Main | Sunday, September 20, 2009

The End Of Cursive

In the digital age, the teaching of how to write in cursive is fading from public schools. Some parents complain that nobody even gives grades in penmanship anymore (always my worst grade, after, uh, conduct), but teachers consider cursive a lost cause.
The decline of cursive is happening as students are doing more and more work on computers, including writing. In 2011, the writing test of the National Assessment of Educational Progress will require 8th and 11th graders to compose on computers, with 4th graders following in 2019. "We need to make sure they'll be ready for what's going to happen in 2020 or 2030," said Katie Van Sluys, a professor at DePaul University and the president of the Whole Language Umbrella, a conference of the National Council of Teachers of English. Handwriting is increasingly something people do only when they need to make a note to themselves rather than communicate with others, she said. Students accustomed to using computers to write at home have a hard time seeing the relevance of hours of practicing cursive handwriting. "They're writing, they're composing with these tools at home, and to have school look so different from that set of experiences is not the best idea," she said. Text messaging, e-mail, and word processing have replaced handwriting outside the classroom, said Cheryl Jeffers, a professor at Marshall University's College of Education and Human Services, and she worries they'll replace it entirely before long.
Occasionally I'll complain that I do so little writing with a pen that it feels like I'm losing the ability. Even a monthly rent check now feels laborious.

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