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We shouldn’t let cursive handwriting fade away

Editor’s note: Editor Brenda Linert is on vacation this week. This “From the editor’s desk” column was first published in 2015.

My newspaper recently published a story by education reporter Margaret Thompson that discussed a Howland second-grade classroom that spends about 15 minutes per week learning cursive handwriting.

That doesn’t sound like much time, but the sad thing is, 15 minutes per week actually is a lot compared to some others that have completely eliminated all lessons in cursive handwriting.

The changes have come for a few reasons. First, some don’t think the ability to write cursive is important anymore because young children today will grow up using gadgets like laptops, tablets and smartphones to communicate. The odds are slim that they will be writing love letters to their sweethearts with paper and pencil. But wouldn’t it be nice if they could?

Another reason some districts, like the Newton Falls School District, have cut the classes from their curriculum is that teachers are finding themselves so strapped for time preparing students to take state-mandated testing that now they are eliminating lessons for things that aren’t on the tests — despite their level of importance.

I personally have seen a lack of handwriting skills in both my sons, (then) aged 17 and 12. Thankfully each did learn cursive in third grade. But beyond that grade, no classroom teacher required — or even urged — them to do their assignments in cursive, and as a result, both reverted to printing. (I don’t know about you, but after I learned cursive in elementary school, I was required to use my new skill. Printing was no longer acceptable!) For my sons though, other than signing their names, cursive handwriting just doesn’t come naturally.

The idea of this “art” falling by the wayside really bothered me, so this weekend I asked my younger son to sit down and show me his cursive handwriting. As I asked him to handwrite simple words, I was relieved to see much of it did come back to him. Some, however, did not, and I had to remind him how to write k, z and most of his uppercase letters. But with the foundation he had learned in school, I know I can work with him to maintain the skill.

When I attended high school in the early 1980s, my mother had urged me to take an elective course of shorthand. She also had taken it in high school and thought it would be helpful to me. I knew I wanted to be a journalist, and so I agreed thinking it could come in handy. Looking back, I can honestly say it was one of the best things I ever learned. To this day, I use my shorthand every single day. Countless times sources and co-workers have expressed their amazement as they watch me scribble away in what many jokingly described as “hieroglyphics.” It’s a wonderful skill that many have envied — but one that is fading fast.

Sadly, cursive handwriting may not be far behind.

Will today’s children be able to write a check without the assistance of online banking? Will they be able to read historical documents that haven’t been transcribed to block letters on a website somewhere?

Let’s hope so. But it just may take some public outcry to ensure that at least the basics remain part of the curriculum in Ohio schools.

blinert@tribtoday.com

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