IT skills force out need for cursive writing in schools

Keyboard typing and messaging are the way of future no doubt but at the cost of cursive writing? That seems to be the trend as Indiana this week became one of a number of states that no longer require cursive to be taught, but rather require typing skills instead.

The Indiana move is part of a larger move to a common learning and ultimately testing program known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative. That program, developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA), and adopted by 46 state governors in June 2010, outlines all manner of language and math education yardsticks for the future. Keyboarding is one of the skills students are expected to master, cursive writing is not.

The idea is that keyboarding skills will be more important for students and workers of the future.

For example, the standards document states: “Grade 3– With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others. Grade 4 — With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.”

It should be noted that teachers have the option to continue to teach cursive as the standards are meant to be flexible, not exclusive.

Still the idea the cursive will not be taught in many states isn’t sitting well with everyone.

From the “I don’t agree with it,” said Jerry Long, who also has a sixth-grade daughter. “I think they should have the opportunity to learn all the skills they will need. How are they supposed to know how to sign their names?”

From the blog: “Just a couple of quick questions from me on this one: First: If children do not learn to write their names in cursive lettering, will they be permitted to sign their unemployment checks in block print letters? When it comes to a college education, will any of these children be able to read the cursive writings of historical literature? What of the various essay questions that will appear on standardized tests; will students be permitted to block-print their essays? When there is no keyboard available or if their computer crashes will that be a permissible excuse for not completing homework assignments?”

From the BBC: “The fluidity of cursive allows for gains in spelling and a better tie to what they are reading and comprehending through stories and through literature,” Paul Sullivan, head teacher of a school in California, told CNN. “I think there’s a firmer connection of wiring between the brain’s processes of learning these skills and the actual practice of writing.”

Others say the move is a progressive, reflection of the times that will ultimately help students and future workers.

Again from a BBC report: Dr. Scott Hamilton, an Indiana clinical psychologist, said the time children spend laboring over script could be better used. “From an intuitive standpoint, this makes sense, based on the increasingly digital world into which this generation of children is growing up,” he said.

Again from the Indianapolis Star: “I think it’s progressive of our state to be ahead on this,” Denna Renbarger, assistant superintendent for Lawrence Township (Indiana) schools, tells the Indianapolis Star. “There are a lot more important things than cursive writing.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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