gibberish!?
SOMERSET, NJ - The education establishment has for years expressed disdain for rote memorization of such basic knowledge as multiplication tables and historical facts. Now comes a new fad called "Memory Learning." These are exercises designed for grades 2-12 that claim to measure cognitive skills by requiring students to memorize purported "definitions" of nonsense words.

One of these tests, developed by educational assessment giant CTB McMillan/McGraw Hill, is called the "Test of Cognitive Skills, Second Edition" (TCS/2). Six testing levels cover two grades each. An Examiner's Manual states that, "Most cognitive abilities cannot be measured directly, but are inferred by assessing behaviors that reflect those abilities. . . . "

The tests measure comprehension, ability "to discern various types of relationships among picture pairs," memory, and verbal reasoning. The memory section instructs teachers to read aloud the "definitions" for 20 "nonsense" words at the start of the session, which students are to memorize. The Level 2 test (for grades 4-5) includes the following nonsense words and definitions:

  • "A deblet is a parade;  
    a merim is a young chicken; a mert is a bonnet; a hoyjet is a thick liquid; a bloy is an explorer; an alpern is a necktie; a tocket is a napkin; a paylok is a wagon; a hoosley is a light bulb; a whister is a jar. . . ."

A similar test (which does not identify the publisher) also requires students to memorize gibberish, including:

  • "A lep is a ball; a korf is a tiger; a pillot is a shoe; a tay is a hammer; a flix is a comb; a wogsin is a gift; a trink is a wastebasket; a hillet is a window; a rayble is a swampy place; a dectrin is a facial expression. . . ."

Some parents question the purpose of such nonsense. One education activist, who is also a mother and grandmother, asked teachers who have administered the tests "why it is so important that children memorize nonsense words." She suggested that students instead be taught foreign language words which they might actually use some day. One of the teachers responded that the nonsense words may serve as a means of "being politically correct." Using a real language, she explained, might give some students an unfair advantage over others.

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