Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What The Fuck... Theatre #3

And some more fucked up topics to discuss:

  • Twitter Blocked in Egypt: and all twitter-related apps as well. All because of some big headed, all powerful, master manipulating returning president. Egyptian citizens were outraged when they were informed that their ex authoritarian president won the election by a (rigged?) 90% landslide. Before taking to the streets, they took to their cellphones, texting and tweeting their protests. Can you imagine living in a country where your freedoms were taken from you for speaking your mind? What absolute bullshit! That shit is fucked up!
  • Please Print Your Name Here: Why am I just now hearing that 41 states have adopted a new core standard for English that does not include teaching our children how to write in cursive? Here's the argument: Teaching cursive is more time consuming and not as useful as keyboard skills! What the Fucking Fuck?! It is also one skill that is not assessed when testing for the No Child Left Behind law. Oh pah-lease. Are we really that obsessed with the internet age that handwriting no longer matters? What ever happened the weight of a signature? How will children sign their checks, or the deed to their homes? Have we really gotten so lazy?

And that concludes the third installment of What The Fuck...Theatre!


  1. I'm totally upset about the whole not teaching cursive thing too. I don't get it - it seems like pure laziness. I was also reading in one article about this that some studies have shown that in learning a language, people remember better when they interact with a handwritten alphabet over a typewritten alphabet. Way to make our kids' schooling even dumber now, all because of the evil standardized tests.

    Another thing I learned in school that doesn't exist anymore -- diagramming sentences. I hated doing it in junior high, but I know it made a huge impact on how I learned how to write and use proper grammar. But again, all people care about nowadays is the Every Child Left Behind act.

  2. Well, cursive is designed for writing large chunks of text quickly, and no one does that anymore in business world or the academic world or the art world. Speaking as someone who stopped writing in cursive while in high school not quite two decades ago, I can’t see any practical reason to keep teaching it.

  3. Patrick - I, too, stopped using cursive a long time ago, (or rather, I use a hybrid writing style that incorporates both), but still - to decide to stop teaching it based on (1) the fact that it is time consuming (2) less useful that TYPING skills and (3) not being testing for No Child Left Behind... I just have to wonder what else schools will attempt to phase out for those reasons.

    It is no surprise to me that education is what it is today. Our society continuously lowers it's standards, and is so concerned with passing every child in every class that no one is paying attention to the actual QUALITY of our children's education.

    How the heck are kids going to be able sign their name and read letters or any other type of document that is written in cursive?

  4. As with any other out of date and unused chunks of human knowledge, a group of amateur and academic specialists will emerge as curators of its history. Think of Egyptian hieroglyphics or the Greek alphabet to keep in same vein as cursive. As a society, we can still read them. If person wants to learn it or just get something translated, there are others who maintain that information – or even recover it. We can read Mayan hieroglyphs today, which is not something we could do a century ago. Sure, my grandkids might not be able to read my parents’ love letters without going to see an expert, but like many Americans, I couldn’t read my great-grandparents’ love letters because they’re weren’t in English. But I could find someone who can; specialists are wonderful people.

    Dropping something that isn’t useful to the current world and not unique in ways it teaches a person to think is neither unreasonable nor unprecedented. Within my parents’ lifetime, Latin went from taught in every school to being taught in almost none. It wasn’t useful enough anymore. It went from the language of an empire to a language of the scholars to a language of just the scientists. Once it was supplanted in science by German and later by English, it was just a matter of time before it fell out of our curriculum. Sure, it was useful for learning any of the Romance languages, but you know what also makes learning those languages easier? Learning any one of the Romance languages. They’re not any further apart from each other than they are from Latin.

    If cursive taught the kids something unique, I’d demand they’d keep it in school. But I know the kids are getting a second language in school earlier than I did. I also know they’ll be on their computers, running into Arabic and Japanese and Chinese scripts as they bum around on the internet. They’ll be changing fonts to Comic Sans for really inappropriate works with their word processors. They’ll understand that how language is presented can be more than upper and lower case.

    So, yeah, I’m okay with saying goodbye to cursive. It frees up time to teach the kids something else about language.

  5. Patrick, if I am not mistaken, you are comparing cursive to dead and foriegn languages. I do not see parellels there.

    Cursive is part of our English language and should not require a text translator or additional schooling in order to decipher. Second languages in school should be secondary to learning and understanding our own language first, in all it's forms.

    While I do see the need to teach keyboard skills, changing fonts and word documents will never ever replace the written word, and god forbid we ever suffer a major catastrophe where electronics are no longer functionable, and the internet no longer exists - what will our children do then? How will they communicate with one another if they did not learn how to write?

  6. About the cursive thing--I'd like to add an anecdote.
    Two years ago, I took the SAT test, and there's a little section on the first page where you're required to write out--IN CURSIVE--that you won't cheat, or post questions on the internet, or whatever. But literally half the classroom was moaning because they had no idea how to write in cursive. Having gone to a private school where cursive had its own special teacher, I was totally shocked.

    I feel like, yeah, cursive isn't as necessary as it used to be, what with computers doing most of our writing for us, but it's still pretty and it adds importance to whatever we're writing.
    I'm a teen (y'know, the demographic that supposedly hates cursive), and I think it's not an irrelevant part of schooling.

