I was scrolling through Facebook recently when I stumbled across a story about the latest decision awaiting the Kansas State Board of Education, I was not only compelled to comment immediately, but I knew I had to write something, too.
The board is discussing whether cursive handwriting should remain a part of its curriculum. The story opens like this: “Should children born into a world of computers, iPads, smartphones and e-cards have to learn old-fashioned cursive handwriting?”
As someone who still writes in cursive, my immediate inclination was, “Of course!” But as I thought more about this issue (and posted my comment on the Kansas City Star’s Facebook page), I realized there’s a much bigger issue at stake. Is technology making us lazy?
Case in point: “Today’s children type, text, and e-mail more frequently than they write longhand,” writes Suzanne Perez Tobias for The Wichita Eagle. Because of this shift in skills, more parents are concerned about having their kids properly prepped to use technology, rather than focusing on longstanding curriculum components such as penmanship.
Technology most certainly shouldn’t be ignored—I’m a big fan of students’ learning computer and other related skills so that they’re poised for success in an increasingly digital world.
That said, eliminating areas of study such as cursive handwriting creates a slippery slope. If, for example, cursive handwriting is removed from schools because kids use technological devices more frequently than handwritten correspondence, does that mean that we’ll reach a time when handwriting will cease to be taught all together?
Becoming overly reliant on one form of communication, or one way of doing anything, seems dangerous. After all, technology certainly isn’t foolproof—and putting all of our eggs in the technology basket seems risky.
I turned 30 in August, and I still lament the reliance on calculators I observed in my math classes. Even though I struggled mightily with subjects like math and science, my numerical skills (or lack thereof) weren’t helped by the fact that we could turn to our cutting-edge TI-82 calculators to solve not only basic problems, but more complex equations, too. Would it have been so horrible to focus on how to solve these problems without a gadget?
I’m not in a position to influence school board decisions, but as curricula evolve, I’d hope that stakeholders keep one key term in mind: balance. Sure, it’s smart to prepare students for what’s ahead, but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon the skills of yesterday.
Now that I’ve spouted off, I’d love for you to weigh in. Do you think the Kansas State Board of Education should vote to keep cursive handwriting as part of the statewide curriculum? Do you worry that technology is making us lazy, or do you think the prevalence of digital devices and communication is unveiling a whole new set of skills and intelligence?
A version of this article first appeared on V3.