Sunday, February 11, 2007

745.6 The Art of Penmanship: It Is a Test

I saw a news article this weekend about the most expensive writing pen ever created . Can you imagine signing your name with something worth $730,000.00? I can not! I have never used fancy pens. I still have the pen I was given for high school graduation 37 years ago and the pen I received some time back for 20 years of school district service---they sit in their boxes with the original cartridges still in them!

Then in reading through the many blogs I review regularly, I came across an article about writing and penmanship of a different type and thought of the irony. The article is titled The Handwriting is on the Wall: Researchers See a Downside as Keyboards Replace Pens in Schools and originally was published in the Washington Post in October, 2006. Ian Jukes included it in his Committed Sardine blog in late January 2007.

From the article, some of the statements that are cause for concern (or at the very least thought):
"When handwritten essays were introduced on the SAT exams for the class of 2006, just 15 percent of the almost 1.5 million students wrote their answers in cursive. The rest? They printed. Block letters.
And those college hopefuls are just the first edge of a wave of U.S. students who no longer get much handwriting instruction in the primary grades, frequently 10 minutes a day or less. As a result, more and more students struggle to read and write cursive."
As a parent, I worry about this as well. My 2 children do not write in cursive and basically have difficulty even signing their names when required. I worry that they will encounter adults in the workplace that do not understand their inability to "write" and will judge their abilities incorrectly.

"The loss of handwriting also may be a cognitive opportunity missed. The neurological process that directs thought, through fingers, into written symbols is a highly sophisticated one. Several academic studies have found that good handwriting skills at a young age can help children express their thoughts better -- a lifelong benefit."
The computer has become an essential element of the school day and that includes communicating on it with regularity. BUT then why do we insist on testing students with a format that we do not provide time for instruction. There are no practice copy books or penmanship tests (remember the days when we did that on our spelling tests?)

"When adults are given the same composition written in good handwriting and poor handwriting, "they still give lower grades for ideation and quality of writing if the text is less legible," he said.
Indeed, the SAT essays written in cursive had slightly higher average scores than those written in print, according to the College Board.
No one needs a $730,000.00 pen to communicative. I lovethe computer and how easy it does make communication on many level s possible. But everyone deserves a fair shake when competing using communicating skills. If cursive writing is indeed a lost art, no longer needed or even "in fashion," then let's update the way we measure our students' abilities!

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