Every time the educational system takes a step forward and alters how teaching was done in the past, there is a faction that argues a return to the old ways. Often, adults look back to their own time in grade school and declare “If it was good enough for me…”
But, the world keeps moving forward. Once upon a time, learning to chop wood or knit your own sweater was vital for every student. Today, such skills are obsolete in the school system. Now before you take up your axes and knitting needles against me, I’m not saying that such skills can’t be valuable. I enjoy a handmade cardigan as much as the next yarn-clad fellow, but it is not a necessary skill to be part of the curriculum.
Such is the case with cursive handwriting. I loved learning that loopy writing and felt like I was mastering a secret grown up code. Sure, those little grade one kids might be able to read printing, but I could read handwriting - I rocked. But, just because I enjoyed it, doesn’t mean cursive should be taught in today’s school. I also enjoyed learning to use the old electric typewriter and my mom’s sewing machine - both of which have migrated to doorstops.
The curriculum must reflect the skills educators believe kids will need in the future. Now, obviously there is some wiggle room there - seriously, I have never used a lay-up, nor the quadratic formula in my adult life. Sometimes learning is just for the sake of training your brain. It is valuable knowing how to master a new skill, even if that skill does not come into play in your future.
However, our curriculum is crowded and at some point, some skills have to fall away to make room for new teaching. So much of our world is computerized. It is far more beneficial for a child to master typing than handwriting. I’d much rather see programming taught to kids than handwriting.
Oh, I hear you die-hard cursive lovers shouting fine-motor skills! Yes, absolutely, kids need to learn and practice how to make micro-movements with their hands, but that can be achieved through so many other activities - artwork, using tools, building puzzles and models, and so forth.
And creating a signature? I’m pretty sure kids can come up with a signature without an extensive study of cursive. And, despite my many, many years of signing my name in my well practiced handwriting, my signature still looks like a six year old did it when I have to sign for a package on that touch screen. I'm sure it won’t be long before we all sign things digitally with a thumb print anyway.
If you want to cover cursive with your kids, I say go nuts. It’s not going to hurt them. There’s value in cursive, just as there is value in learning to fly a plane. If your kid loves it, let them take on calligraphy and script their favourite quotes all over your walls. I’m a big believer in exposing children to all sorts of activities and letting them follow their passion.
However, it can’t all be the school’s job. Schools may introduce kids to a particular style of dance or a certain sport, and then they pursue that passion extracurricularly. Schools try to foster appreciation of art or music, but mastery of these fields falls outside the scope of everyday education.
Handwriting may be a fun art class for a week or two, but it no longer belongs cluttering up our writing curriculum. Let’s make room for skills kids really need. Sorry to my mom, whom I know prides herself on her perfectly formed scripted letters and excellent short-hand notes, but I say let that cursive go!
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