Monday, July 11, 2011

Keeping Cursive is (Write) Right

Keeping Cursive is (Write) Right
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
July 11, 2011

Like a well-executed bunt in baseball, cursive writing is sadly becoming a lost art.

“I want to learn cursive,” my seven-year-old niece Lauren said. “I don’t want to just print,” said the rising Oak Trace Elementary School second grader.

That Indiana has removed cursive writing from its curriculum is a curse against the current and future generations of school children. Just because 45 other states have done likewise does not make it right. Replacing cursive writing with keyboarding does a disservice to students who will ultimately suffer.

Writing, like reading and arithmetic of the vaunted “three Rs” of academia, is a vital leg of children’s learning. Like a three-legged stool, eliminate one leg and the stool becomes useless. Students need a foundation in cursive writing to compliment the skill of using the keyboard as not everything they write in life will be composed on a computer.

Education experts have determined that the third grade is the optimum time to commence learning cursive writing. At that age and grade cursive writing instruction is ideal to enhance motor skills.

“The computer is important, but that’s just pressing buttons,” my 10-year-old niece Elysa said. “With cursive, you are doing the work – working your hand muscles,” said the rising Westfield Intermediate School fifth grader.

“School is where you should learn to write,” said Elysa. “You need to write your signature in cursive” and it “shows your personality,” she said. “We started learning cursive in third grade. We used handwriting books and the Promethean Board,” said Elysa, referring to the interactive white board.

Having taught middle and high school, handwriting ranges from the creative to the illegible and students with poor handwriting skills tend to get frustrated and not write enough, thus making the handwriting even more difficult to interpret by teachers.

Not all applications can be filled out on-line. Paperwork in doctor’s offices, checks and thank you notes still require handwriting. Neatness ensures accuracy, while the alternative could be costly financially or even medically.

It’s unfortunate, even tragic, that far too many schools have eliminated physical education, art and music enabling students to expand their horizons. It is even more detrimental to see watered-down history/social studies curricula as well as English classes where spelling no longer counts or where grammar is not taught. Eliminating cursive writing is another nail in the coffin of a formerly exceptional American educational system.

Don’t write off cursive.

Sanford D. Horn is an educator and writer living in Westfield.

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