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article imageCursive writing will soon become a lost skill Special

By Jay McClung     Aug 17, 2013 in Lifestyle
Do you remember any of these items: slide rule, cassette tape, 8-track tape, vinyl music, a dot-matrix printer, typewriters, and a wind-up alarm clock?
These were things that people used everyday not too long ago but now it’s difficult to find some of these items, unless you’re a collector, and it will certainly be more difficult to find someone who uses any of them on a daily basis. Those items have become unnecessary in today’s digital age and there are many more that weren’t mentioned. Physical objects, however, are not the only things being lost to the digital age; we are also losing specific skill sets in today’s modern world. Do you remember shorthand? It’s a lost skill and it’s not being taught anymore. The same is about to become true with cursive writing now that educators are no longer required to teach it.
Today’s U.S. educators are now following the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSS), which is a state-led process to develop common core state standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. The CCSS Initiative is a joint effort by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers in partnership with Achieve, ACT, and the College Board. The Initiative was put into place in 2010 and was adopted by 45 states in 2011. The standards set expectations for what students need to learn to succeed in the digital age of the 21st century. Along with English-language arts and mathematics, the standards include proficiency in computer keyboarding by the fourth grade but it makes no mention of the need for cursive writing even though it has been a part of the American culture since the nation was founded.
The exclusion of cursive from the standards has caused a rift amongst educators and lawmakers. The North Carolina state senate didn’t agree with the omission so they passed a bill making cursive a requirement in public schools. The bill also requires North Carolina students to memorize multiplication tables. The senate believes that cursive is important to know even in the age of keyboards and digital devices. Supporters of cursive writing argue that it teaches fine motor skills, is faster and more efficient than printed handwriting, and that it enhances the creative process. They also point to recent studies that show the effectiveness of “old school” methods like memorizing math facts, reading aloud, and penmanship. Morgan Polikoff, an assistant education professor at the University of Southern California, is one of many opposed to keeping cursive in the curriculum and says, “As we have done with the abacus and the slide rule, it is time to retire the teaching of cursive. The writing is on the wall.”
While many educators are taking one side or the other on the topic, there are some who sit in the middle of the debate. Jarrod Torrez is a fourth grade teacher at Falcon Elementary School in Falcon, Colorado and is starting his eleventh year in teaching. In regards to the omission of cursive writing from the Common Core State Standards, Mr. Torrez says, “I don’t agree that cursive is being omitted from the curriculum. It’s an important motor skill and sensory that students need. Although I think it should still be there, it comes down to a time factor and we get crunched for time. Adding cursive would be tough to do with everything else we’re required to complete.” Handwriting expert and educator Kate Gladstone shares some of Jarrod’s views and believes that cursive should be taught in our schools, but only to be read, not written. “Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes, even to five- or six-year olds. Writing cursive takes much, much more time and effort to master, even sketchily.” Gladstone also points out that an educator survey found that only 37 percent of teachers wrote in cursive and 8 percent printed. The majority of the educators, 55 percent, wrote a hybrid of some elements resembling print and other elements resembling cursive. “When most teachers give up cursive, why would anyone else continue to exalt it?”
Despite the rift in the education community, both sides agree that handwriting is important. It offers fine motor skills development and cognitive benefits whether it is in print or in cursive. “Cursive has fallen by the wayside with the realization that kids just don’t need to have good handwriting anymore,” states Sandra Wilde, a literacy and reading educator. “It’s the content of the writing that counts, not the tool used to write.” Surprisingly, for some, cursive is no longer required for legal documents. Additionally, under state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. The digital age is here and, yes, cursive will become a lost skill.
More about Education, common core standards, North carolina, Nea, Writing
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