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Letters | Still no change in local cursive policies; Use it or lose it
At the Feb. 28, 2013, meeting of District 410’s board, I inquired as to the status of teaching cursive in our schools. Although disappointed to learn of our lack of emphasis after teaching it in the third grade, I was somewhat encouraged by the board’s interest in the issue. Since then, I have talked to many persons, adults and students, about the use of cursive. Many of the adults had heard about the national trend of de-emphasizing cursive. Almost without exception, they were disgusted with that development. The students were either uncomfortable using and reading it or couldn’t use it at all. My subsequent letter to the editor expressed some of my reactions. I’ve continued those inquiries, but chose to let the issue take a lower priority to the district’s involvement in facility planning and negotiation.
I eventually brought this topic to the board again at their October 26 meeting, hoping to learn of a new cursive retention program. However, with a few flourishes, the response was “no change,” or, in my words, “business as usual.” It seems as though some teachers, on their own initiative, are giving their students the opportunity to practice their cursive. I applaud those efforts, which, if extended throughout the grade levels are, I feel, the pathway to competency to read and write our own English language. I hope the district would formally structure such a program.
As I’ve thought about this cursive issue, I reflected on the introduction of calculators to our sixth grade in the 1970s. The board, of which I was a member, at first strongly resisted that administrative proposal. I don’t recall how long we held out, but eventually we agreed. My experience with that decision has convinced me that it was probably the worst educational decision I ever participated in. Unfortunately, I also learned that the district still allows use of a calculator throughout most of the grades. Even though the district’s students achieve high marks in the state math assessment tests, those tests at the upper grades are performed with the assistance of their approved calculators.
Our students’ spelling ability is even suspect, by their use of electronic word processing (and) Spell Check. I think electronic devices have an important function in everyday life. The skill of using them, however, should not be achieved at the expense of educating our students. It is premature to be obsessed with the crutch that is provided by electronic devices during the short period of time in which basic education is supposed to be our public schools’ mission. What students choose to pursue after graduation is their individual choice. Many choices may include the requirement to be computer literate. If not already so equipped, there are ample post-graduate sources for achieving these skills. That is secondary, however, to being verbally literate, being able to read and write our language and having the ability to use the four basic mathematical functions—all a product of basic education. I think we’re losing sight of that objective!