The End of Remembering (First Draft)





The End of Remembering (First Draft)


From the book The End of Remembering, author Joshua Foer has provided an insight into the history of written word, memory, and reading. He asserts that to some extent, memory has become less and less indispensable in people’s day-to-day lives. In the modern world that is rife with technological advancements, life has been made easier in many ways. The author develops his concept of the process of reading and remembering through several philosophers from before the current era. Foer describes several methods of memory improve memory, which he says have been successful in assisting him and others to retain high volumes of information in the memory. Foer states that utilizing the memory techniques he described in his book had a positive impact in his life. “The following year I passed my GCSEs with some of the year’s best results and subsequently performed well at A-level, mastering French and German along the way with the help of these tried-and-tested techniques (Foer 26).”

Proposition of Foer about Reading

Joshua Foer argues that written text provided the Middle Ages with the opportunity to memorize rather than to become empty vessels whose entire source of knowledge came from books as opposed to from the mind. Though the reasons for the invention of words have been controversial among several philosophers, Foer states that the availability of external storage of information has helped people in many ways over the past century. Part of these ways includes enabling the society to carry out their daily activities without the necessity of memorizing high volumes of information. This is because gadgets such as phones and computers, notebooks and several other innovations have been built to store the information for us. For instance, before the invention of gadgets it was more convenient to store information in the memory especially when calling a friend. Mobile phones have the ability to store over 500 contacts and thus the need to memorize someone’s number is no more.

Therefore this changing phenomenon has made our brains has made people to recall very little information. However, the same changing environment has made us think in ways in which we are able to navigate through the myriad of information to acquire what is actually needed at that point. This is similar to how books with large volumes have table of contents or indices to provide a reader with the information they need as opposed to rummaging strenuously through the entire book. Before the middle ages, there was a limited variety of text to read. Therefore those who engaged in reading did so intensively and many times to the point where they were able to memorize the entire bible.

The middle ages brought about a widespread printing of books. This resulted in people reading vastly and being unable to keep track of everything that was available. People started to view intelligence as the ability to know where to acquire the information, as opposed to having the information internally. During such times, the society paid less and less attention to the emphasis of trying to remember everything and instead encouraged having the ability to treat one’s mind as a source of reference for which the information would be acquired. In the modern world, the quantity of books read is valued more when the quality, and even so, the reader will rarely make an effort to recall what was read especially after an extended period.

A Synopsis of Editor’s Views on Reading

Much like Foer, the editors give several pointers on how to improve one’s ability to read and retain knowledge, which will include the details, and general concepts the writer is attempting to bring out. The editor’s point out that for advanced levels of learning such as college, several subjects of reading may not be easy to grasp after reading the text only once, therefore, it would be advisable for a student to re-read the text more than once in order to fully understand and remember the important details. The method of reading is the most important to focus on, as subjects that are too complex may discourage a student if the correct procedures are not applied.

Intricate passages require much more time than simpler ones. This is because complexity may vary from one text to another, therefore the efforts taken to read each passage may vary alike. It is imperative that the reader avoids placing too much expectation on him or she as far as understanding is concerned. It is however important to acquire insight on the general idea of the text. These include the context, the objectives, the main idea, or the opinion of the writer. It is at this point that the reader may encounter new terminologies or vocabulary, which they need to note down for further reference. Many readers usually become discouraged from moving on further from this point; therefore, it is important to understand that the human brain has several levels of speed and capabilities of reading and understanding. Similarly, Foer maintains that the ease of remembering things depends on the level of interest in the individual. People tend to remember things they are interested in more easily than meaningless information.

After the first reading, it is important to interpret the passage into one’s own words. This is one of the best ways of ensuring the reader has understood the text. It is also imperative to note down the concepts or facts that have not been fully grasped in order to ask about them later to a professor or during a discussion. “Readers learn to put things together by writing. This is not something you can do, at least not to any degree, while you are reading. It requires that you work on what you have read, and this work best takes shape when one begins to write (Bartholomae and Petrosky 4).” Interesting facts or ideas may also be gathered at this point. They may be a useful tool for the discussions, where the members are able to provide opinions or ideas that support or oppose the ones already presented. Questions should also be presented to the members or the teacher for further understanding.

Reading for the first time may be tiresome and the concentration span will most likely reduce significantly after two or three hours. “Even if you don’t quite grasp everything you are   reading at every moment (and you won’t). and even if you don’t remember everything you’ve read (no reader does-at least not in  long, complex pieces), you begin to see the outlines of the author’s project, the patterns and rhythms of that  particular way of seeing and interpreting the world” (Bartholomae and Petrosky 2). The reader may become unproductive and therefore he or she will require a break. This will allow room for internalizing the text that was read. Reading for the second time may be done after several hours. At this point, the reader will be able to grasp more information on the text and gather specific details that were previously overlooked. It is important for the environment of the reader to be conducive for better quality reading. For instance, noise should be reduced to a minimum and lighting should be adequate.

Foer versus the Editors’ Views on Reading

Joshua Foer emphasizes on the idea of remembering details about one’s lives, those of others around them and the environment as part of living a fulfilling life. He asserts that memorizing information makes one become more independent from the gadgets and notebooks that are already readily available. The age of external memory has seen to it that even the most basic information is capable of being stored in handsets or notebooks. These items of information storage are also easily accessible and thus the need to remember basic information has become less and less with time.

Thus, the author through his own experience has come up with intellectual ways in which the mental processes can be adjusted to be able to accommodate more information through improvement in remembering. This information may be from either reading or experience. This is similar to the editors’ views on remembering texts, which include more practical rather than passive processes. While the editors focus on the act of reading and re-reading, Foer focuses on gathering information on the basic concepts, ensuring the reader is aware of them and forming  mnemonics that happen to be more easily understood. This, Foer argues is one of the most important ways in which the human brain can be more activated and in touch with real life experiences.

Elaborative encoding has been described as the process of relating new information to what is already known to an individual. This has been the cornerstone of the concept of activating one’s ability to remember more information and in a less amount of time. The editor’s views on learning focus on understanding a concept in order to remember them (Bartholomae and Petrosky 8). This is done through jotting down important points and making an effort to understand them further through acquiring information from other sources. While remembering is regarded as a technique through which one can be able to live a more enriched life by Foer, to the editors remembering is regarded as an illustration that one has fully understood an idea presented by a writer.

Foer asserted that the person action object (PAO) system as a tool for improving memory. This method involves encoding people, actions they perform and with certain objects into numbers that are later stored in the memory palace. Numbers with two digits encode memory for a person, action and object in that order. The information will be stored in form of images and retrieved when needed. This of course takes much practice, and is thus popular among many memory champions. From the editor’s point of view, reading a passage more than once will enable a student to grasp more details and increase the probability of the information being ingrained in the memory.

A shadow of doubt has been cast on Foer’s methods of memorizing, as some fail to relate it to concepts of reality. This is because the process of elaborative encoding is one, which allows the brain to store simple information such as names or numbers. It is however more difficult to use this method in complex ideas. Thus, the editor’s emphasis on having a better understanding on the texts presented may have an upper hand when involving intricate abstractions. Furthermore, the idea of memorizing and retaining information in the mind is seen as an individual task by the author Foer (Bartholomae and Petrosky 11). However, the editors view discussions as a crucial part of the process of not only learning but also retaining the information. Thus, the idea of social relations is seen as part of learning as opposed to learning and recalling by oneself. “Students learn to write better through interaction and conversation with other student writers”



Works Cited:

Bartholomae, David, and Tony Petrosky. Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2005. Print.

Foer, Joshua. Moon walking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. Print.


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