As we ponder the start of a new school year, did you know most schools are no longer teaching children how to write in cursive? This fact first came to my attention by friends, who are parents, telling me their kids aren’t learning cursive. Recent documentaries that address the phenomenon have also been brought to my attention.
Without wanting to launch rants from across the political spectrum, it turns out many states had been opting to forego cursive instruction for third graders and up for several years. The Common Core standards picked up that trend. Now children are only expected to learn how to print in kindergarten and the first grade.
After first grade, it is expected that kids are going to be using keyboards for the remainder of their natural lives. I suppose this is not an unrealistic assumption given how most kids and teenagers (and adults) seem glued to their tablets, smart phones and computers.
Nevertheless, this is something I find highly disturbing…and not just because I am a purveyor of fine antique writing instruments.
How will children develop their fine motor skills? How will kids learn how to think, without constant distraction and temptation from their electronic devices? How will future generations do something as simple as signing their name on a contract? (Will they only be able to print their names with the motor skills of an overgrown 6-year-old on a mortgage or a multimillion dollar business deal?) What about future historians? Most of human history was recorded on paper, often in handwriting. Or what about simply generations of families trying to get in touch with their ancestors. How will they read the letters, Bibles and other records of past generations?
“Oh, wow. Look at all these letters Great Granddad sent Great Grandma during World War II! I wonder what they say? Who can read that crazy scribbling? Why didn’t Great Granddad just e-mail from the Ardennes?”
While I strongly believe in teaching kids how to master computers at a young age, I don’t know why a computer should be their only means of note taking. Let’s be honest, if you give a bored kid an internet-connected computer device and expect them to pay strict attention and take notes during a lecture, you’re living in a fool’s paradise.
If you are like me and think it is important that we teach our kids cursive writing, we are not alone. There is even a website dedicated to the pursuit of cursive called “The Campaign for Cursive.” You can check them out at www.cursiveiscool.com.
In the meantime, I’m going to take a more in-depth look at the history of cursive writing and what you can do to either teach it or improve your own handwriting in the next two blog posts.