Monday, January 14, 2013
Stop Cursing Cursive
Stop Cursing Cursive
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
January 14, 2013
With apologies to the late Waylon Jennings, “Mammas don’t let your babies grow up to” have Jack Lew’s signature. The Secretary of State designate has a signature resembling that of the icing on a Hostess® cupcake – all swirl and no substance – thus strengthening the case to mandate cursive writing in all elementary schools.
Within two days of each other, The Indianapolis Star printed a news article and an editorial juxtaposing one another on the issue of keeping cursive writing a part of the educational agenda in the Hoosier State.
Scott Elliott’s article “In favor of the written word,” (01/09/13) conveys the desire of State Senator Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) requiring cursive writing be returned to the Indiana curriculum. Leising filed legislation both in 2012 and will do so again in the upcoming legislative session in the wake of the State Department of Education’s decision to no longer require the teaching of cursive writing in 2011.
According to the Star, the State Senate overwhelmingly supported Leising’s bill by a vote of 45-5. The bill never reached the House floor, however. Clearly not a partisan issue, as the Senate vote depicts, Leising did not, however, have the support of House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, a fellow Republican from Indianapolis. Behning believed then and still does as of this week, that it is “inappropriate” for curriculum to be mandated by the legislature.
And apparently newly installed State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz (D) is not a supporter of the Leising bill either, according to her spokesman, David Galvin. “Cursive should be under the purview of the State Board of Education,” Galvin said.
Since the elimination of the cursive writing requirement, such a decision to teach or not to teach the skill has been left to individual schools to determine. This clearly is short sighted as cursive writing is a needed skill for people’s signatures, the ability to read antiquated documents, and simply convey information when a computer or laptop is not available.
So short sighted that in Matthew Tully’s commentary “Put your pencils down and pay attention,” (01/11/13) he took, albeit tongue in cheek, pot shots at cursive writing in a manner that was pedantic, myopic, and patronizing.
Should we really return to the days of Jim Crow when people who did not know how to sign their own names simply made their mark with an “X”? That would be a tragedy.
While Tully said he could “go either way” on the actual teaching of cursive writing, he opposes a mandate at the legislative level. But, in doing so, he mocks potential letter writers suggesting critics would contact him via pen and paper as opposed to “one of those fancy computer gizmos.” Well, LOL, Mr. Tully as is oft-posted on-line, as I complete this column and post it to my blog.
This issue first came to my attention in 2011 after the decision by the I-DOE and from my two nieces living in Westfield, one who had already learned cursive writing and one who would not, but wanted to. I wrote a column then, “Keeping Cursive is (Write) Right” (07/11/11) that was ignored by the Current in Westfield, but can be found on my blog.
Mandating the teaching of cursive writing throughout the state of Indiana via legislative edict ensures a level of consistency. Keyboarding can and should still be taught, but side by side with cursive writing.
“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.” (“Keeping Cursive…”)
Without sounding overly paranoid, when our antiquated power grid fails, and it will, pen and paper will once again rule the day. When, as a writer, I have a middle of the night epiphany, I reach for my pad and pen, not laptop at my bedside.
There’s even a cursive font on the computer, Tully is familiar with it as he used it in his column. More knowledge and abilities are good things, not things to shun and mock. Some traditions just shouldn’t be abandoned.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.