Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Can You Spell D-E-F-I-N-I-T-I-O-N?

by Jessie Miller, Intern Summer 2013







What does this list of words have in common? They are all winning words from the Scripps National Spelling Bee, dating back to the first bee in 1925 (gladiolus) through 2013 (knaidel). For 85 tournaments, the spelling bee never included a vocabulary component—though contestants have always been allowed to ask for the meaning of a word during the competition. This year, a vocabulary quiz incorporated into the preliminary round makes it easier to narrow down which contestants advance to the finals. A contestant’s score on the vocabulary test and onstage spelling combine to form his or her cumulative score.

The change to the spelling bee marks a shift in the competition from rote memorization to actual understanding of the words. In a press release, Paige Kimble, director of the spelling bee, explained, “Spelling and vocabulary are, in essence, two sides of the same coin.… As a child learns the meaning of a word, it becomes easier to spell.” She also added that the change reflects the bee’s commitment to “develop correct English usage” that competitors can retain long after they leave the stage.

However, the change came less than two months before the national spelling bee date of May 28, 2013, giving competitors little time to adjust their training strategy. Both parents and kids admitted they were not fans of the time crunch, but that adding a vocabulary component seemed beneficial to the future of the bee. And there was a justifiable reason for delaying the announcement—Scripps waited until all qualifying regional bees were completed.

With a $30,000 prize and a bit of national glory on the line, it’s understandable that contestants were taken aback by this change. Many contestants trained all year for the bee, so adding in a vocabulary portion just weeks before the competition seemed to diminish their hard work. An editorial in The Express-Times of Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, acknowledged the possible benefits of the change, but opined that it was simply unfair to competitors who spent months preparing for a specific type of competition.

Karen Klein, writing for the Los Angeles Times, also opposed the change, explaining that “[t]he bee has always been a show of amazing memorization skills, not of enhanced vocabulary.” Many people agreed with Klein that a spelling bee is not about definitions or concepts, but simply a memory game. In a similar blog entry, Ben Zimmer wrote in The Boston Globe that Kimble, however, claimed that memorization was never supposed to be the sole skill utilized for the spelling bee. She explained that vocabulary upholds “the mission of the E. W. Scripps Co., the media conglomerate that operates the not-for-profit bee.”

Regardless, the 2013 Scripps Spelling Bee proved successful on May 30 with 13-year-old Arvind Mahankali claiming the championship. As expected, contestants were subjected to two multiple-choice vocabulary tests before the preliminaries and semifinals, though both occurred offscreen. And the bee was broadcast on ESPN—just one indication of the spelling bee’s expanding popularity in spite of its evolutionary growing pains.

Did You Know?

The Scripps National Spelling Bee came into national limelight in the early 2000s when books and movies about the bee began trending. Bee Season, starring Richard Gere, was released in 2005 and based on a novel of the same name by Myla Goldberg. This was shortly followed by the bee’s stint on Broadway in a show titled The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a long one-act musical comedy nominated for six Tony awards and featured a cast recording nominated for a Grammy. Just the next year, Akeelah and the Bee, starring recording artist Keke Palmer, documented a girl’s journey through various levels of the bee and highlighted education issues in a low socioeconomic African American community. Spelldown: The Big-Time Dreams of a Small-Town Word Whiz, by Karon Luddy and released in 2007, followed a girl from South Carolina, telling her fictional account of what it was like competing in the bee with a “spelling jinx.” One of the first, however, was an Academy Award-nominated documentary cleverly titled Spellbound that follows eight competitors of the 1999 youth lineup, including the national winner—it was released in 2002. (DYK by Emeli Warren)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Private Funding Keeps Art Alive

by Hayley Gundlach, Intern Summer 2013

There’s a point in the year that certain high school art-kids dread: school budget analysis. It is the time that many of their beloved programs are predictably brought to the chopping block. Art classes, film programs, writing workshops and music ensembles inevitably have their own individual budgets hacked away year by year, each annual meeting leaving them in a financial state more serious than the year before.

