April 14, 2013

Cursive instruction declining in area schools


---- — PLATTSBURGH — With the advent of text messages and emails, the only handwritten memos coming out of John Donohue’s office these days are thank-you notes.

“I think with the increase of technology, the actual opportunities to hand write are very limited,” said the Ticonderoga Elementary School principal.

And Salmon River Elementary School Principal Kevin Walbridge agrees that in a world where children as young as first and second grade have access to smart phones and other interactive handheld devices, hand-scripted words are being somewhat pushed aside.

“I think we live in an era of technology and almost too much technology,” he said.


Though cursive is still taught at his school, Walbridge said, the implementation of the state-mandated Common Core Standards has put so much focus on English-language arts, reading and math curriculum that finding time to fit handwriting lessons into the school day is difficult.

At Ticonderoga Elementary, it has been left up to third- and fourth-grade teachers to decide whether to incorporate cursive instruction into their classes, according to Donohue, and those who chose to teach it do so minimally.

“With the amount of pressures with the Common Core curriculum, unfortunately, some things do need to be let go,” he said.


While cursive continues to be taught at Minerva Central School for the time being, Principal Heidi Kelly said it will likely be re-evaluated at some point.

“It may very well be a skill that is going to provide less and less usefulness as we enter the digital age,” she said.

Walbridge agrees with critics who allege that doing away with cursive in schools could result in future generations who are unable to read handwritten historical documents or even pen their own signatures.

“There’s a lot of truth to that,” he said.

Such concerns are valid, noted Kelly, but it’s hard to know just how limiting cursive illiteracy would be.

For example, she said, technology may soon allow people to electronically convert scripted documents into plain text.

“I kind of understand both sides of the coin,” said Ginene Mason, principal of AuSable Forks Elementary School, where students continue to learn cursive.

Technology is important, she said, and kids are increasingly being asked to complete tasks that require it.

At the same time, Mason noted, “I think it’s important for any person to have legible handwriting.”

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These articles are the second in a two-part package on a change in national standards that could eliminate cursive-writing lessons.