Editorial: Long live the art of penmanship
Is penmanship becoming a lost art? In many states, it may very well be lost forever. A growing trend to eliminate cursive from elementary school curriculum or make it optional seems to be taking shape across the nation.
In fact, 45 states plan to eliminate cursive handwriting with computer keyboarding proficiency as a requirement for completing elementary school under new national curriculum guidelines for English and math. Fortunately, Massachusetts, California and Georgia are among the states that have preserved cursive as a mandatory part of third-grade curriculum in adopting their national curriculum guidelines for 2014.
It seems terribly shortsighted to eliminate the penmanship requirement. Why not teach students both keyboarding and cursive? Certainly, computer skills are important for young students to learn, but many students already have exposure to typing and electronic devices before they even get to third grade. Chances are, though, that none of them would know how to write in cursive. Why cheat them out of this valuable skill?
Some educators — and a growing number of students — say that cursive is a waste of time these days. They ask why should students have to learn two different scripts, when one — printing — is sufficient? But the art of penmanship should not go the way of the Dodo bird. Proponents of teaching penmanship say that cursive helps students’ brains, coordination and motor skills, and it connects them to the past.
Many students these days apparently never write in cursive, shunning it for printing when they write. They even have trouble reading it since they see it as “a waste” of brain space. Such thinking is especially detrimental to understanding our past. Handwritten letters and primary documents are often important links to understanding local, national and world history, and even family histories.
Think of the U.S. Constitution, letters from the Civil War, World War I, World War II, or even correspondence from parents and grandparents and earlier ancestors offering genealogy clues that these youngsters would miss. Imagine all the lost educational opportunities if cursive writing essentially became a foreign language to future generations. If students no longer learn cursive, we may lose a crucial connection to our past.
While it’s true that students ought to learn how to properly use technology, and they will almost certainly text and type much more frequently than they write in their lifetimes, it is unnecessary and potentially detrimental to sacrifice the art of penmanship in order to teach youngsters proper typing.
Penmanship helps us understand and keep a valuable connection to our past. Let’s hope that Massachusetts’ commitment to preserving the art of old-fashioned writing lasts throughout the generations.
Fall River, Mass., The Herald News