Scott Elliott has a nice story in Sunday’s Indianapolis Star about the fact that the teaching of cursive handwriting is disappearing from elementary schools. It’s thoroughly reported, balanced, informative and nicely written. There’s just one problem, and probably not one that Elliott could do anything about.
In the print edition of the Star, the story starts with an anecdote –- in a font designed to look like handwriting — about a retired teacher who fell in love with cursive writing in the third grade. Now, it says, “she shutters at the thought that cursive might be … an endangered species.”
She shutters at the thought?
Elliott no doubt knows the difference between shuddering and shuttering. So, probably, does the graphic artist who designed the feature for Star’s front page. And we all make mistakes.
But remember that, just last month, Gannett Co. dumped 26 newsroom employees at the Star, including 12 copy editors, as part of a nationwide cost-cutting move. Star publisher Karen Crotchfelt told the Indianapolis Business Journal that most stories would simply get fewer edits as a result.
According to Star reporter and News Guild president Bobby King, the paper’s editor, Dennis Ryerson, insisted to the staff that eliminating a layer of copy editors wouldn’t hurt the quality of the news product – “something that seems truly an incredible statement to this reporter, who’s had his bacon saved more than once by a rim editor who’s caught a misspelled name or an errant fact before it could find the light of print,” King wrote on the guild’s blog.
Catching mistakes before they get to print isn’t glamorous work, but it’s crucial to a newspaper’s credibility. One hopes that publishers and editors would understand that.
Interesting take…a detail of speed, inattention, fewer “eyes” on the text make for some likely and consistent errors. Perhaps learning cursive could help curtail some of these errors!
Friends and I discussed this on Facebook–the ultimate site for an “anti-cursive” ideology–and this is what came of it:
Recently, via Facebook, a friend forwarded a notice that Indiana schools would likely dispense with the teaching of cursive to children in favor or further focusing on “keyboard skills” proclaiming that “instruction in cursive would be optional.” In other words, don’t bother.
A debate ensued and commenters offered several positions, all of which seem valid. Those in a kind of agreement noted: 1) Meh. Who cares? I don’t write in cursive and I haven’t used a pencil in decades. 2) Why waste time on cursive when kids can’t read? (They can’t?) 3) I feel like I communicate better on the computer anyway! 4) State I-Step requirements necessitate composition on computers…so might as well teach it that way.
Those in opposition were fewer in number and their arguments less easily enumerated, but perhaps they can be summed up as counter-arguments to those that seemed to approve of the proposal.
Writing with a pen or a pencil and typing are two different physical actions. Granted that I can’t speak to the neurological implications, but I suspect that the physical act of writing creates a particular kind of mind, while typing another type, and texting and or twittering another type. Which do you imagine creates a considerate, self-reflexive cast of mind?
Proponents of the “freeing” aspect of computer literacy via Facebook, email, Twitter, etc., see the machine as a tool expression. I understand this point but would assert that typeface is not self-evident as a function of a person–it’s flat and inhuman, detached if you will.
The machine is not just a tool for your expression. It is a tool of manipulation, a tool of institutional domination. That cannot be contested. Our schools can be viewed as “prisons” or “factories” of domination and indoctrination. The computer facilitates these “hidden” modes of conscription.
One aspect of this I find disheartening that it is seen as “realistic” to teach a skill that only needs teaching due to a requirement of standardized testing. This doesn’t make typing valuable but rather a necessary skill created by the I-Step. That test is brought to you by the McGraw-Hill corporation. So I would argue that this skill is not a curricular or pedagogical necessity but rather a corporate decision easing the grading of a writing section. The educational products racket is a column for another day.
I might argue too that writing with a pen creates thinkers who are grazers–slow and thoughtful. That kind of writing bolsters better reading skills as well.
As a parent I want more out of education than learning motor skills that can easily be detached from thought. Also, another ramification of further computerization is that this will lead to a reduction in instructors (note I did not use “teacher” and neither will the school systems in the future) or “interventionists” as the goal will be fluency in recognizing commands and prompts (and products) on a computer screen. (I believe this is how one graduates for our War College
now.) One nation, under remediation…
The need to learn cursive is as simple as the need to sign documents.
that is not expansive enough of course…one can simply learn to sign one’s name and that is all. This gives one a new perspective on “making your mark”.