Cumberland Times-News

Local News

April 5, 2013

Cursive writing at risk in schools

Not far from state Sen. Jean Leising’s capitol office is a museum that prominently displays documents pen-ned by Abraham Lincoln. It’s a favorite educational destination for Indiana schoolchildren in the state where the 16th president grew up.

But Leising worries Lincoln’s elegant script may soon be indecipherable to young visitors because schools in Indiana and elsewhere are now allowed to drop cursive writing instruction under new national teaching standards crafted for the digital age.

Leising is convinced it’s a dangerous trend. To preserve penmanship, she has championed a bill to mandate cursive writing courses in all Indiana elementary schools.

“If kids aren’t taught how to write it, they won’t be able to read it,” said Leising. “So, in a sense, we’ll be creating a new kind of illiteracy.”

The use of cursive writing has been fading from society since the arrival of the computer keyboard. Advocates of longhand blame the so-called common core education standards for hastening its demise. Debate over the issue has pitted teachers against teachers, and a fear by historians we are raising a generation of handwriting illiterates.

Rolled out in 2010 by the National Governors Association and adopted by 45 states for implementation by next year, the standards set uniform expectations for what students need to learn to succeed in the technology-centric 21st century.

Those standards include proficiency in computer keyboarding by the fourth grade, but make no mention of the need for cursive writing ability, even though it has been integral to American culture since the nation’s founding.

That lack of mention has moved schools to abandon resources and courses once devoted to teaching penmanship — much to the dismay of those who say the curriculum change will eventually lead to an inability to comprehend both historic and contemporary handwritten documents, including identifying signatures.

Supporters of the change aren’t concerned. They say that today’s textbooks and other reading material are widely available in electronic form — on computers, tablets, e-readers and smartphones. As for signatures, they predict scanned eyeballs and fingerprints are destined to replace scribbled names. Hand writing, they insist, is simply no longer worth time-consuming lessons.

Among other trends, they point to a recent poll by Xerox Mortgage Services that found by 2016 half of all home loans will be closed electronically without an actual signature.

Sandra Wilde, a professor of childhood education at Hunter College in New York and a member of the National Council of Teachers of English, says cursive writing isn’t an essential skill in the digital era.

“A hundred years ago, you needed to have good penmanship to get a good job,” said Wilde. “Today, you need to know how to use technology. Cursive has fallen by the wayside with the realization that kids just don’t need to have good handwriting anymore.”

Wilde teaches courses on literacy and reading. She’s convinced it’s the content of writing that counts, not the tool used to write. She says the opposition to de-emphasizing penmanship comes from “a pushback against the common core standards.”

Studies show the fading interest in longhand lessons. A National Association of State Boards of Education report released last fall found the average third-grader was getting only 15 minutes of handwriting instruction a day, down from the standard 30 to 45 minutes a generation ago.

“More time is spent teaching a kid how to kick a soccer ball than how to hold a pen and paper,” said Iris Hatfield, a Louisville, Ky., handwriting coach and creator of a new cursive curriculum popular with homeschoolers. “We’re abandoning one of our most basic and important skills.”

Advocates for cursive writing have taken their fight to the political arena. In addition to Indiana, lawmakers in Idaho and North Carolina have authored legislation that would compel schools to devote time to penmanship.

“Our children can’t write a simple sentence,” said North Carolina State Sen. Pat Hurley, sponsor of a mandatory cursive writing measure. “They think printing their name is their signature.”

Last year, in adopting the common core standards, boards of education in Alabama, California, and Georgia included a cursive writing requirement for their schools. Massachusetts repealed its cursive requirement but also adopted language that says fourth-graders should be able to “write legibly by hand, using either printing or cursive handwriting.”

In Utah, state officials agreed to study the issue; Kansas educators adopted a policy that encourages, but doesn’t require, schools to teach cursive.

“The debate is national,” said Steve Berlin, spokesman for the National Association of State Boards of Education.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Tour of excellence Tour of excellence

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • W.Va. Supreme Court reinstates man’s murder convictions

    The West Virginia Supreme Court has reinstated a man’s first-degree murder convictions for the 1982 slayings of two people in Marion County, ruling that a lower court erred when it granted him a new trial.

    April 24, 2014

  • Major oil and gas firm to list fracking chemicals

    A major supplier to the oil and gas industry says it will begin disclosing 100 percent of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluid, with no exemptions for trade secrets. The move by Baker Hughes of Houston is a shift for a major firm; it’s unclear if others will follow suit.

    April 24, 2014

  • Stickley receives Mineral schools service personnel of year award

    David Stickley, an electrician in the maintenance department at Mineral County schools, has been selected as Mineral County’s 2014 Service Personnel of the Year. 

    April 24, 2014

  • Prescription drug take back day Saturday across state

    The Maryland State Police, in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration, are asking citizens to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs during the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. statewide.

    April 24, 2014

  • 43-year-old receives prison time for molesting his niece

    CUMBERLAND — A 43-year-old city man was sentenced Wednesday to a 10-year prison term for the sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl, according to the Office of the State’s Attorney for Allegany County.

    April 24, 2014

  • House of cards House of cards

    Sixth-graders James Patalinghug, left, and Nina Cutter build a multilevel tower out of index cards Tuesday afternoon at Washington Middle School. The activity was part of a science, technology, engineering, math, known as STEM, lesson designed to teach students about load distribution, friction and gravity.
     

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • CORY ORNDORFF Green Spring man sentenced to 40 years for toddler’s death

    ROMNEY, W.Va. — Hampshire County Circuit Court Judge H. Charles Carl III sentenced 22-year-old Cory A. Orndorff of Green Spring to 40 years in prison for one count of child abuse resulting in the death of an 18-month-old child Wednesday morning.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Glen Bell, a public information officer 900-acre Bear Den wildfire 70 percent contained

    CENTERVILLE, Pa. — A 900-acre wildfire on Wills Mountain in Bedford County was said Wednesday to be “the largest fire in Pennsylvania this spring season,” according to Cecile Stelter, Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry public information officer.
    The fire that was reportedly situated mostly on state game lands began Saturday at about 2 p.m., with initial firefighting efforts handled by the Cumberland Valley Township Volunteer Fire Department at Centerville.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • System to provide firefighters quick access could be required in new Mineral businesses

    KEYSER, W.Va. — The Mineral County Commission agreed to look into the possibility of implementing an ordinance that would require new commercial businesses to install a KNOX-BOX Rapid Entry System.

    April 23, 2014

Facebook
Must Read
News related video