Thursday, October 22, 2009

Village Idiot of the Day, October 22, 2009: Stark County School Officials, Cpt Kuncles, jdp66, cal2412

We'll make this long and sweet today: Cursive Writing.

Who knew that the teaching of cursive writing is a form of child abuse? Or that, in fact, handwriting is as moribund as the buggy whip?

KSU-Stark English comp professor, Stephen Neiderhiser, that's who. Quoted in Cursive Writing in Danger of Becoming a Lost Art, Neiderhiser says, "

“I had a lot of difficulty learning cursive as a young person, so I was kind of jubilant when I heard it was going out of style. For many people, in my field and in the discussions of teaching of writing, the idea of what it means to be able to write cursive has become kind of antiquated.”

Neiderhiser said he doesn’t use cursive but “can sign my name in a very stylized way as many people do.”

(Note: Obviously, Prof Niederhiser was traumatized by the murder of Claude Deagle and the subsequent theft of his penmanship medal; thus, his irrational fear of cursive writing and the threat he believed it held to his very life. We are happy that Prof. Niederhiser, after years of therapy, has overcome his fear and can now sign checks and grade rosters. We urge him to continue treatment.)

Secondly, we have Scott Blake, a media relations specialist (whatever that is) from the Ohio Department of Education promoting a "local option" for handwriting instruction:

“Our content standards address the use of cursive writing starting in grades three and four, but there is no state assessment or measurement of cursive writing in particular,” he said. “The content standards for all subjects are guidelines, but the curriculum that districts use is a local decision.”

Thirdly, we have Matt Ille, the North Canton City Schools District's instructional supervisor (whatever that is):

But learning to write cursive isn’t easy. That’s why North Canton City Schools uses the program, “Handwriting Without Tears.”

The method, says Matt Ile, the district’s instructional supervisor, is meant to ease the task for students so that the emphasis is not on forming perfect letters, which can bring some students to tears.

“We like it because it got rid of the stigma that writing had to be pretty,” Ile said. “Handwriting can be laborious for some children. We did not want it to become an impediment for children who wanted to write.”

NOTE: Handwriting without Tears"???? Gee, IHC doesn't remember anybody crying when we learned to write. But that was then. Today we wouldn't want our little darlings to suffer and stigma over such an archaic skill as handwriting would we? To compensate for their dullness and lack of pencil dexterity our 10 O-Clock Scholars might have to stuff down an afterschool Happy Meal; thus, reflecting the real problem in education today: fat kids. (see below)

Fourthly we have Jackson Local Supt. Cheryl Jaschak:

“Most people don’t think we teach it anymore because kids aren’t writing as much as they used to,” she said.

Even though students are not tested for proficient handwriting on state achievement exams, “I still think you have to sign your name, and you need to know cursive writing for that,” Haschak says.

Testing has drilled cursive writing down to a minutia, said Haschak. The basic 21st century skills employers are seeking are teamwork and critical thinking.

Art, music and physical education aren’t on state tests either, “but what’s the biggest push right now in our country? Wellness and obesity,” Haschak said. “If we don’t connect those areas I think we’re in trouble.”

Excuse my English, Cheryl, but WTF???? Are we really having a serious discussion on the usefulness of handwriting and the skill's marked insignificance compared to "teamwork" and "critical thinking?" Since when has "critical thinking" ever been considered a virtue in the classroom OR the workplace?

What next? Reading? Why bother to luxuriate in Jane Austen or James Ellroy (who writes all his novels in cursive) when you can pop in or download an audiobook to listen to when you jog.

Handwriting itself is solitary act of thought, intellectual deliberation, and dare we say, even art, though we admit most, including ours, isn't up to Palmer standards. The handwritten word is the core of ideas, expression, and creation. without the mediation of contemporary technology. And what happens when that technology goes away, or doesn't exist?

