Thursday, October 1, 2015

This Dad Doesn't Care If Cursive Kicks It

Apparently, people are really up in arms about the death of cursive. Were you aware there is a controversy over the potential that they won't teach cursive handwriting in schools? The issue involves BOTH kids and education. So course there is. 

Regardless, I wasn’t aware until I saw a post on Facebook about it. According to the poster, unless we fight to revive cursive’s corpse, our children are doomed to a future where kids won’t be able to read historical documents.

My first thought: write a post about the cursive controversy. Then I reconsidered – is this a real controversy, or just some silly thing stirred up by a bored writer? Nope, it’s real; 768,000 Google results for “is cursive dead” real. Speaking of Google, I wonder if those cursive campaigners have you seen it? As you know, Google catalogs pretty much all of human knowledge. And cat memes. You know what you don't see on it? Cursive. There is room for 1.45 million cat memes, and not cursive.

But ignore for a moment how few times life tasks students with reading original historical documents. There are lots of things I hope my 4-year-old triplets learn from schooling. Cursive? That ranks about near the bottom, well below skills like critical thinking, programming, computer skills, or money management.

I’d be pretty upset if in the future they come home and say “hey, good thing I learned cursive, because I have plenty of bankruptcy and unemployment forms to sign!”

Ancient Knowledge
I’m not even sure why the lack of cursive skills would prevent them from accessing the knowledge of the ancients. I don’t know ancient Greek or Latin. Yet I can read the thoughts of Plato and Aristotle fine. I’m not really versed in Old English either, but I can muddle through Shakespeare well enough. Last I checked, they don’t teach hieroglyphics in school, and yet someone, somewhere, manages to decode them. And I did all that without Google.

Cursive; cave writing. Both begin with C. Coincidence?
Some of the rights don't apply
if not written in cursive.
Oh, sure, maybe the kids won’t be able to read the document in its original form. Have you ever looked at the Constitution? Here is a pocket version of the constitution. Thanks again, Google. I have something similar. Notice in the picture that someone somewhere managed to convert it from cursive to type.

But maybe with all the time we spend loading porn onto the internet we haven’t gotten around to loading the important stuff. Maybe the U.S. Constitution missed out on the digital revolution?

Nope, it’s right here. Whew! Unfortunately, I can read cursive and its not legible. 

Current Worries
It turns out people have been worrying about the death of cursive since at least 2009. Which is understandable. It is our nature for us to want our kids to learn what we learned. But that tendency is also located in the same part of the brain that tells us kids these days are lazy do-nothings who have it easy. Unlike those of us who walked to school uphill. Both ways. In snow. Without shoes.

Google makes so much of what we learned in school - naming the presidents in order, for instance - irrelevant. Google can recall those things in less time than it takes us to name even the first state. Its Alabama, BYW. Thanks again, Google. So Google does all the heavy fact lifting, freeing our minds up for critical thinking

I wouldn’t have guessed from all the pearl clutching, but this is more long-term trend than current catastrophe. Cursive started dying out as early as the 1920s. That means our grandparents actually started giving it up. And those people walked up hills twice as high as ours, in snow twice as cold.

And people born after 1980 have almost completely abandoned cursive.

How completely? Michelle Wolrich, a high school teacher in Florida, says her students do not regularly use cursive. She suspects some cannot read it. But Wolrich remains a big supporter and was thrilled to learn the school where she enrolled her son teaches it as early as second grade.

What does she love about it?
"It is a beautiful script. It is elegant. It is traditional and historical. I guess I just like knowing how to write in two distinct ways and am a traditionalist when it comes to writing skills."
I think Woolrich raises legit points at the heart of the issue of our desire not to have cursive kick it. But she also related a horrible story about how they broke her grandmother's hand to rid her of that horrible disease known as left-handedness. All so she could write in cursive.

I was born in 1976, so the SS Cursive Corpse hadn’t yet sailed off into the sunset when I was in school. My own particularly awful elementary school experience with cursive isn't as awful as Wolrich's, but its not exactly tame, either.

My Story
My story begins some time around second or third grade in the class of a teacher we can call Mrs. Kline. I really have no other recollection of Mrs. Kline and would disguise her name if I had any idea what it really was.

On day Mrs. Kline mentioned during class that couldn’t locate any sufficiently legible writing samples from “Harry” to display for parents. Instead of privately telling Harry this, she said it for the entire class to hear.

This was bad enough. It was made all the more awful because I laughed. Looking back that wasn’t really very nice. But hey, I was like 8. Also, I have a hunch I'm kind of a jerk sometimes.

And then came the piling on.

Because, as bad as it was to this point, Mrs. Kline made it all the worse by saying: “don’t laugh, I could only find one of yours.” That is right. She doubled down by not only reprimanding me for laughing, but by pointing out my deficiency; in front of the class. I recall they all snickered. Mrs. Kline said nothing about that. At least, that is how I recall it happening.

Of course, if cursive goes the way of Latin, we won’t be able to sign our names. Not that it will make a big difference in a biometric world where we use our fingerprints and retina scans to sign things.

But maybe cursive isn’t really dead. Slate.com doesn’t think cursive will die so easily. While maybe not as beautiful or elegant as the script Woolrich loves, Slate.com thinks cursive will live on in the form of sloppy(ier) writing.

So really, my elementary school self was just ahead of the curve on cursive.

Take that, Mrs. Kline.

No comments:

Post a Comment