As a proud band-kid myself, I have been subjected to this same fear. I’ve attended my fair share of school board meetings, awaiting the fate of the programs that my peers and I held very dear. As the years go on, it doesn’t get easier to see meaningful programs have their budgets marginally reduced or whole activities get eliminated. The experience is scarring, leaving feelings of emptiness, inappreciation and anger that never truly go away.

At a time when local, state and federal arts funding are at an all-time low, it seems like individual supporters are just now beginning to work to fill in the gaps that the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) cannot. The truth is, individuals have always been the largest source of funding for the arts. The NEA reports that nearly 75 percent of private contributions are made by individual donors. In 2011, $13 billion was given to arts charities by individuals. Now, with the help of new technology, becoming an individual donor is easier than ever.

A website called Kickstarter is acting as the newest platform for individual support of the arts. A “crowdfunding” operation, it is modeled after the way artists from decades ago, such as Mozart, Beethoven, Whitman or Twain, would fund their projects, but with a twenty-first century twist. Launched in 2009, Kickstarter allows artists to propose their creative projects or goals like music albums, art pieces, video games and so forth on its website. Project creators set a goal for how much they want to raise and a deadline for when they need it; anyone who views the idea on Kickstarter’s website can pledge to fund money in any amount. The project creator will then only receive the money that was pledged to their project if he or she meets the set goal and deadline.

Since its inception, Kickstarter has raised over $724 million from more than 4.5 million individual donors. Nearly 44 percent of the projects proposed through Kickstarter have reached their goals and been funded. That makes a total of 45,000 creative projects that have been funded solely through individual supporters.

The arts have been in danger for some time due to lack of funding, but with the continued support of individual benefactors and the newest support from ordinary people from all reaches, they don’t have to be. Organizations like Kickstarter make it easy to be supportive of the things you care about and help out other people who care about it, too.

Did You Know?
Although a lack of funding for school arts programs is not a new problem, it seems pro-arts initiatives are finally being given the attention they deserve.
Individual states and districts are doing their best to revitalize their programs, arts being a main priority. Thanks to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at least “some arts instruction and cultural programming” is available in almost all city schools—a stark contrast to the low 45 and 33 percent of schools that provided arts education in elementary and middle schools, respectively. Dallas is another up-and-coming pro-arts community. For the first time in over 30 years, every single elementary student within the Dallas Independent School District is required to participate in 45 minutes of art and music instruction each week. Communities in Minneapolis, Chicago and Arizona follow Dallas and New York City as making the most notable changes to their programs in an effort to infuse the arts back into their curricula. (DYK by Emeli Warren)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Algebra II or Not Algebra II, Questions the NCEE

by Grant Bradley, Intern Summer 2013

The Washington, DC-based National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) released a stirring report this May entitled “What Does It Really Mean to Be College and Work Ready? The English and Mathematics Required of First Year Community College Students.” The two-year study investigated seven rural, urban and suburban community colleges in different states with student populations ranging from 3,000 to 30,000 in order to determine precisely which skills and knowledge high school graduates need to succeed at the college level and in their future careers. The report found that many community college programs require little to no math; that the level of math used in these programs rarely exceeds that of middle school; and that Algebra II is not essential for most careers.

Many crucial mathematical concepts are being swept under the rug in the rush to move through Algebra I to Algebra II and Calculus, according to the NCEE. Phil Daro, co-chair of the study’s Mathematics Panel and co-director for developing the math Common Core State Standards (“the Standards,” or just “CCSS”), makes the case that curricula should spend more time developing students’ understanding of probability, complex measurements, arithmetic, ratios, proportions and simple equations. “We were surprised how little math is used in first-year community college courses, and what is used is mostly middle school math,” Daro said. “Our system makes no sense for these students: even though so many students have a shaky understanding of the middle school mathematics they really need, high school courses spend most of these students’ time on topics not needed for their college programs.”

The NCEE report argues that if schools dedicated more class time to these kinds of topics, and if college placement exams took away the incentive for high schoolers to study little-used, upper-level mathematics by altering their material to better reflect the realities of community college, students will be more competent in their college courses. However, not everyone agrees with the NCEE.

