There is no simple answer. We all use rote learning to learn basic math facts, sight words and some other common points of knowledge that we just need to know so that we can apply them.
So total elimination of rote learning is not the answer. The problem is that we are not teaching students how to learn and not encouraging them to take advantage of the resources that are available.
I will give two examples. In the ninth grade, I had to memorize the periodic chart of the elements. That was not necessary. More time should have been spent explaining what the symbols on the chart meant. The test then would have consisted of picking four or five elements from the chart at random and having the student explain what the various information inside each square meant. That would be learning. Knowing the list of elements is memorization.
A year earlier, I had to memorize all the bones in the body, and later all the internal organs and eventually how blood flowed. Some of it was learning, and some of it was memorization that I could look up in a science book, or elsewhere.
In college, I had to memorize all the past governors of my home state, Louisiana, from the time prior to the Louisiana purchase up until the then-current governor. I can name the governors in my life time and a few of the more notable people who served in office, but not all of them--I do not need to know them.
In college, I think I had to write nine or 10 term papers. That was the best part of my college education. I was forced to learn, to find resources, to develop a theory or conclusion about something and then find evidence to back that up.
That may not work for those who are more inclined to math and some of the sciences.
Basically, I am saying while there are some things we learn by rote, we have to give more attention to teaching students how to learn. I did very poorly in algebra class, because no one ever showed me a practical use for it. Later in life, I used the little bit I remembered and expanded upon it as practical reasons for using it developed.
I guess I am saying we need to get back to the basis and put more emphasis on reading for enjoyment and not because a teacher thinks a book is a classic and learning how to use all the knowledge resources that are available.