Learning by rote is not useless. Any learning is learning!
As a kid I always argued on the contrary. It took me a long time to understand the subtle benefits. It improves and exercises my memory.
Critical thinking is very important and a crucial part of learning. But learning by rote is just a different side of learning. They both do not have a conflict!
One reason I hated it as a kid was because it was boring. But if you pick interesting and difficult things to memorize, it can be quite absorbing!
So, go find the poem you like….