Handwriting is NOT Irrelevant

Handwriting sample written by a five-year-old child who has been taught how to do it.

The barbarians are not at the gates. They are inside the gates — and have academic tenure…What has failed is accepted without question by so-called ‘thinking people’ and what worked is disdained as being out of touch with the times.
— Thomas Sowell

I read a jaw-dropping essay in my local paper the other day. It was written by a teacher and took the position that the teaching of cursive writing to children should stop. The argument was that there just isn’t time in the school day to waste it on such an obsolete skill. Computer training, wrote this teacher, is much more important because in the future everyone will use computers for writing tasks of every description.

I can’t be sure what this forward-looking Educator means by “cursive,” but I got the idea that he wasn’t talking about the Palmer method of pretty handwriting. He seemed to mean any kind of pencil to paper writing as opposed to keyboard use.

Apparently he’s not alone in this kind of thinking. My paper has also been running stories about school districts in which kindergartners and early elementary children are being equipped with computer devices for classroom use. What, I wonder, does a six-year-old need to learn with the help of a computer?

It’s in learning to form the letters of the alphabet with one’s own hands and in learning the correspondence between speech sound and speech symbol that we learn not only how to read, but how to think in such a way as to learn other things.

More than ever before, parents who want literate children capable of critical thinking need to begin the reading process at home. Teach them the letters of the alphabet and their sounds. Show them how to arrange letters into a few simple words like cat, run, and stop. And don’t be too trusting of those reading shows on PBS. Some of them, like Super Why, encourage children to look at words from back to front, or from some other confusing angle.  Children have to be taught to approach words from left to right. Cutesy graphics that put words together from every direction reinforce symptoms of dyslexia.

Thanks to recent studies, some school districts are being required to reinstate instruction in cursive writing: Keyboards are overrated. Cursive is back and it’s making us smarter.

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