Saturday, January 9, 2010
The hardest part of the ACT was writing in cursive
by Tara Seale
That is what my son told me after he took the ACT in December. He said that he couldn't remember how to write in cursive, so he just printed and made a few loops here and there. When the proctor collected the tests, she paused, looked over his statement, and he worried that she would announce that he did not write in cursive. As my son and other students filed out of the room, they asked one another, "Do you know how to make a capital S in cursive?" and "Do you think it matters if I messed up the statement by not writing in cursive?"
When he arrived home, he had a discussion with his sister, a freshman in college, about writing in cursive. They both asked me why teachers waste so much time teaching students to write in cursive in elementary school when they never use it again.
I have been thinking about this discussion and their question. I am not sure I know the answer. When I decided to write this post, I Googled writing the ACT statement in cursive to see if anyone else had posted about students finding this difficult. Ironically, I found a student who started a Facebook group called The Hardest Part of the ACT test was copying the statement in cursive. I also found a post describing a situation similar to my son's titled Lost Art of Cursive Handwriting.
I decided to continue my quest to answer these questions: Should students write in cursive? Does it matter? Should we quit teaching cursive writing? Have we quit teaching it?
Time Magazine published an article in August 2009 titled Mourning the Death of Handwriting, and I found an interesting blog post response to the article at the Freestyle Pen titled Is handwriting really dead? A Washington Post article titled The Handwriting is on the Wall provided some interesting statistics, such as, in 2006 only 15 percent of the students taking the SAT wrote their essay in cursive, the rest printed in block letters.
I am not providing the answers to my questions in this post, but I am seeking answers. In my school district, students are required to learn cursive writing in 3rd grade, but that is the last time it is required. Students take keyboarding in 7th grade, but maybe it would be more beneficial to no longer teach cursive writing in 3rd grade and move keyboarding to 3rd grade instead. What would happen if we abandoned cursive altogether and totally embraced digital writing? I believe we are doing it slowly anyway, but I am not positive, so if you are a teacher, please complete the survey I created in Google Forms to gather information about how often teachers present handwritten material to students and how often teachers require handwritten material from students. You should be able to see the results at the end.
Link to the Results for people not taking the survey.