I stumbled onto this article by Ian Jukes this week and learned that there is a bill that is being passed in North Carolina that brings multiplication tables and cursive handwriting back into the classroom. This bill is called Back to Basics and requires 5th graders to know how to write in cursive and memorize the multiplication tables.
I had to learn both of these skills when I was growing up (even though I was homeschooled...yes we still learn things!), and I can see the value in both of them. Multiplication tables are really helpful because there are lots of times when you just need to know what two numbers multiplied together are and you may not have the time or resources to do heavy calculation. I can see why they would place their focus on that.
However, I'm not sold on bringing cursive back. (I understand that this bill is being passed in North Carolina, not Iowa, but it got me thinking about the topic.) I learned cursive by using the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting Series, but even though I technically know how to use cursive, I rarely do. The only time I do is when writing my signature, and even that isn't necessarily required to be in cursive, as long as I do it the same way every time. When I write things out on paper, I'm usually in a hurry and would never write in cursive in a normal setting; it takes longer for me and requires a lot more thought on my part. If given the chance, I type my notes, etc., on my laptop.
Typing is so much faster than writing it out on paper, and you can delete and rearrange text as you need to. Students in the 21st century thrive on computers and technology. If given the change, I'd bet that 9 out of 10 students would type an assignment on a computer instead of hand write everything out on paper. Even my sister, a serious writer and published-author-to-be, types out all of her stories on her laptop because it's so much more efficient.
I admit that in some circumstances, it is necessary to hand write things. Once upon a time, people had to learn to adapt to technology and start using pens and pencils as their primary writing tools. But now, perhaps, our primary writing tools are changing. Obviously kids have to know how to use a paper and pencil. But do they really have to spend time and energy learning how to write in cursive when they only seldom write in print, let alone in cursive? Do we, as teachers, have the time and energy needed to teach them this skill? I feel as though cursive is unnecessary, at least as far as public education is concerned, and that time can be better used elsewhere, perhaps toward improving students' typing skills.
Photo from Flickr.com, by Chrissy Johnson1, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsj1/4441258076/