Shane BarnhillMonday,12 November 2012

The Snap:

The state of Kansas is considering whether cursive handwriting should be part of its standard curriculum. The controversial topic will be on the agenda as the State Board of Education meets Tuesday in Topeka. While many schools in Kansas continue to have students practice cursive during penmanship lessons, cursive handwriting is not currently part of the state’s Common Core Standards. And as a form of penmanship, cursive dates back to at least the fifteenth century, according to Wikipedia:

The origin of the cursive method is associated with practical advantages of writing speed and infrequent pen lifting to accommodate the limitations of the quill.

The Download:

The last time I checked, our kids aren’t using quills anymore. Instead, they’re increasingly using tablets and laptops (and they’re constantly texting on both smartphones and feature phones). Thus, as the written word — pencils and pens on paper — becomes less relevant for today’s students, the state of Kansas is right to consider whether cursive handwriting has any place in its schools.

I’ve debated this topic in person, at a teacher-hosted discussion for parents of the students in my son’s fourth grade class. When the teacher noted that she wasn’t planning on emphasizing cursive for the students, one parent stood up and screamed, “You’re going to prevent my child from getting a job in the future! Without good penmanship, he’ll never be able to write the type of ‘thank you’ note that is required for an interview follow-up!” I disagreed with him, pointing out that most post-interview ‘thank you’ notes are now written electronically, and that my son’s elementary school permits students to submit assignments — including book reports — via Google Drive, in place of paper.

Now, to clarify, I do believe that children still need to be able to form letters in cursive, and read basic cursive writing. After all, as Gregory Ferenstein of TechCrunch points out, “The Constitution is written in cursive.” Our students certainly need to be able to read that document. But unlike America’s Founding Fathers, our children rarely ride around on horseback, and they rarely communicate with each other (and others) via paper-based documents. And thus, it’s time for the continued undue emphasis of this rote learning relic to go. Our schools should instead be emphasizing technologies that will enable our kids to compete in the global economy.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know with a comment below.

Hat Tips:

TechCrunch, The Wichita Eagle, Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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