Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cursive A Dying Art?

A friend of mine monitored a standardized test at a high school last spring and said that one of the activities required the kids to write one of their responses in cursive. I won't divulge the name of the test due to privacy issues, but it's one that many high school students take. My friend said she saw almost all of the students struggling to write in cursive. One boy kept erasing, rewriting, erasing and finally gave up.

I've posted about students not knowing how to spell and how they so often use prepositions incorrectly, but I haven't touched on the subject of cursive writing. Yes, I'm back up on the soapbox! This is yet another subject that I could talk about for hours.

A number of years ago, I recall being told that kids didn't have to know how to write in cursive. I questioned why. The answers went something like this. Some kids will never be successful cursive writers. Okay.. so that means we just stop teaching it?

Other responses centered around technology. Kids will have computers, so why should we waste time teaching them to write in cursive? Waste time? Certainly, we educators know that some children will have difficulty writing in cursive, but is that reason for not teaching it? Those children who are unable to master it, surely can be given an alternative method. Printing, using the keyboard or even oral language like speaking into a computer are some of those alternatives.

My next thought centers around the "signature" space on certain documents. One space requires a person to print his or her name. The next space requires a signature. Will a large "X" do the trick? Isn't that reverting to the "old" days, when people were never taught how to write? The Middle Ages? Will we now have generations of adults who will write a large "X" on legal documents? Is a printed name where it asks for a signature, truly legal?

We love a town in Germany called Rotenburg ob der Tauber. It's a medieval town, surrounded by high walls to protect it from invaders during that period of history.. Rotenburg was bombed during WWII and the people rebuilt it with every original piece of wood and stone so that it would exactly like it was before the War.

We were really amazed when we saw signs for shops that had pictures instead of words as names of the stores.

The bakery had a lovely picture on a sign hanging over the door of a baker wearing his large white hat.
Most people didn't know how to read in those days, so symbols and pictures were used as a means of communication.

A few years ago, one of my great aunts sent me a poem written by her mother.  As I slipped the poem from the large envelope and laid it on the table, I was in awe by the beautiful handwriting or script as they used to call it. Each letter was perfectly formed, and some had beautiful flourishes, the tips of which, looped below the invisible line. Her writing was art work. I could almost feel how proud she was when she was writing the poem.

My ancestor, the poetess, passed away giving birth to the last of ten children. Over night, my great aunt, Rosalind, fourteen years old, became a parent, taking on her mother's role as caregiver to all her younger siblings. They lived on a huge farm in Pennsylvania and even though the kids worked on the farm, education was at the top of the list. Rosalind taught her brothers and sisters how to print and write in cursive. She had attended school, yes, a one room school house, and had learned the basics then passed her knowledge to her siblings.

Aunt Rosalind not only raised all her younger siblings but she went on to become the first woman Superintendent of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania schools, something unheard of for a woman of that time. Later, she became a Professor of Mathematics at Temple University and also taught at Moravian College. 

The poem, from the late 1800's, is framed and sits on my computer desk.

It's a sad reminder that cursive is a dying art.

No comments:

Post a Comment