Friday, July 8, 2011

It's The Death Of Handwriting In Indiana

Once again proving just how quaint and backwards they can be, Indiana educators will stop teaching cursive handwriting in favor of keyboarding.
The change takes effect this school year with kindergarten students learning on a keyboard and the expectation being they will learn to write two pages of keyboarded text by the 5th grade.

This move comes despite reports from neurobiologists that brain scans have shown writing by hand causes activity in many regions of the brain including creative and analytical, while keyboarding is more a rote exercise.

Of course the elimination of cursive writing in Indiana schools comes right after state educational leaders eliminated funding for art classes, science fairs, band and many other academic studies they felt did not deserve funding.

And yet they wonder why graduating college seniors decide to move out of their state.

There is absolutely no excuse for eliminating handwriting in school. Do we hand write letters to one another? No. It's simply not very common to write and mail a letter any more. That still doesn't mean we should stop teaching it. There is so much to be gained from having good penmanship. Being able to write in cursive is decidedly an art and there is no substitute for having excellent skills in this area.
Anyone who has had to read the grocery list prepared by their significant other knows this quite well.

What about those writers who enjoy writing by hand? Fantasy author Piers Anthony wrote his most famous novels, those which took place in Xanth, on yellow legal pads. Hemingway hand wrote all his stories in a little leather bound notebook.

Technology is great. Clearly this blog is being written on a keyboard. But that does not mean I would give up my ability to write cursive. In fact, I would challenge you to try and remove that skill from my brain. I won't give it up. Learning to master all the hoops and swirls of the art, writing and re-writing letter after letter, page after page until my teacher finally gave me a passing grade. I am proud of mastering that challenge and I am proud that I can write in cursive.Do I do it often? No. But I'm still glad I could if I needed to.

It is a shame that an entire generation of Indiana students will be denied this skill merely to suit the whims of politicians who feel the need to dictate what type of education is worth funding and which is not.

The new Common Core curriculum will allow cursive to be taught as an elective. The transition begins with kindergarten this schoolyear and first grade teachers in the next until all K-12 teachers begin using the standards in 2014.
Reaction to the change has been mixed, with some observers welcoming it as part of the efficiency of a digital age that has relegated handwriting for most people to name-signing. Other pundits, however, either warned of a doomed cursive-less future or were emphatic in showing contempt for an increasingly machine-dependent Twitter generation.
"When is the last time you penned a letter, period?" wrote Monica Bielanko on babble, a blog for parents. "I recently wrote a letter and it was tiring and cumbersome. It felt very quaint, as if I had a feather quill and an ink well."
Bielanko relayed her frustration learning cursive as a child who would inadvertently wipe off her hardwork because, being left-handed, she had to push her hand across the page. She also pointed out that her middle-aged husband "was forced to adapt" and now types quickly using an improvised style.
Learning to write in cursive and using it to learn other subjects can also pose intense challenges for children with learning disabilities, a reason some educators and parents support the use of technology for note-taking and writing.
But the Star Press warned in its editorial, which featured an image of the alphabet in cursive, "One imagines new generations of young people, able to text at the speed of light, but unable to sign their names... unable to hold a pen or pencil propoerly [or] read a handwritten letter, an invitation or a reproduction of the Declaration of Independence."
"Now that first-graders carry laptops to school, everyone should learn typing skills, at least until all computers take dictation or just read our thoughts," Phil Wieland wrote in an op-ed in the Times of Northwest Indiana.

1 comment:

Rob said...

I must admit, I'm from Indiana. We must now face the reality: Our basketball players won't be writing in cursive:)
1/2 dozen one way, 1/2 dozen the other.
In the end I think it will be good, but also agree with you points.
We actually homeschool, so ours will still get it.

Thanks for a well-written article. Much enjoyed!