CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Education

November 25, 2012

Some states preserve penmanship despite tech gains

LOS ANGELES — The pen may not be as mighty as the keyboard these days, but California and a handful of states are not giving up on handwriting entirely.

Bucking a growing trend of eliminating cursive from elementary school curriculums or making it optional, California is among the states keeping longhand as a third-grade staple.

The state’s posture on penmanship is not likely to undercut its place at the leading edge of technology, but it has teachers and students divided over the value of learning flowing script and looping signatures in an age of touchpads and mobile devices.

Some see it as a waste of time, an anachronism in a digitized society where even signatures are electronic, but others see it as necessary so kids can hone fine motor skills, reinforce literacy and develop their own unique stamp of identity.

The debate comes as 45 states move toward adopting national curriculum guidelines in 2014 for English and math that don’t include cursive handwriting, but require proficiency in computer keyboarding by the time pupils exit elementary school.

Several states, including California, Georgia and Massachusetts, have added a cursive requirement to the national standards, while most others, such as Indiana, Illinois and Hawaii have left it as optional for school districts. Some states, like Utah, are still studying the issue.

Whether it’s required or not, cursive is fast becoming a lost art as schools increasingly replace pen and paper with classroom computers and instruction is increasingly geared to academic subjects that are tested on standardized exams. Even the standardized tests are on track to be administered via computer within three years.

Experts say manuscript, or printing, may be sufficient when it comes to handwriting in the future.

“Do you really need to learn two different scripts?” said Steve Graham, education professor at Arizona State University who has studied handwriting instruction. “There will be plenty of kids who don’t learn cursive. The more important skill now is typing.”

Cursive still has many proponents who say it benefits youngsters’ brains, coordination and motor skills, as well as connects them to the past, whether to handwritten historical documents like the Constitution or to their parents’ and grandparents’ letters.

Longhand is also a symbol of personality, even more so in an era of uniform emails and texting, they say.

“I think it’s part of your identity and part of your self-esteem,” said Eldra Avery, who teaches language and composition at San Luis Obispo High School. “There’s something really special and personal about a cursive letter.”

Avery also has a practical reason for pushing cursive — speed. She makes her 11th grade students relearn longhand simply so they’ll be able to complete their advancement placement exams. Most students print.

“They have to write three essays in two hours. They need that speed,” she said. “Most of them learned cursive in second grade and forgot about it. Their penmanship is deplorable.”

For many elementary school teachers, having children spend hours copying flowing letters just isn’t practical in an era of high-stakes standardized testing.

Third-graders may get 15 minutes of cursive practice a couple times a week, and after the fourth grade, it often falls off completely because teachers don’t require assignments to be written in cursive. When children write by hand, many choose to print because they’ve practiced it more.

Dustin Ellis, fourth-grade teacher at Big Springs Elementary School in Simi Valley, said he assigns a cursive practice packet as homework, but if he had his druthers, he’d limit cursive instruction to learning to read it, instead of writing it. Out of his 32 students, just three write in cursive, he noted.

“Students can be just as successful with printing,” he said. “When a kid can text 60 words a minute, that means we’re heading in a different direction. Cursive is becoming less and less important.” 

It also depends on the teacher. Many younger teachers aren’t prepared to teach cursive or manuscript, said Kathleen S. Wright, national handwriting product manager for Zaner-Bloser Publishing, which develops instructional tools.

To remedy that, the company has developed a computer program that shows kids how to form letters.

Students say virtually nobody writes in cursive except teachers and parents. School assignments are required to be typed, and any personal note, such as thank yous and birthday cards, are emails, said Monica Baerg, a 16-year-old junior at Arcadia High School.

Baerg said she learned cursive in third grade, but has never used it and has difficulty deciphering her parents’ handwriting. When she has to write by hand, she prints and never has a problem with speed.

“It was kind of a waste. No one ever forced us to use cursive so it was a hassle to remember the letters,” she said. “It’s not necessary to write in cursive. Whatever you write in, you say the same thing.”