  7. Lauren, thanks for your very relevant post. I think it's great to hear from the people this decision is immediately affecting.

    Cursive is a hard thing to teach and an even harder thing to learn, I agree. I remember all the moaning and whining my 13 year old did while he was learning and practicing.

    I just sit here and think to myself, how are kids going to feel when they get their first drivers license and the guy asks them to sign the card, and they can't?

  8. I teach English in a public high school. Two things my students cannot do: write in cursive, and read a (non-digital) clock. There are exceptions, but most can't do either. I am an advocate of writing drafts and free-writes in cursive. Many writers believe the physical act of writing by hand encourages creativity-and I agree.

  9. Gasp! Bibliophiliac, students that cannot read a clock with hands? Ok, I am becoming more and more convinced that our younger generations are suffering due to the laziness of my very own generation - GEN X were the first generation of schooler-goers who tried to get out of learning and applying everything. Something our Baby Boomer parents couldn't beat out of us. And now that WE are the adults, we are passing that laziness gene on through our children.

    How can we stand by and let this all happen?

  10. You know, if what Patrick were saying was true, that they were getting rid of cursive in order to teach other things, like a second language or some important topic that was getting left out of the curriculum, I might be in favor of dropping cursive. BUT I just don't think that's true. All that the third grade will be filled with are more facts that they will have to repeat to pass Standardized tests. Also, I like cursive. It's pretty.

    What do I remember from the third grade? Not a lot... except cursive.

  11. I think there's a really good point in the article about why learning cursive is important even if you don't use it regularly in the real world:

    "Mangen points to an experiment involving two groups of adults in which participants were taught a new, foreign alphabet. One group learned the characters by hand, the other learned only to recognize them on a screen and with a keyboard... Weeks after the experiment, the group that learned the letters by hand consistently scored better on recognition tests than those who learned with a keyboard. Brain scans of the hands-on group also showed greater activity in the part of the brain that controls language comprehension, motor-related processes and speech-associated gestures."

    I think that has real implications for kids who are learning, because teaching typing skills over cursive isn't just related to how we write, but also how we learn.

    A related anecdote-- I used to take notes by hand in a notebook in college for the first few years, and felt like I really learned the material well even if I didn't have to go back to those notes later. Once I started taking notes on my laptop, I noticed that I didn't retain anywhere near as much of the information and found that I had to go back and review my notes far more often. It was like just the act of actually writing things down helped. Cursive works the same way I think -- it forces a more entrenched understanding of what letters and words look like in a kid's mind.

  12. Excellent points from both of you. The act of writing things down helped me learn and retain almost everything I learned in High School and College. ANd yes, believe it or not, I sometimes wrote my notes in cursive.

    My handwriting fluctuates based on my moods, too.

    As far as removing cursive to teach something else, again great point - what are they going to replace it with at an elementary age? My kids spend more time preparing for and mock testing for the Standardized tests... it's really ridiculous. All teachers seem to care about it cramming for those damn tests, because the higher the score, the more money they get for their school district, right?

  13. It's a ridiculous system. If your kids aren't passing, you probably need the money more than a school district that has kids that aren't passing. So what should actually be happening is that the schools that aren't doing well should be getting money to start doing well. Though there are studies that show the amount of money a school receives has little to do with how well the school does (I'm not sure where I heard that, but I know I've heard it, don't quote me on it though.)

    When I was really struggling with Spanish, one of the things I had to do was write over and over again all the vocabulary words. It really helps. (Now I'm getting my masters in Spanish. Because of cursive? Maybe!) I jest.

    I can't believe that kids can't read a regular clock. That's absurd. Aren't there still regular clocks in all the classrooms?

  14. I hate the whole focus on standardized testing -- like you said, it's all about the higher score = more money mentality. But what good is more money for the school if the students don't actually learn anything?

    And I think the point about how the loss of cursive doesn't actually mean a gain in anything else is a great one. Maybe if it was replaced by foreign language classes or something similar, I'd think a little differently (though I'd still be sad).

  15. While I hate the focus on standardized test and I hate the reasons given for not teaching cursive, I'm one of the few who isn't all that fussed about it. I've never found it asthetically pleasing to read, and in fact I know a few LD people who have a killer time with it. I'm not even LD, but I do know how to speed read, and I have absolutely no ability to speed read cursive. I'd rather think the creative juices would flow better if we focused more on the content of what children write rather than the way in which they write it.

    The lamentations that kids are falling behind is made by every generation and it's a fairly tired complaint. It's more of a generational gap thing. Guess what? Kids won't learn cursive and kids will be just fine and they'll grow up to complain about something that their kids aren't learning.

    And as far as signatures go? That's old news. Even court documents allow for the /s/ electronic signature.

  16. Perhaps I am just old fashioned and stuck in the past? It just really upsets me that we would throw something like "teaching cursive" away in leu of typing and school testing.

  17. My apologies for not posting all my thoughts for my followup here, but my response was even more get-your-own-blog in length than my earlier one. So I posted my old comments and the new one over at
    my blog.

    Despite my sustained disagreement, I want to thank our host for the thread and for everyone who has taken time to respond on it. I especially want to thank those who waded through the wall of text I wrote here for their patience and dedication.