Daily Archives: August 1, 2012

The Lamentable Loss of America’s Literacy


While I was on vacation last week, I heard some very disturbing news. My state has adopted the Common Core State Standards curriculum that eliminates ‘cursive writing skills’ from the core curriculum of public schools. I was shocked. Shocked that any state would do such a thing, and shocked to learn that 45 states had already slipped past my notice. I’ve been writing that “education reform” is a major factor in the environment that is affecting the library in the 21st Century, but who would have thought it would go that far. I guess anyone can suffer from short sightedness.

How I missed this School Library Journal article from July 19, 2011, is a mystery that upsets me, but not nearly as much as what this “reform” is doing to education of young people. According to this Cursive Out Of Common Core Standards, But Still Hanging On article;

Currently, 46 states have adopted the Common Core curriculum, bringing some commonality to what all students are expected to learn across the country – and eventually, what they will be tested on as well. While most educators agree that keyboarding – or learning how to use a computer’s keyboard – is a critical skill in our increasingly digital age, there are still uses for handwriting, albeit fewer.

Despite the fact that the Common Core website shows only 45 states have adopted the curriculum, I’m still in shock. Actually, I was stunned a few years ago when I was close to a boy and girl (brother and sister of relatives) who were in middle school and had the worst handwriting I’d ever seen, and could not read cursive at their grade level. I later understood a bit more when I came across Jason Dorsey: The Gen-Y Guy and his video where he laments about the millennial who couldn’t read a handwritten note from his boss.

But, I honestly did not have that cognitive “moment” where I really understood that our society is becoming less literate than ever until I heard that cursive writing is out of the core curriculum across most of America. I’ve even seen that lack of ability to write cursive can inhibit reading comprehension skills. So, now we won’t be able to read or write? WHOSE ASININE IDEA WAS THIS?

No doubt some of you are wondering why in this Information Age of technology and computers – when I’ve written that we’ll soon be able to simply speak to computers and not even keyboard – that I should be shocked. It’s like the SLJ article states;

Some note that as fewer students are taught cursive, the ability to read historical documents may decrease – much like an ancient language slowly disappearing from common use.

How sad that is! It’s not that our language – the basis of our culture – is dying during our lifetime, it’s that we’re deliberately killing it! To be replaced by what? Some texting shorthand jargon that few non-digital natives understand? TM IM TILII. (Trust me, I’m telling it like it is.)

So what? How does this impact the librarianship profession?
How difficult do you think it will be:
– to work with young people who can’t read cursive?
– to answer reference questions from people who can’t write – only type?
– to help a customer with a call number in their best handwriting?

Although, the advantages to the profession will be:
– not having to erase writing from books,
– not having to erase writing from drymark boards or walls,
– not having to remove writing from bathroom stalls,

I’m sure many of you can recognize the disadvantages to any society that is unable to write or read its own language except in computer text. Tell us what they are. I’m too stunned to think of them all.

ADDENDUM:
My initial review of the Common Core Standards revealed that the word “cursive” was not in the Standards – anywhere. A reader comment prompted me to more closely read the Standards for reading and writing requirements. I’m not encouraged.

Under “Language Standards” the Kindergartners (under the Conventions of Standard English section), are supposed to “1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.” by (among other skills) “a. Print many upper- and lowercase letters.” Grade 1 students are supposed to “a. Print all upper- and lowercase letters.” (Pg. 26) That’s it. Writing letters is not mentioned again.

Under “Writing Standards” (which one would think included “writing” letters – silly me), Kindergartners (under the Production and Distribution of Writing section) are supposed to “6. With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers. (Pg. 19) Grade 3 students are supposed to “6. With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others. (Pg. 21)

My more informed concern now is that after Grade 1, kids will no longer be expected to handwrite anything, they will be expected to increase their “keyboarding” skills. Even in Kindergarten kids can produce written documents using “technology to produce and publish writing.” There is NO expectation for kids to EVER use handwriting!

Maybe this falls under the “everything I need to know in life I learned in Kindergarten” philosophy, but I still think it’s leading to a disastrous future for literacy. Like I wrote – WHOSE ASININE IDEA WAS THIS?

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