Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On Target, Does Cursive Matter?

School is starting today in many districts across the United States. Here in Tucson school started a few weeks ago. I have been reading a lot lately about the Common Core Curriculum which has been adopted by 40 of our 50 states and which suggests that there really is no need to teach cursive.

Cursive is a strange word. I remember the first time I heard it used. My oldest son came home from third grade and proudly announced that he was learning cursive. I told him I had no idea what he was talking about. The year was 1990. I was 41. He then showed me what he meant. And I said, "Oh, you mean handwriting or penmanship!" He just kind of smiled. To this day I still have two pendaflex folders filled with Aaron's "cursive" 4th grade spelling tests that interestingly enough had to be done with two columns: One column for the printed word and one column for the word written in cursive. Mr. Dyrenforth graded each column not only for spelling accuracy, but also for cursive and printing proficiencies. For the record, I liked John Dyrenforth and so did Aaron and his brother, Daniel.

I was taught penmanship (that is what it was called in California in 1957) by the Benedictine nuns. I struggled somewhat as I am left-handed and by the time I started grammar school most nuns had given up on converting the left-handed to be right-handed. I say I struggled because if you are left handed you know all about smearing your ink and trying to write over the spiral rings of notebooks. You know all about sitting in one-sided desks designed for the right-handed. You struggle more if you insist on getting the slant of the Palmer method perfect for Sister Elitas.

But let's get back to the question at hand. Does cursive matter?  I know many of you will say it is more important for students to learn to TYPE on a keyboard. But are they learning to TYPE?  I don't have an answer to that question. I learned to type in a public school summer class. I was in 7th grade. I have never been sorry about taking that class.

Here is what I love most about cursive. It is personal. It is distinct. Every time I receive a card from my husband it has his very distinct handwriting. I have letters from my mother and father that I keep, more because they are handwritten...not typed or printed, but handwritten.  I love getting letters from my dear friend Ginny, all handwritten. I know immediately when I have received a letter from my friend Arnold. He doesn't type it, but addresses the letter and envelope in cursive. If we don't continue to teach cursive, will the children of today not have signatures?

Today I would like to share a TARGET ad with you.  I wonder how many of our children will not be able to read the ad "Expect More, Pay Less".

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

On the other hand, below is a handwritten letter. It was written by my father in 1937. He was 19. He was writing to his twin sister. I love this letter. The only thing he got wrong was that he did not know the correct spelling of the troop transport ship USS Chaumont. He confused it with the USS Shawmut. If you click on the photos they get larger.

I hope you will give your comments.  On target, does cursive matter?


Amber Avines said...

I'm with you, Judy. I'm devastated at the thought of cursive writing dying (I've written about this subject, too!). Sure, technology has changed the landscape, but not being able to communicate without the availability of some sort of "device"? That's crazy.

Judy Helfand said...

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I find lately that a lot of people will read my posts, but comment on Facebook. It makes it hard to get a real conversation going about a subject when people are "chatting" in two different rooms.

To me cursive is almost an art, so classical. I have spent the last few days preparing a post which will celebrate my husband's grandfather's life. He would have been 120 on September 22. So I went through old photos, letters, official documents like census reports, passports, draft registration forms...all completed in cursive. Imagine if I didn't have the ability to read it.

I look forward to meeting you at Blog World.


Amber Avines said...

I know what you mean about comments. It's a challenge. Look forward to meeting you, too!

Judy Helfand said...

When you add new iterations of Facebook, Twitter, etc. we spend (I don't want to use the word waste)so much time just relearning how to communicate with each other.

Hopefully when we meet in person...we can just sit down and talk!


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