At St. Mark’s Lutheran School in Hacienda Heights, cursive remains a core subject. Students are required to write in cursive through middle school so they become fluent at it, as well as work on computers, but increasingly transfer students arrive without longhand skills, said Linda Merchant, director of curriculum and instruction. They’re given a book to study and practice at home.

“We’re pretty committed to keeping it,” Merchant said. “There’s always going to be situations when you’re going to have to present your own writing.”

Graham, the professor, noted that the case for cursive is becoming harder to make, due to the benefits word processing offers such as spellcheck and cutting and pasting text, but he noted there are benefits to ensuring good handwriting. “People form judgments about the quality of your ideas based on the neatness of your text,” he said.

For kids, the only practical purpose for learning cursive is to sign their names.

“They should teach it just for that purpose,” said student Baerg. “Everybody wants a cool signature with all the fancy loops.”

 

1
Text Only
Education
  • WSCC patient care specialist BOOST program offers certification as Patient Care Specialist in one year

    Starting this fall, Wallace State Community College will offer a new health program aimed at helping individuals who are looking for entry into the medical field, or to change gears after spending time out of the workforce, whether from losing their jobs due to the economy, downsizing or other factors.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • WSCC HILL.jpg Hill hits the ground running at Wallace State

    Marcie Hill of Double Springs likes taking on new challenges. As an 18-year veteran of the education system, Hill has taught first grade, sixth grade and served as a reading coach to students and teachers in Kindergarten through sixth grade.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Barnes enjoy Samford's governor's school.jpg Area residents enjoy Samford’s Alabama Governor’s School

    Students from two area high schools were chosen to attend Alabama Governor’s School at Samford University June 15-27. They were among 91 outstanding rising high school seniors from 24 counties who were selected for the two-week honors program.
     

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • University of Memphis Reduces Tuition for Out-of-State Students

    The Tennessee Board of Regents has approved a proposal that will significantly reduce the amount of tuition that out-of-state students pay to attend the University of Memphis.


    Under the new 250-R program, full-time undergraduates who graduated from a high school within 250 miles of Memphis will now pay $12,456 a year, an almost $10,000 reduction from last year’s amount of $21,768.

    June 20, 2014

  • WSCC students SkillsUSA comp 1.jpg Four Wallace State students set to compete this month at the 50th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference

    Wallace State’s Technical Division has made it an annual tradition to send multiple students to the SkillsUSA national competition. This year is no different.

    June 11, 2014 3 Photos

  • Dickerson chosen Boys State.jpg Dickerson chosen to attend Boys State

    Davis Dickerson, a student at Good Hope High School, son of Bruce and Jennifer Dickerson, received the American Legion Boys’ State award for 2014 from American Legion Post 4 Adjutant Don Reid.

    June 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Southern Am. Legion Girls State.jpg Southern chosen for Girls State

    Miranda Southern, a student at Good Hope High School, daughter of Douglas Southern, received the American Legion Auxiliary 2014 Girls’ State award of $200 from American Legion Auxiliary Unit 4 Secretary-Treasurer Mary Reid.

    June 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cullman students earn Martin Methodist College honors

    Two residents of Cullman County received academic honors during the spring semester at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tenn.
    Brandie Overton and Darcie Wilson, both of Cullman, were named to the Dean’s List with a semester grade point average of 3.5 to 3.9.

    May 30, 2014

  • Crisologo earns degree.jpg Crisologo earns D.P.M. degree from Des Moines University

    Des Moines University granted 539 degrees at its 2014 Commencement Ceremony, the 114th in the university's history, on Saturday, May 24, at 10 a.m. at Hy-Vee Hall in the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. The dean from each of the three DMU colleges presented their classes and DMU President Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D., conferred degrees.

    May 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Moon graduates from Southeastern Bible College

    John Clint Moon of Empire was awarded an associate of arts degree in leadership ministries from Southeastern Bible College Friday, May 9, 2014.

    May 29, 2014