Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cursive, really? This is not your grandmother's third grade

Once again there's a bill in our state to mandate cursive writing instruction in school. Our third graders who take high-stakes tests with the risk of potential grade retention are already tasked with elementary curricula increasingly filled with test content to prepare them for test-taking. Should precious curricular time be spent on handwriting practice when teachers have difficulty squeezing in core subjects like social studies and science?
Nationally, there is widespread agreement that academic subjects and new literacies take precedence over pretty penmanship: in the new Common Core State Standards adopted by 45 states including Indiana, keyboarding is included; cursive is not. Forward-looking districts are equipping students to read, write, produce, and publish on mobile technologies, making the decision to prepare children to function with 21st century literacy tools. In this environment, the time-consuming enterprise of cursive writing instruction seems quaint at best, falling into the nice-if-we-had-the-time category.
Apparently, one can be pretty successful with minimal cursive skills. Look at  Jack Lew, the US secretary of treasury nominee who may soon be signing all our money. How long did it take him to master this signature?

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