Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Feeling a bit concerned.

I've just finished up two mornings of helping wrangle 8th graders (13-14 year olds) at the Trails Museum where I volunteer.  They toured the museum, saw our short film, had a ride on a "covered" wagon pulled by Ed and Harry-Mules, had lunch and visited in the archives.  That's where I worked-the archives.  Totally fitting as that is where I volunteer!  The Education Curator spoke about primary and secondary source documents and I showed around 4 original items-3 diaries and a letter.  Then we gave them a printed copy of two pages from one of the diaries we showed them and they were to try to read it and then to write down what they could figure out.  This proved to be much more difficult than we expected.  In addition to the usual problems of reading old handwriting-letters being made differently and oddly misspelled words-many(Most?) have not been taught cursive and cannot read it!

I know that the schools are not teaching it any longer, got to make time in the school day to teach to the tests (Oops, did I say that?)  I'm not sure this is all that great an idea.  All of us who are currently adults write in cursive, it's faster.  So how do the kids read letters or postcards sent to them and written in cursive? I know that letters are few and far between but what about grocery lists, recipes handed down from Great-grandma and not on the computer?  What happens when we have multiple generations of children who cannot read it?

It's odd, I think, that in the US we can't/won't change to the metric system even though in truth it's much simpler and used by the rest of the world!  Instead we stick to the English system-I don't even think the English still use it!  (You can never tell though they don't use the euro!) Still, we can forget teaching cursive writing.  I still think of it as a basic skill, like reading.

It reminds me of a Science Fiction piece I read in High School (never been able to find it so if you know it let me know!) Society was so ruled by computers that people had forgotten basic mathematics.  One man had learned it on his own, and could add in his head.  He was considered a secret weapon!

Enough on that soapbox.  In the grand scheme of things it's not so important but still it makes you wonder what the world might be losing.

1 comment:

a good yarn said...

I always lamented not being taught copperplate as it is so beautiful. I'm sure I would have been a poor student at it as my cursive wasn't the best. University lecturers here bemoan the fact that there students handwriting is unitelligble - not to mention the spelling and grammar (lack thereof). In my experience, few children are taught to hold a pen or pencil correctly and hold the heads at such an awkward angle that it's no surprise they write so poorly. Of course modern technology and keypads have no doubt contributed to the demise of handwriting. Our postal service has been downgraded again. The study of mathematics has also declined alarmingly. We used to be the smart country.