The Demise of Cursive Writing
conversation with my children was about writing. It wasn’t about creative writing, it was
about penmanship. Well there’s an old
fashioned word. I didn’t know how outdated
it was until we had this discussion. I
was informed by my adult daughter, Melissa, that cursive writing was no longer
part of the core curriculum in the North Carolina school system. After the third grade, children are not
taught how to write long-hand. I’m still
in shock. I’ve been writing three pages
of long-hand in my journal every morning for over fifteen years. My adult son, Joey, went onto say that he
almost never uses a pen or a pencil.
When he does, he finds them awkward to use. His writing method is almost always a keyboard. Penmanship is no longer considered an
essential life skill.
certainly wasn’t true when I was in school.
The cursive alphabet was on long strips of black paper resting above the
black board. Yes, the board was black,
not white and we used chalk not erasable magic markers. There were several lines on the paper and
each one was a height that determined where a loop, a “t”, an
“i” or a capital letter was to land on the page. We were handed blank lined pages and the
students tried to copy the letters onto the paper from the form above the
boards. We used number 2 pencils with
erasers. I loved it! I liked the form and the lines for guidance
and the feel of the pencil on the paper and I loved seeing the letters take
shape and appear on the page. I became a
math teacher later in life. I was never
much for coloring outside the lines so it seems fairly understandable why I
liked the rigid format that was used to learn cursive.
always been fascinated by hand writing.
Some is so legible and others completely illegible. Some is neat and clean and others are
sloppy. Some is flowery and others are
straight up and down. People have made a
living “reading” hand writing.
They are supposed to be able to figure out a person’s personality from
what their hand writing looks like. Not
anymore! Did you ever watch a detective
show where the sleuth looked at a type written note and determined whether
someone was right handed or left handed because of how some of the letters
appeared darker; they had been hit harder by the dominant hand? Not anymore!
I went to summer school to learn how to type. My mother told me it was an invaluable life
skill. She was right! The key board I use today is laid out exactly
the same as the one that was on my manual typewriter. If you don’t know what a typewriter looks
like, Google it. But, they don’t teach typing in school anymore
either. I think it comes already hard
wired in the brains of anyone born after 1990.
I’ve seen two year olds working a computer key board.
writing and arithmetic were the three “Rs” that we were told were the
core skills we would need for life. The
question about why we needed to learn mathematics when most people would never
use it once they were out of school is decades old. As a math teacher, I sometimes wondered the
same thing but I knew the value of making the brain work in different ways and
for me there was always a great satisfaction in solving a problem correctly. I loved solving the “puzzle.” But,
it’s true; most people didn’t have any use for Algebra or Geometry or Trig.
once they have finished with the class.
Now, most people don’t even need to know the basics of math. There’s a calculator on every phone. It appears to be one more life skill we no
leaves reading as the last core skill we were told we needed. I can’t imagine not reading. I love a good
book. Recently I had cataract surgery
and the lenses that were implanted were determined by whether or not I read
books and papers regularly or if I read from a computer. Can you imagine not being able to read? There are organizations dedicated to teaching
adults how to read. It seems it still is
an essential life skill. But, I wonder
will that always be true? Recently, I
downloaded an app called OverDrive. It
allows me to connect to my library and to download audio books onto my phone or
iPad. I can then listen to the book
wherever and whenever I want. I know
there have been audio books for decades but now they are prolific and free; for
many it’s their preferred way to “read” a book. What does this foretell?
don’t need to learn the three “Rs” any longer, what do we need to
learn or even more important, what do we need to be teaching? What are the schools focusing on that is
preparing our young people to live meaningful, productive lives? We have several people in the family who have
been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder.
I know it is more commonly diagnosed today than ever before. I’m not sure if it’s because more people
struggle with it or because we’re more knowledgeable about it. My youngest grandson was really struggling in
his traditional middle school because of ADD.
We were fortunate to find a small private local school that had a
different, more hands-on approach to learning.
Once there he blossomed both mentally and emotionally. His learning “style” needed a place
with a different environment in order for it to take root. What is he learning at his new school that is
different from the other one? He’s
learning how to learn.
face it all the information we need or want to learn is available to us
in one form or another. Today it’s even
more readily available because of our access to the Internet. I am in awe of the range of information
available online. There are lessons on
everything! There are lessons about
things I probably don’t want know anything about. I have, however, looked up music lessons and
how to fix different things. My son uses
the Internet to renovate equipment, like boats, cars, engines and all sorts of
electronic equipment. The other day our
refrigerator broke down and the first thing we did, after throwing away the
perishables was to go online to see if we could diagnose it and fix it
ourselves. Owen is always telling me
about different places he’s never been to or about scientific data he’s looked
up. It’s beyond exciting! Back in March of 2013 he pretended to be a
reporter and interviewed Galileo about his theories. My husband, Sandy, played the role of the
famous scientist. It was for Owen’s
science project. Everyone learned
something and it was fun.
to think that our educational system is closely examining what our young people
need to learn in order to be productive healthy citizens. What do you think the new core skills should
be? It seems to me one of the most
important ones would be to learn how to learn.
Owen is an experiential learner.
Once he discovered that, he found he can learn whatever he wants. I am mainly an auditory learner. If I had known that earlier on, learning
would have come a lot easier to me. Some
of us are visual; others need a variety of approaches. Once we’ve learned how
to gather the information, the rest is just doing it. But what other core skills do we want our
children to master? What are the
essential life skills? If it’s true we
learn all we need to know in Kindergarten, what are we doing with the rest of
our years of schooling? How about
focusing on the Golden Rule? “Do
unto others as you would have them do unto you.” How about the Ten Commandments? What about relationship skills: how to
resolve conflict, how to create community, how to get your needs met without
hurting another? What if the three
“Rs” morphed into the three “Cs”: compassion, communication
still need to know how to read and write, if not in cursive than at least we
need to know how to compose a grammatically correct sentence. But, the key to all of this is it’s not so
much what we learn but that we do learn and not just while we’re in school but
for as long as we’re alive. Expand your
knowledge. Go out there and learn about
life, learn about living, learn whatever it is that makes you feel fully
alive. Then perhaps you’ll write about
it. Perhaps you’ll share it with the
world. Who knows maybe someday someone
will download it and listen to it.