Print? The Final Frontier?

I’ve had ample discussions with many of my friends that are around my age about the need for handwriting in school. When I was in school is was absolutely mandatory that we not only practice our handwriting, but be proficient at writing the letters. This goes for both print and cursive. 1st-3rd grade we practiced print writing and 4th-6th grade we practiced cursive handwriting. Grades 7-8 we were finally given the autonomy to write in whatever style we liked. Many of my friends who were in grammar school in the late 80’s and through the 90’s had a curriculum similar to this one.

Recently, I have read the second article of the year in regards to whether or not school districts should require their teachers to teach cursive handwriting. The most recent article “School Adjust How Writing is Taught in the Text Age” discusses this paradigm shift. Many education administrators site three reasons why cursive handwriting needs to be reevaluated.

1. In the days of high-stakes testing many districts have had to really streamline “ancillary” subjects like handwriting so they can spend more time with reading and mathematics.

2. As we conclude the first decade of the 21st century, many students aren’t communicating through pen and paper writing — let alone cursive handwriting.

3. Even when students are writing using pen and paper they typically skew to print writing instead of cursive.

Cursive writing should be here to stay.

Personally, I think these are all valid reasons why a district should re-evaluate the handwriting curriculum. However, to eliminate cursive handwriting would be a big mistake. I have two reasons why I think it would be a mistake:

1. If you are not a fan of high-stakes testing to evaluate student learning, then eliminating handwriting from the curriculum wouldn’t be consistent with that logic. If you analyze many of the “reforms” going through our system today, you begin to send a trend where little by little we are asking to dismiss many things that were core to our own learning. For example, reducing the amount of time student take elective courses (art, music, etc.), doubling the amount of time students are doing reading/mathematics, etc. Eliminating cursive handwriting from the curriculum would just add to schools just focusing on “core subjects” and straying away from creating the “whole student.”

2. Ironically as I am writing this blog I realise that once again I am not physically writing something down on a piece of paper. I am using type for a medium of communication. This shows my privilege in my access to technology for communication. However, I am one of the few people in our society that has this privilege. The article that I using as a basis for this blog discusses how many students use technology as means of communication. I will grant them that.

Texting is NOT the only form of communication.

However, as long as ALL students don’t have consistent access to communication through technology then eliminating cursive handwriting would be problematic. I feel it needs to be understood that handwriting is just one form of communication. This one form of communication is the easiest to teach (usually through repetition and application), the cheapest to teach, and is universal among all literate people in our society. Using WordPress for blogging, creating a Meebo account for streamlined communication, and developing a Linked-In page for social networking is not easy to teach, cheap to furnish, or particularly universal among everyone. Web 2.0 has done an excellent job at providing communication services free of charge, but training principals, teachers, and students in these Web 2.0 applications is not free. Therefore, until ALL districts provide ALL stakeholders with the tools and the knowledge to use texting, IM, and Web 2.0 tools, districts must not be quick to eliminate handwriting (including cursive) from their curriculum. Rather, they should find a way to strike a nice balance.

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About mpal219
Educator, Student, Reader, Reformer, & Activist

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