Knowledge@wharton reviews a book, Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track, by Russell L. Ackhoff and Daniel Greenberg.
“Traditional education focuses on teaching, not learning. It incorrectly assumes that for every ounce of teaching there is an ounce of learning by those who are taught…In most schools, memorization is mistaken for learning. Even young children are aware of the fact that most of what is expected of them in school can better be done by computers, recording machines, and cameras; and so on….Why doesn't education focus on what humans can do better than the machines and instruments they create?”
But, I like the explanation provided by Jonah Lehrer better.
….. the real purpose of all those big lecture classes is to teach you how to learn. You are being given an education in education, forced to develop the kind of thinking habits that will allow you to synthesize, memorize and analyze information later on, in real life. The content of the lecture notes is virtually irrelevant. What's important is the fact that you know how to take notes in the first place.