30 January 2011


Just when I thought the academic standards of our public school system had gone about as far down as it could go, here is another step down the road towards illiteracy.  Now, in its infinite wisdom, Georgia has adopted standards (the COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS FOR ENGLISH) which omits entirely the teaching of cursive handwriting.  Teachers and school administrators will meet in March to decide whether or not to amend the standards and include cursive handwriting.

There should be no debate.  In an ARTICLE in the online edition of the Athens (Georgia) Banner-Herald, some of the reasons given are: 

1) More and more students "prefer" using computers or text messages instead of handwriting; why should it matter what a kid "prefers"?  This comes down to who's the adult and who's the child?  When I was in school, I would have "preferred" to not study algebra, but rather use a calculator.  Nobody asked me.  I did what the teachers and school administrators told me.  The same principle should apply here.  But I don't guess this is a valid reason any longer as children now are taught and treated like they are equal with adults. 

2) A teacher at Clarke Middle School in Athens made the observation that  many of her students "prefer" (there's that word again) to use printed block letters on their assignments instead of cursive handwriting.  WHAT???  Why is this even an option?  If I or any of my fellow students had turned in an assignment with second or third grade block style printing, I would have had it given back so fast it would have made our heads swim.  At the very least, we would have been told to do it over, and some teachers might have even given a zero on the assignment.  The very idea of a middle school student writing like a second grader is absolutely ridiculous. THAT'S ready for the job market for sure!

3) This same middle school teacher with twenty years of experience added that over the years many of her students had stopped being able to read cursive writing, so she when she writes on the board, she has to be sure to PRINT what she reads so that all the students can read what she is writing.  Unbelievable.  I would never have imagined that I would see the day where a middle or high school student would only be able to read elementary school level printing.  Still yet another way our kids are really prepared for college and the job market.

There are those educators who are very concerned about this trend.  They should be, and so should any parent who has a child in the government school system.  Not being able to handwrite means not being able to write adequately for the essay portion of standardized tests.  A student being able to write can score eighty percent higher if the student's handwriting is legible.

The chairman of the English Department at Clarke Middle School, Ian Altman, is one of a number of teachers who are concerned about the "emphasis on word processing skills, technology, and how it affects students' ability to read, spell, and organize their thoughts."

Altman said, "Students sometimes do not realize how important that is, or even what it means and looks like.  So that often goes out the window when they're just trying to get it done quickly, and because they can type a sentence faster than they can write one by hand, they do not have to take the time to relax, focus, and make sure that sentence fits logically into a larger purpose.  That certainly is not the case for all students all the time, but it is an identifiable trend."

Very sad commentary.  Kids graduating from the government schools are anything but prepared for the job market as it is.  I can tell you that having been a human resources officer for some years in the 1990's how unprepared kids really were.  The grammar and sentence construction on the job applications was appalling.  Many of them bordered on illiteracy and were difficult and sometimes impossible to understand.  Now, taking another step away from academic excellence is going to be debated in March.  Preposterous.  There should not be any debate on this.

Another very sad aspect of this is that the minds of today's children are as bright and sharp as they ever were.  But all the intellect in the world is useless if the education is poor and inadequate.

Oh, by the way.  If you don't live in Georgia, your children are not immune from this.  Georgia and forty other states have adopted these same curriculum standards.  So if the states that follow these standards have not specifically modified to include penmanship, then it won't be taught.

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