Drill, Baby, Drill [ via Arts & Letters Daily ] examines the lost appreciation of learning through memorization. Although (or because) I had a mundane, public-school education, I still remember learning my multiplication tables. In our kitchen in Colorado Springs (?) and my mom running through them with me. If that were my only memory of rote learning I'd probably not be so supportive of it, but I most firmly connect with repetition and its values my time at the piano. Learning a piece of music--both the physical aspect and the memorization--takes at its heart simple repetition. An understanding of theory, history, biography, etc. is invaluable for assistance and to actually personalize the work. But a musician must pour over the scales-and-arpeggios-and-whatnot in order to make sure that such techniques are mindless as you're working on passages more interesting than scales-and-arpeggios-and-whatnot. With the mundane backgrounded, you are free to focus during performance on the flow of a melodic line or the dramatic arc of the piece as a whole.
The article quotes University of Virginia professor of psychology Daniel Willingham:
You can't be proficient at some academic tasks without having certain knowledge be automatic -- 'automatic' meaning that you don't have to think about it, you just know what to do with it.
I'm not sure if I like these reading lists. They bundle many entries under one, giant entry at the expense of categorization. This may be a short-lived experiment.