I doubt my wife’s penmanship sealed the deal when it came to asking for her hand in marriage, but her flowing, graceful handwritten lines from pen to paper did tell me that I was proposing to a sweet, creative and intelligent young lady. In receiving the most welcome ‘yes’ of my life, it was apparent that she had not had a chance to closely examine my cursive efforts. Though I consider myself at least moderately creative, my handwriting is downright pedestrian, if that. It has a chunky, oversized quality about it; legible, but not in the least, interesting.
But it’s me, an integral part of who I am. Just as my wife’s wonderful efforts help to define who she is. And the distinct writing of each of the kids does the same. But there’s a move afoot to take all that away. Curse cursive is the watchword of a segment of the government and educational community that insists that teaching cursive is no longer a necessity and, in fact, a waste of good classroom time. Cursive may not be taught in your school any longer. It used to be virtually universal for 2nd and 3rd graders. No more.
The push to eliminate the teaching of cursive writing has been going on for a number of years, largely unnoticed and under-reported by the nation’s media. President Obama and his Education Department have been front and center in escorting this once indispensable discipline out the back door of our elementary schools. It’s all part of something called “Common Core State Standards”, a brainchild of the American Diploma Project.
The ADP, now a subsidiary of ‘Achieve’, was created in 1996 by the National Governors Association and (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) ‘business leaders’ to establish educational standards. One of the major consultants to APD is CV-heavy, William Craig Rice. Rice consults numerous organizations, academia and think tanks and served as a fellow to the awesomely right-wing American Enterprise Institute with its direct ties to the radical neocon Project for the New American Century.
I’m not automatically opposed to initiatives favored by the radical right, but such support always raises my suspicions. Anytime I start sniffing out the participation in any issue that includes the far right, especially a right associated with the most radical or the radicals, I hesitate.
The purpose of CCSS, as stated, is to “Provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.” The Core Standards program no longer requires cursive to be part of the state educational curricula.
To sweeten the pot and encourage state participation in CCSS, the Obama administration came up with something called ‘Race to the Top’ with federal grants dangled in front of State Education Departments. Only 5 states refused the bait. In 2014 states will officially decide on adopting national curriculum standards that do not include cursive in the teaching of English and math.
There’s no question that we have educationally plunged full bore into the electronic age. My wife, who teaches Special Education (Emotional Disabilities) in Middle School, utilizes some of the most advanced hardware and software available in the educational sphere.
From a practical standpoint, teaching cursive is most certainly old school. There are few one-on-one interfaces between teacher and student these days without an accompanying electronic element. My wife relies on a stunningly advanced system called Promethean World. It’s a fascinating and effective learning tool. It features futuristic interactive displays that weave their way perfectly into the daily out-of-school student experiences with all manner of computers, touchpads and 4G and Smartphones, among other space-age toys and gadgets. Promethean Learner Response Systems, software, Interactive resources and other devices would leave Isaac Asimov breathless.
I get all that. I also get that block printing only would be a boon to long-suffering postmen who have to figure out scribbled addresses that would challenge a cryptographer. Pharmacists would be giant fans as well after years of deciphering prescription cursive from the doctors. Yes, cursive is, for the most part, harder to figure out than the printed word. On the other hand, writing my 14-letter full name in cursive takes all of 4 ½ second; printed, I burn up the better part of 7 seconds. So cursive is quicker and much smoother with pen or pencil to paper throughout. It extended the life of many a quill pen back in the day.
Many teachers will tell you that cursive is good for young students. It aids in coordination and nudges the brain. All the positives notwithstanding, I suspect 2014 will bring about an official end to the teaching of cursive in most schools; yet another benefit denied by the ‘cut services’ crowd of Neanderthals. At the same time, ‘business leaders’ most likely from the major textbook companies, will figure out a way to sell those American households who will teach the subject at home any number of pricey educational devices to one-subject home school your little ones with. All the better to sell to many millions as opposed to the limited elementary school pool.
So in a couple of years, most schools will say farewell to this useless relic of the past, hardly worth an educator’s time and energy. The path will then be paved for the serious intellectual scholarship of Intelligent Design, creationism and climate denial.