Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Most Recent "Oh Noes!" Moment in Education‏

I read an article the other day in which the author had gone into “the sky is falling” mode because schools are no longer teaching cursive writing. in her words, “the teachers are so busy with high class loads, unrelenting testing demands caused by “no Child Left Behind”, and the changing world into which these kids will be living that they no longer have time to teach things like cursive writing…”

I also understand that they have stopped teaching children how to use a type-writer, too. In fact, I heard just yesterday that there isn’t a single kid in our local graduating class that knows Morse Code, much less the fine art of telegraphy.

The world is coming to an end and the sky is quite obviously falling.

We are all. Going. To. Die…

…or not.

To those that do not know, cursive writing was invented as a way to hand-write a lot, more quickly, and with less hand fatigue caused by lifting the instrument off of the paper with every letter. In a time when the only real way to write something was by hand, cursive writing allowed people to write longer and faster, and it was invaluable.

Think hard now – when was the last time that you wrote anything other than a quick jot on a post-it note? A complete sentence? A few sentences maybe?

How long has it been since you filled up a piece of paper with your handwriting?

In the current day of portable typing devices like laptops and even smart phones, writing by hand is becoming more and more obsolete. Printing in standard letter form, by hand, is literally something people only do to write quick reminders and thank-you notes to other people. I spent months of my childhood learning cursive writing – months which could have been better used learning how to program a computer or plan a proper diet for myself once mom was no longer around to cook for me. It has rarely come in handy (if ever) and all of that time would have been much better spent learning to type on a QWERTY keyboard – something that was not in the curriculum of my grade-school days, apparently having been superseded by more important things - like learning to write cursive.

This reminds me of the constant cries that places like China and Japan are leaving us behind in terms of general education of our young people. Technically, yes, their kids have a better knowledge base, when only pure facts are considered, than ours do at graduation. Yet, it is Americans who continue to out-produce, out-think, and out-earn every other people on the planet, despite this, and I think that this is in large part due to the fact that we spend a lot less time learning stupid facts about things that we don’t need to know*, and a lot less time learning useless things like cursive writing.

*What I mean by this is that yes, they outscore us in Astrophysics at High School Graduation, but who gives a shit? 98% of Americans will never need to know or learn Astrophysics, so why waste time with it? Why not do exactly what we do, and reserve it for specialized higher education for people that actually want to go into a career in Astrophysics instead of teaching it to everyone, including the majority of people who won’t ever need to know these things, will never use them, and could give a shit less about them?

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