To pen or to key? Not too long ago, this question sparked an education debate in Lancaster, PA. Although, schools elsewhere are trying to figure it out too. As schools continue to make technology an important part of their curriculum (and standards increasingly dictate instruction), cursive writing is becoming an outdated skill. Learning how to type is all the rage.
Since cursive writing is not listed in the Common Core Standards for English language arts, teachers are not necessarily concerned with teaching it. In a Pittsburgh Post Gazette article (see above link), Conestoga Valley elementary school teacher, Jill Kennett, admitted that her students spend a few minutes each day focusing on one cursive letter. When all letters have been learned, students take a test and if they pass, they receive a "cursive writer's license." In Kennett's classroom, cursive is taught out of tradition, maybe even nostalgia, but it's not a necessity.
Contrastingly, many Catholic schools continue to make writing in cursive a priority. Encouraging quality penmanship and principles of etiquette are some of the reasons why Catholic schools persist in keeping cursive around. Schools in Penn Manor use cursive as a technique to help develop students' fine motor skills. Still, more schools see the value in pushing keyboard skills.
A firm believer that technology is a part of our evolution as humans and as a society, I tend to think that cursive was bound to go out of style. It's not that I want it to, but outside of greeting cards, I can't remember the last time I sat down to hand-write anything. Even in greeting cards, I write using the standard alphabet. For me, cursive was a third grade nightmare. Similarly, third graders I tutored last year, while excited to learn cursive, were unclear about when they would use it; they were learning to type at the same time. Despite reading Beverly Cleary's Muggie Maggie and engaging in discussion about the value of learning and writing in cursive, these third graders moved on desiring their keyboards and wanting to know more about Word commands.
You see, even third graders know that most of their work will involve technology. Should we slow that from happening? Considering the latest technology allows us to detect certain medical conditions sooner than expected, has given us green buildings and alternative energy, as well as e-learning equipment to help students with special needs, I think we can forfeit cursive.
But, students do need to know how to write their signature, as there are official documents that require it, and as one teacher noted in the Post Gazette article, the Constitution and other historical documents are penned in cursive. In order for students to make sense of the past, an ability to read cursive is necessary.
I don't think technology wants cursive writing to go away either. Consider that as students learn their keyboarding skills, they will be introduced to various fonts, and among them are Lucida Handwriting and School House Cursive B. I think that cursive is here to stay. Well, at least for a little while longer.
* Image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cursive.