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Monday , September 23 2019
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Home | Opinion | Op-Ed: Hey kids: Let’s learn a useless skill!

Op-Ed: Hey kids: Let’s learn a useless skill!

Here is a little game you can play with your coworkers: try to find a document at your work that is written in cursive from beginning to end. Go ahead I will wait.

How many did you find? I suspect that it was very close to zero.

Here is the next game you can play: Try to remember the last time you had to read a document that was written entirely in cursive. Go ahead, I will wait. Was it last week? Last month? Last year?

Can you even remember a time?

Here is another: When was the last time you were asked to write something in cursive for your work? Received an email in cursive? Read a book in cursive? Read a road sign, a billboard, a loan application, a mortgage, a car lease, a divorce decree? The truth is, unless you have a job as a calligrapher, you do not need to use cursive writing at all in today’s modern world.

Writing in cursive simply is a skill that is no longer necessary in today’s world. Sorry fans of longhand. The ship has sailed. The train has left the station. The toothpaste is out of the tube.

You are reading this online, in print type, where I would venture to guess nearly 100% of the writing is presented in non-cursive format. Have you been negatively impacted by that fact? Has your brain suffered? No, you don’t even realize that nearly all writing is in print format because print is so ubiquitous. Thank you Mr. Gutenberg. Your revolution is nearly complete.

Yet, despite a nearly 100% lack of any kind of need, starting next year in elementary schools all across Texas, resurrected like a character in the Walking Dead, cursive writing as part of the newly adopted English Language Arts TEKS will begin to be taught again.

Proponents of this “kids need to learn a dead skill” initiative cite several reasons for bringing it back. The first is the disproven notion that students need to know cursive writing in order to read historical documents like the Constitution. (Debunked about a year ago). In fact, you don’t need to know how to WRITE in cursive in order to READ in cursive. Those are two completely different skills.

A student can be taught to read cursive in about 30 minutes. You don’t have to know calligraphy in order to read the Coca-Cola logo, do you?

The second is that learning to write cursive somehow improves hand-eye coordination in little ones. Perhaps this is partially true, but so does learning to play an instrument, painting a picture, drawing, and playing video games. Data from research indicates that cursive writing has no greater benefit to students than any of those activities, yet we don’t have “video games” as part of the standard curriculum.

So why the push to bring it back?

The TEKS , those standards that your child is mandated by law to learn and school districts are obliged to teach, are not free from political influences and pressures. What your child learns in school is subject to legislative arm twisting, lobbying efforts by hundreds of organizations, and hearings by multiple committees and departments.

In a red state like Texas, we often are pressured by lawmakers to return to a fantasy world that never existed, where mom stayed at home dutifully vacuuming the carpet daily, dad brought home the bacon, and all the little white children were above average. You remember those days, don’t you?

Those days were the days when all the little children learned how to write in cursive, so that they could send Grandma a Christmas card each year, handwritten, making her so proud. You remember right? No you don’t.

The problem, of course, is that world didn’t really exist, except in the imaginations of politicians who continually mistake ’50’s and ’60’s TV sitcom families for reality. The fact, separate from the fantasy and the voices in their heads, is that many of the skills taught back then are not needed today. We taught Latin as a matter of course in many schools “back then.” We don’t teach Latin, except in some select places, anymore. And good riddance. Latina mortua est.

Cursive writing was put back into the TEKS because of some crazy longing for “the good old days” that really never existed except in the minds of east Texas white Tea Party Republicans. Qualem blennum!

Cursive writing, like Latin, is nearly dead. Want more proof? After 5th grade, there is not a single TEKS that revisits cursive writing. Not one. In any subject. In other words, the skill is completely ignored after students leave elementary school, never to be seen again. T

hat is 4 years (2-5th grades) that is wasted on a skill of very little value other than to make some east Texas blue haired ladies that taught elementary school in the 1950’s happy. For the next seven years a child is in school, they will not be asked to write a single thing in cursive. Not a single thing.

The STAAR test won’t be written in cursive, and the written responses can be submitted in cursive or printed format. Of course, if they are taking the test online, print is the default.

Teaching cursive handwriting should go the way of the educational Dodo bird. We have quite a few of those dead skills and classes that we, as a society, have tossed aside because time and technology have made them useless. Sliderules, keyboarding, “Home Ec” and how to shoe a horse are among the thousands of things we have relegated to the dustbin of educational history.

It’s time we send cursive writing there as well. Let’s teach kids skills that they actually will need to succeed in their futures, not some politician’s fantasy past.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

About Tim Holt

Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

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