Won't someone speak up for the joys of memorization? Very first, I assume that Mr. Bernstein is deeply mistaken about general chemistry being all memorization. Second, does anyone actually teach chemistry by memorization? Third, I've always felt that remembering something was the byproduct of actual understanding of the concept. People don't like memorizing things that are "useless..." - ChemjobberWell, I realise CJ is based in the USA, but when it comes to a high school/sixth form education in the UK, memorization is king. When I took A-level chemistry not too long ago, memorisation was probably what I spent the most time revising.
For example, we had to learn the colours of transition metal complexes. So take any transition metal, with water, ammonia or hydroxide ligands, and a few years ago, I'd be able to tell you exactly what colour complex you'd get. In the exams, you'd be asked, "What colour is [Ni(OH2)6]2+ ?", and if you didn't know, too bad, that's a mark lost. I knew a girl who took it upon herself to simply paint her fingernails the right colours, she got the marks, I didn't (Not that I'm bitter...). And whilst she might have gone into the exam with funky coloured nails, no invigilator was ever going to suspect that it was the answer to an exam question.
Another example is the shapes of molecules, rather than learning the very simple Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion Theory (or VSEPR - for any non-chemists, it's honestly easier to understand than to say) I had to know that BCl3 was trigonal planar, and ammonia was trigonal pyramidal "because it is" - what use is that to anyone?
It's a trend throughout high school education, the phrase 'jumping through hoops' is often used, and it sums the situation up brilliantly. The exam boards publish a specification with a very precise list of things you need to know, you go away and learn them, and you get a good grade. At no point in the process is your understanding truly tested. I walked away with an A grade in A-level chemistry, but knowing a list of facts, and few translatable skills.