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Home » School days

Forget the ‘writing’ part in reading, writing and ‘rithmetic

Submitted by on Sunday, 26 July 2009 One Comment
It was a year-long battle with Big Guy in which the forces of good finally prevailed when he brought his writing up to kindergarten standards on his last report card.

Technically, it was a two-year battle - he hated writing practice from the day he started doing it in preschool. It would have been a relief if the repetition had merely numbed his mind - instead it set off either a nightly hissy fit or bouts of pencil-flinging malicious compliance.

Until, that is, he figured out a reason to want to write, and that's when his letters to Dad started to flow with eight-, nine-word sentences. Illustrated, too, and he's never been a fan of drawing. Most importantly, the letters were legible - "You want Daddy to be able to read it, don't you?"

Turns out, Big Guy's just ahead of the "don't give a flip about writing" curve.

According to a recent article in Time magazine "Mourning the Death of Handwriting," that attitude usually doesn't hit until the later grades when students start attempting to learn cursive. With Big Guy, I'm sure the emphasis will be on "curse."

The reason penmanship is so bad these days isn't just because of computers, the article says. It's also due to a lack of time to teach it in the classroom.

"In schools today, they're teaching to the tests," said Tamara Thornton, a University of Buffalo professor and the author of a history of American handwriting. "If something isn't on a test, it's viewed as a luxury."

How bad is it? A few high school students every year receive permission to take standardized tests on computers because their handwriting is so bad, the article said.

I suppose now is the time to confess that I also was well ahead of the "don't give a flip about writing" curve.

There was a brief golden age when my penmanship was gloriously legible. Dad will look at recipe cards I wrote back in that day and can't believe my penmanship-perfect Mom didn't script them.

But that was after a struggle in grade school and before college and journalism. The latter probably did more to destroy my penmanship than anything. You learn quickly that if you try to write every letter, let alone write it perfectly, your notes soon will lag five minutes behind the person you're interviewing.

By my early 20s, a boss said a note from me was like looking at the floor of a beauty shop after someone with a huge curly Afro had had a trim.

By my late 20s, store clerks asked me if I were a doctor when I handed over checks - remember those?

Today, Big Guy gets on me as I sign him out at school. "Why do you get to scribble but people need to read my writing?"

Touche, Big Guy.

I'll admit I probably added to his struggles by letting him type his letter to Santa last year. I'll also confess that, beyond a certain level of legibility, I don't really care if all his letters aren't pretty. And I'll also acknowledge I don't set a very good example, though I've tried to at least make the grocery list legible so he can check it off at the store.

The next time he gripes about not being able to read it, though, I'll throw it back at him.

"Let's see if you can do it better than I can" I'll say.

The boy loves a challenge, and I think that one will trap  him until the time rolls around to curse at cursive.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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One Comment »

  • Rob Miracle said:

    Gotta love “No Child Left Behind” eh?