Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Bucking the Trend and Preserving Penmanship
The decline of penmanship is not a trend, rather a decline in the education of children that has been ongoing for quite some time. It began with penmanship being removed from the curriculum of teacher's colleges and gradually being de-emphasized in elementary schools. Many reasons were given for this change: not enough time, not enough money, and no longer necessary because the future belongs to electronic technology, just to name a few. Cursive has been in steady decline for over a decade. The ability to produce manuscript printing that is legible is declining at an even faster rate. There is a great risk that in a few years young children will not be required to produce any writing by hand.
The comments in response to this article were approximately two-thirds in favor of maintaining cursive handwriting, and I believe that accurately reflects the population at large. This might be the chief reason why many states are gradually realizing the folly of not keeping cursive writing in the curriculum.
Many parents and educators do not realize that manuscript printing has only been taught in schools for less than one hundred years. When it was first introduced in Great Britain in the early 1900's. Teachers very quickly realized that if students did not learn to write in cursive, they were also unable to read anything written in cursive. When this fact became obvious, many schools refused to teach manuscript printing because most students left school after grade eight to find employment. Teachers felt that students who were unable to read and write in cursive were handicapped in the workplace. Recently I was informed of a group of elementary school teachers who are shocked to realize that their students are unable to read anything written in cursive. History of less than 100 years ago is being repeated today.
Some European countries also chose to teach cursive first beginning in first grade. Manuscript printing was easily taught later in fourth or fifth grade. Most European countries and Spanish speaking countries ensure that students master cursive handwriting. As we are now a global society, these children will in future years be competing for jobs with North Americans. Students from these other countries will not only be able to read and write in cursive, but most will also have mastered this proficiency in more than one language.
Those who are in charge of determining public school curriculum know that handwriting is best taught/learned before the age of ten years old. This skill needs to be taught and practiced well enough to become automatic. Teaching the formation of cursive letters usually only requires it to be done during one school year, and after that the practice component ensures the skill is effectively learned. Once this occurs, even if a person does not use it regularly, it is easy to refresh the skill again with a bit of practice. Computer skills on the other hand can be effectively acquired at an older age - the entire baby boom and traditional generations are living proof this.
It is no secret that the present public education process is not delivering the hoped for outcomes www.nagb.org/writing2011. These test results showed that at the grade eight level testing: 3% had advanced writing skills, 24% were proficient in writing, 54% had basic (partial) skills, and 20% were below the basic level.
Parents and students deserve better and need to demand more of the public education system. I believe that an education process that demonstrated excellent results through providing a solid foundation, which included cursive handwriting, needs to be implemented again.