Can You Read This?

....your children may not be able to. There is a growing trend among elementary schools to stop teaching cursive handwriting. Under pressure because of the new Common Curriculum and high stakes testing, many subjects that may be seen as nonessential are taught at the discretion of local principals. "You always know the students who are coming from Catholic schools," says one local high school teacher, "they can read and write script and they know factors." Factors of a number, the numbers which when multiplied by each other produce the number, can only be learned by memorizing multiplication tables, another dying skill.

So why don't schools want to teach these skills anymore? Many argue that they are not "testable" skills and that there is not sufficient time in promote skills that "don't matter" in an "assessment" environment.

On the other hand, promoters of cursive writing point to the intangibles that derive from writing in cursive: developing fine motor skills, reinforcing learning of letters and adding a cross-curricular element to student development. They also note that it may actually benefit students with disabilities such as dyslexia as it makes each letter more easily distinguishable.

Multiplication tables too can give students an advantage. Often memorizing the tables is dismissed as a "lower order skill" of rote memory, not a more valued interpretative skill. Yet multiplication is essential to everyday math, as well as higher order skills such as factoring. It is also worth noting that many enrichment programs for children offered for sale to parents attempt to supply these skills.

Local Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz made headlines yesterday as he called on local school officials to reinstate cursive writing and the learning of multiplication tables in the curriculum. Arguing that we are graduating a generation of students that can't even sign their names, Mr. Dinowitz said, "The notion that a pupil could graduate from 12 years of education without knowing how to sign his or her name in cursive is unacceptable." To combat the trend, Assemblyman Dinowitz has introduced legislation that would amend the local education law to include cursive writing and mastery of multiplication skills as essential. "It's sort of like the dumbing down of our education," the Assemblyman said. "To say that its OK for kids to rely on the keyboard and the calculator is not right."

What do you think?



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