Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Penmanship ~ A Lost Art?

I remember when I was a kid, my grandmother had a family Bible that she kept in a drawer. I was always pulling it out and leafing through the pages, because in it, there was a small family tree written in the most beautiful handwriting I had ever seen. Grandma said that her grandfather had done the writing, that he was an expert in and teacher of penmanship. I don't know what happened to that Bible, but I do remember the beautiful artwork that graced those pages.

When I was in first and second grade, my teachers taught me how to print. When I got to third grade, the teacher asked my class to write a paper in cursive. None of us knew how. She became agitated, saying "You were supposed to learn that in second grade. I don't have time to teach that to you. See those letters above the chalkboard. Write them just like that and connect them." That's how I learned cursive writing.

Two years later they closed the school I attended and I had to go to another. None of us from the closed school had ever learned to write properly and this new school had penmanship tests. They even sent samples of our writing in for evaluation. I worked and worked to try to do it right and finally, by the end of the school year, I had earned a certificate in penmanship. I was so proud, but it wasn't anything close to the artful handwriting I had seen in grandma's Bible. So I practiced and practiced. As it turned out, I never could write like that.

When I started teaching high school students, I was amazed that so many of them still printed. They had learned cursive, but printing was easier for them (and I might add, more legible). I thought it was important that they actually have a signature that looked like it had been written by an adult, so I always made them sign their papers. After many years, I gave up on this. I was happy if they just remembered to put their names on their papers at all.

Now, I'm reading articles that say cursive is no longer being taught. Students learn to print so that they know their letters and can communicate in the form of notes. But because everything they do is in the form of word processing, emails, or text messaging, the need for penmanship no longer exists.

Usually I have strong opinions about topics like this. I hate to see students no longer learning cursive writing and penmanship. Yet, on the other hand, why spend valuable time that could be better spent learning skills they actually need?

I don't know? How do you feel about this?

Some information at: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/6626663.html and http://www.parentdish.com/2009/08/31/so-much-for-penmanship-school-replaces-cursive-with-keyboarding/

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