Handwriting gone? No tears here

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Image courtesy of Ian Khan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I use the app Cir.ca and saw these articles about handwriting and how many states are removing cursive handwriting from their curriculum and replacing it with typing. Check it out here. Did I say many how about 45 freaking states are canceling their order for cursive handwriting books and placing orders for Mavis Beacon (hopefully not, there are plenty of good, free typing programs out there). Now not everyone is happy about this. Some see cursive as an important part of the curriculum. I however am not sad to see it go. Read on my dear friend to see my stance.
My handwriting sucks!
Yep, not ashamed to admit it. I was (still am) horrible with my handwriting, so horrible in fact, that a university professor required me to complete a handwriting booklet in order to pass a class (this is a true story). Here’s the thing, my handwriting on a black or whiteboard is readable. On paper though it is a totally different story. My handwriting is atrocious. The problem is I cannot write as quickly as I can think. My thoughts get ahead of what I am actually writing and my handwriting goes from bad to horrible trying to keep up.
If it is a very important piece of writing, I over focus on my handwriting and often lose my train of thought. Once I had the means to type (8th grade Smith Corona typewriter) I noticed my writing started to improve. I could write longer and better. I found myself thinking more about what I was trying to convey and not worried about if it was legible or not. It was a great moment. I felt had more freedom and time to pour into my ideas and that is more important to me than if my capital “T” reaches the top of line.
How does it benefit students?
Memories for me of handwriting was tons of monotonous practice over and over again. It didn’t improve my reading or writing ability. It didn’t lead to any break through in math or greater understanding in any other subject. In fact, it always felt pretty much separate and useless. It never seemed to fit in with anything we were working on. It never related to history, geography, or important works of literature. It never seemed to have a seasonal tie in either. It just felt out of place.
Reading ≠ Comprehension
Linden Bateman a representative for Idaho is angry about the whole thing. One of her arguments for it is that research shows that more brain activity is being used as opposed to typing. So what? Will perfect cursive help them get into that great university or that dream job? Will it help them create a longer lasting light bulb? Probably not. You know what else uses lots of the brain? Playing video games and I don’t see her trying to gamify education.

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Well I thought about it. Her argument above is also a bit misleading. When I studied the Constitution, we did not use a scan of the actual document (though it was in my textbook). It had been retyped, word for word in our textbook as we went through each article over the period of 9 weeks. It was pretty interesting to try and decipher the meaning and intentions of that document as opposed to deciphering the words due to the cursive handwriting. In fact, check it out below (click on the image for the high res image). Is this how students are expected to study this important piece of American history? By reading scans of the actual text? Seems a little ridiculous to me.

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What’s more important? The meaning of the words or the means of how it was transcribed and recorded?
Cursive isn’t dead folks
Let’s be completely honest here people. Cursive is not dead. Sure, a whole lot less people will use it, but there will still be those who need it for whatever reasons. Those people will seek it out. Those people will use it and keep it alive. That’s fine-I just don’t think that it needs to be mandatory in our schools.
From a political stand point you can argue that it does not improve test scores (that’s a terrible argument but one that many will point out). From an educational stand point, it does not further the pedagogy of any of the common core. There is no real problem solving skills, there is no real enrichment. There is not real or meaningful collaboration here and I never felt an abundance of creative when practicing cursive handwriting.
In short, I’m happy it’s going and if some lawmakers want to waste their time and the their constituents money trying to keep into schools – well good luck. I think they’re just making fools of themselves.  Schools have more pressing needs than cursive handwriting books. Why not visit one for more than a few hours and actually see what happens in the hallways, in the teacher prep areas and talk to the community and the professionals in the school to see if that money can be used in a more constructive way. Just my two cents.
Patrick Cauley
www.thetechjonsey.com

About Patrick Cauley

I teach middle school technology and love to play around with tech and teach students and colleagues alike. You can read my blog at www.itbabble.com
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