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Wednesday , October 17 2018
Home | Tag Archives: education issues

Tag Archives: education issues

Op-Ed: Sorry, Kids Don’t Need Cursive Writing to Understand Historical Documents

Take a look at this meme that rears its ugly head once in a while across the Internet especially on Facebook:

For those of you that cannot read cursive, it says;

“Kids who can’t read cursive handwriting can’t read historic documents. Support cursive in the curriculum.”

I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start with the probably obvious: Some people, and I am gonna guess it is people that have not been in a school in decades, are upset that cursive handwriting is no longer being taught in many school districts across the country.

There are many very good reasons for this, but the most obvious one is that a child does not need to understand or write in cursive in order to communicate in today’s world.

Printed word, audio, video, and other forms of communication are all taking over from the cursive writing of old. And computers don’t put out content in cursive, unless you tell them to.

Of course, this meme was probably made by some older, more conservative person that think our kids need to be able to READ primary source historical cursive documents that are from the early years of the United States. However, MOST historical documents are not written in English, are not written in English cursive, and are not from the United States.

And chances ARE that the ones written in English are probably written in Olde English, which most people, students or not, would have a difficult time understanding anyway.

So let’s take a look at some of those “primary source documents” that kids are supposed to be able to read. Start with the most obvious: The Declaration of Independence:

This is the CURRENT condition of the Declaration of Independence that is in the National Archives: Faded almost to the point of transparency. I have actually seen the document up close and personal. It is very close to being illegible. Even if a student could read cursive, it would be of little or no use. The writing is that bad.

How is that “Need to be able to read cursive working for you?

Let’s look at another primary source: The US Constitution:

Again, faded, almost illegible.

So historical documents were all written in cursive? The meme makes it sound like it. But like most memes, it is almost totally false and creates a story that cannot stand up under the facts.

Back to the Declaration of Independence. Most Americans do not know the original was printed in PRINT form, distributed across the colonies and THEN written in cursive later:

Imagine yourself as a typical middle school student. What is easier to read and understand: The written-in-cursive faded version we have in the National Archives or this version also in the National Archives, although in the virtual National Archives?

The point is, the printed version or for that matter the web version, unless there is some compelling reason otherwise, is almost ALWAYS easier to read and understand than the “historic” cursive version. Unless you are Nicolas Cage and need to steal the original document to find the hidden treasure map on the back using lemon juice and a candle, chances are the printed version will work just fine.

Consider the TEXAS Constitution: It was and always has been, printed. Never cursive:

The Japanese Surrender Documents at the end of World War 2: Printed.

Your mortgage papers? Printed.
Your divorce decree? Printed.
The local newspaper (if you even know what that is): Printed.
Textbooks? Printed.
Most online content? Printed.
Want to buy a car? I hope you can read printed script.

In fact, I bet you cannot think of an important document other than your High School diploma that didn’t use print script.

For those that insist that you still need to WRITE cursive to understand historical documents, consider the Magna Carta, written in 1215 in LATIN in print script,  and the basis for much of our Constitution, here is what it looks like:

Here is a transcript in English.  Now, tell me, what is easier to understand? Unless your Latin is good, I suspect you liked the English PRINTED translation.

These types of internet memes are usually put out by nostalgic people thinking that the world they remember was better than the world they live in now. Sadly, they don’t seem to understand that in many aspects, the world they once knew is gone, and had been replaced by something even better. Why, I can’t even recall a time when the Fox News headline scroll was written using as cursive font.

Let old ways die. Just because YOU did it, does not mean it was better. It is totally okay to remember your past, but don’t force it on the rest of us.

The world has gotten much better over the years. Much better.

***

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.

Op-Ed: You Now Have No Excuse Not To Learn

Recently, a local opinion columnist wrote that he had “…no appetite for anything modern.” In 600 words he was able to castigate modern movies, sports, music, women who are “no longer coy,” the #takeaknee movement, and basically anything that has happened in the world after say, 1955 as being culturally irrelevant, vulgar, or corrupt.

Beethoven: Okay.

Roll Over Beethoven: Not Okay.

Shakespear: Okay.

Shakespear in Love: Not Okay.

Campbell’s Tomato Soup: Okay.

Warhol’s Tomato Soup Can: Not Okay.

Women silently playing tennis: Okay.

Women making noises while playing tennis: Not Okay.

You get the idea. Some older people are like that. The “good old days” will always be better than today in that fog of memory that reminisces on the good and expunges the bad.

“Never mind we had polio and segregation, dammit women stayed at home and wore dresses!” Such as it has always been with older people. But like Carly Simon once sang “…I’ll stay right here, cuz these are the good old days.”

Years from now, some grumpy columnist will write about how back in 2017, things were better that they are now. (The irony of course is that his “I hate everything modern” screed was delivered over the internet.)

It is too bad that he has that idea of “everything new is bad, everything old is good.” Actually, by almost any matrix he could think of, the world is far better off today than at anytime in the past despite all of those ungrateful, kneeling, grunting athletes.

According to Our World in Data, right now, the world has the lowest levels of people living in extreme poverty, illiterate citizens, childhood mortality, people living in totalitarian societies, the number of children per mother, and the amount of education each person on the planet is receiving.

Those are not numbers from the last fifty or one hundred years. Those are numbers across all of human history. EVER. You and I are literally living in the greatest time in mankind’s history. Really. You may feel it is a Dickensonian worst of times, but on the big picture level, it really is the best of times.

One sign of the “things are better now than ever before” is the availability to almost anyone on the planet of free educational materials that had never been available before. Because of advances in technology, complete courses at the high school and college level on almost any topic are readily accessible to anyone with a connection to the internet.

Would you like to take a course on Classical Mechanics from Stanford University with Professor Leonard Susskind? Just click here. How about a Public Economics course from Harvard?

Apple created iTunes U several years ago as a repository for free courses from postsecondary schools from across the globe. Since then, literally thousands of complete courses have been uploaded.

Got an iPad or an iPhone? You can go to Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Open University, even NMSU. Hundreds of universities participate. All for free. You don’t get the college credit, but you can take the course at anytime, at any age.

A 15 year old interested in Aerodynamics can challenge herself with by taking a free course from Harvard.

In addition to the free courses in iTunes U, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are giant online courses open to anyone in the world that wants to take them.

In 2011, Stanford University opened a MOOC on Artificial Intelligence that had over 160,000 students from all over the world attending, all for free.

Since then, organizations like EdX (edx.org) have created hundreds of courses, most for free, all online, for anyone anywhere. There for the taking, like a giant buffet of learning. All you have to do is load your plate.

I pity anyone that has no appetite for “the modern.” “The modern” has allowed us to bring learning to anyone, anywhere for little or no cost. The playing field, where once only the elite or the chosen had access to knowledge is quickly being leveled because of “the modern.”

You can afford free. You can make time for anywhere, anytime learning.

You are out of meaningful excuses. You have no excuse not to learn, to improve yourself, and at the same time your little slice of humanity.

I have a great appetite for that kind of modernity.

***

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.

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