MOUNT VERNON — The newly adopted state Common Core curriculum does not require schools to teach cursive writing, although individual districts may continue to do so. The focus will now be on keyboarding skills.
The Ohio Common Core curriculum is based on new national common core standards. Veteran educator Emily Funston, principal of Fredericktown Elementary School, said the Ohio Academic Content Standards and the new Common Core standards “aren’t bizarre things mysteriously appearing in our schools. They are written by educators, often classroom teachers, who work on local and national committees.”
“The Common Core needs to be taken seriously,” continued Funston. “These very important standards are to be taught across the country, across grade levels. We’re a mobile country and students transfer into and out of districts at a rather alarming rate. If we think nationally instead of locally, it’s a good thing to have a ‘common core’ of knowledge for the nation’s children. It does not mean, however, that we need to abandon every local thing that we teach.”
Funston said that while schools must teach what is in the Common Core curriculum, they are not prohibited from teaching things in addition to the standards. She said teachers will still teach local history and government, their favorite dinosaur units, outdoor education and penmanship.
“The challenge for today’s teachers,” she added, “is how to incorporate those fun and necessary things with the Common Core standards so that everything is accomplished.”
The switch from cursive writing to keyboarding skills will make the school lives of some students much easier, according to John Bradley, occupational therapist with the Knox County Educational Service Center.
“Most of the kids that I work with have fine motor issues, so, if they can just get printing down, that’s fantastic,” Bradley explained. “A lot of times, there can be issues when the teachers want them to do cursive. It’s like it is too much of a hurdle for the children to change what they have already learned. For me, coming from a special ed point of view, it’s probably good that they’re not requiring it any more. A lot of times I use keyboarding when a child is not successful with printing, when handwriting is not functional for them. If you think about it, probably the majority of adults do a mix of cursive and printing, and a lot of them just do printing. As long as something can be read on a job application, that’s primarily where people have to do a lot of handwriting now.”
Mildred Clinker, going on 92, thinks it’s “plain stupid” to eliminate cursive writing. She learned the skill in 1926 while a first-grader at McKinley School in Randolph County, Ind.
“It was called penmanship, then,” she said. “I think it is fine to add keyboarding, but I don’t believe keyboarding is basic for writing. Pen and paper or paper and pencil skills are important. ... How about art when we go to draw? Are we going to have some rhythm with our movements? How can you draw the clouds like that [non-cursive]? It all comes from what’s in our minds. If we don’t have any rhythm in our minds, we can’t enjoy any of nature, can we? Isn’t nature made up of rhythm, of circles?”
Sarah Heintz, community relations specialist at Emeritus, said if schools don’t teach the basics and people go to things like keyboarding, they need to take things like power failures into account.
“We have become a society that’s just dependent upon technology,” she said. “You lose a computer, or what’s on it, you’ve lost everything. If you don’t know how to write it down, what are you going to have to refer to?”
“Certainly technology is changing society in general and schools in particular,” said Funston. “Penmanship isn’t as important as it used to be, but legible penmanship will still be around for a while, and we’ll still teach it as long as people are still writing.”