I’m of two minds about this. I do think there are some facts that are required to understand higher concepts. For example I think after kids are exposed to how addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division work with manipulatives they need to progress to the point that they have the basic facts memorized. I also think an educated person needs some basic knowledge of things like the water cycle, a general sense of the order of history. Exact dates, detailed formulas are a different matter. I fear without some basic facts people can be easily manipulated.
I see how a coworker buys into the latest fads, or someone I used to respect and like is being manipulated by a hate monger because they don’t understand basic science, history, or civics. I fear for the future if the only source for basic facts are only stored on remote computers and people don’t have background information to evaluate new information.
On the other hand, I remember my Mom getting a school policy changed. In math and science we were required to memorize and be able to correctly apply a semester’s worth of formulas on finals. Mom, a chemist, protested to the principal and department heads. As a chemist she would never perform a test without double checking the formula. She suggested strongly that we be given a list of the formulas for the test. We would still have to use them correctly. She won. This was a woman that refused to allow a digital clock or calculator in the house until sis and I had mastered telling time on an analog clock and our basic facts.
I’ve noticed since we started using a number sense program throughout the school. When I ask a younger student a fact, they tend to close their eyes and then give me an answer. As the kids grow older the need to visualize the different graphics declines and they seem to have the facts memorized without a huge amount of drill and kill of rote facts.