We all know what the real problem is, and it's not kids being abused by the cursive alphabet. It's lazy teachers and parents who think cursive should be scuttled for...well, we're not sure what. Kuymbaya time in the classroom? News flash: school is not supposed to be fun . Ever try algebra?

Here's what our locals have to say:

Cpt_Kunckles
Let it go. Cursive isn't worth the time and effort of teaching it. A good replacement would be shorthand. At least shorthand still has a legitimate purpose. Using written letters or signatures as a reason to continue to teach Cursive is shortsighted, nostalgic reasoning. Younger generations rarely bother to hand write a letter and most contracts are signed digitally. E-mail and texts are the future, as well as 'Do you accept' buttons on computers. Are children would be better served learning almost anything else.

jdp66:
Cursive writing is a dinasour. Let it go.


cal2410
How about we teach students how to string together coherent thougts to form sentences and paragraphs first? Using correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar is far more important than old fashioned penmanship. When is the last time you had to write something in 'cursive' at work? I know I never do.

Well, good for Cal. Personally IHC has never had a job, outside of stuffing ad supplements in newspapers at 50 cents an hour, in which handwriting wasn't important. We'd love to know what Cal does for a living. Artificially inseminate chickens?

Here's what commenter jdr1wiz as to say about Cal's claim. We don't believe Cal will be working for him in the near future.

jdr1wiz
I am a professional accountant and I regularly write memos and results of my work in cursive because as I was brought up, cursive is the language of the professional. Unfortunately, that is not completely the case anymore. Oftentimes when I encounter a new person younger than I, they cannot read it. Yet all of my superiors write in cursive and I think appreciate that a younger person has a grasp on this artform....

...Personally, I want teachers to focus on handwriting and grammar. In my profession, the use of handwriting will not be subsiding during these kids lifetimes and one day when I am the boss if I get some new college grad who can't write they are in trouble. Similarly, teachers should focus on grammar and sentence structure. I know I am not that old, but it seems like kids just 5-10 years younger than me are dumber than rocks when it comes to putting together a comprehendable sentence. Shorthand, misspelling, and poor grammar are the norm... and again when I am the boss I will have none of that crap.

And here's commenter bbj with a scary real life story:

bbj:
Cursive-writing-is-in-danger-of-becoming-a-lost-art" Maybe it depends on which you school your kids attend. My son who is 17 had barely a week of cursive in school. As a result, he cannot write in cursive. He couldn't even sign his name on a job application until I showed him. Sure, some schools my 'mention' it, but there is little to no follow through with learning it or using it. My daughter is a little bit better, but not much.

If the entire argument that meaningfulness of handwriting boils down to a signature, why not just teach students to make a "mark" It it was good enough for Americans 150 years ago, it's good enough now.

We grant our local professional education experts Stepehen Neiderhiser, Scott Blake, Matt Ille, and Cheryl Jaschak; and our local illiterates: Cpt. Knuclkes, jdp66. and cal2410, Village Idiot of the Day, October 22, 2009. They also receive a basket of kisses courtesy of IHC. We give the Rhoda Penmark Memorial Penmanship Award to djriwiz and bbj for demanding cursive standards. Rhoda is proud of you, but wonders how far you'd go to preserve cursive.

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2 comments:

shirley u jestolieto said...

Typical Cheryl Haschak remark! I love how she oh-so-subtly attacks state testing but also manages to put in a plug for the importance of physical education. A little background for those who may not be familiar with Haschak's agenda: there is a large group of involved persons in Jackson who wish to give gym credit to students who are involved in sports, marching band, etc. Haschak refuses to allow this, despite it being permissible by the State and would save the district money. If Haschak doesn't think up an idea herself, then she will oppose it with full venom! She was an excellent choice for VIOD, I Hate Canton. Well chosen.

BD said...

Yes, we remember that. We had a vague memory of Hashak and PE when we were writing, but didn't go back to look We found her intolerable then, and still do. Thanks for the reminder to us all. No doubt she makes a bucket of money.