Linda Rosen, CEO of the nonprofit Change the Equation (CTEq), has several bones to pick with the NCEE’s study. First, Rosen questions the validity of the study’s methodology. The NCEE derives some of its numbers on math in the workforce from a 2011 Georgetown study, which she says only accounts for a narrow definition of STEM jobs that “doesn’t include any jobs in math-dependent fields like finance, social science, management or health care.” Likewise, while the sample of community colleges seems diverse, the study does not state how typical the colleges actually are.

Second, Rosen contends that high schools should not necessarily lower their educational standards because community colleges are doing so. “The authors are right to be concerned that many high school graduates cannot clear even a low bar. This is the challenge of US school reform in a nutshell,” she said. “Yet surely the answer is not to lower the bar now so that we can raise it again later. Instead, we have to step up our support for students earlier in K-“12.” And just because the skills learned in Algebra II may not directly apply to community college coursework does not mean that upper-level math doesn’t have value—it teaches students logical thinking and complex problem solving.

Community colleges are attended by 45 percent of US undergraduates. Half of them are explicitly training to directly enter the workforce upon graduation. Either high school is inadequately preparing its students for college, or college is letting down high school graduates. Regardless of the perspective, we as a nation need to move forward and give our children the best education possible.

Did You Know?

As it turns out, some of the highest paying jobs require mathematical skills beyond basic algebra. The top ten list by Forbes includes degrees that require skills in math, engineering and the sciences. The number one best-paying job is that of anesthesiologists, followed by surgeons, gynecologists, maxillofacial surgeons, general internists, orthodontists, all other physicians and surgeons, family and general practitioners, psychiatrists and, finally, senior executives. Notice a trend? Of the listed jobs, 9 out of 10 require a medical degree—which includes math far beyond basic skills—and the odd-man-out still demands further learning via an MBA program. Earning an MBA, the norm for senior executives these days, usually requires, at the very least, proficiency in higher-level math-related disciplines such as statistics, accounting, and/or economics. As a comparison, most of the worst-paying jobs include those in food service, agricultural laborers and ticket attendants, although none of these typically require a college degree. (DYK by Emeli Warren)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Closer Look at Standardized Testing

by Hayley Gundlach, Intern Summer 2013

Since the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was signed in 2001, standardized tests have been a harsh reality for every public school district in the country. The tests are now a national requirement in order to receive federal school funding. They are meant to work toward closing the achievement gap by ensuring high-quality education for all students and providing yearly progress reports. In some states, students need to pass an exam to be promoted from one grade to another. In others, a passing grade is needed to graduate high school. The testing is designed to measure each student equally by basing exams on similar standards; government officials had high hopes that the tests would ensure better success and equality among students.

Nearly twelve years after NCLB was implemented throughout the country, groups of parents, teachers and school officials are criticizing an overdependence on standardized tests. In some cases, they are refusing the tests altogether. Some educators believe the preparation needed for the standardized tests takes away from class time that could be used on other, more important topics. Standardized tests also cost states up to millions of dollars to create, prepare and administer. School boards suggest that the money could be used elsewhere in more beneficial budgets. However, the impact the tests have on school curricula receives the most criticism. Parents and educators alike condemn the shift toward “teaching-to-the-test,” which, loosely interpreted, means “if it’s not on the test, it’s not getting taught.” The concern is that student instruction depends more on how to use knowledge to pass a test and less on how to use knowledge in realistic situations.

Recently, an active protest against standardized testing has taken shape. Parents nationwide are joining a new “opt-out” movement and refusing to allow their children to take the tests, claiming the experience has become traumatic and stressful rather than educational. Teachers, too, are joining the movement; at Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington, instructors are refusing to administer the exams because they don’t think the exams are helpful anymore. Due to the outpouring of criticism and debate on the subject of these tests, state legislatures have been forced to examine the issue. Texas, as the most recent state to take a stand, follows Minnesota and a few other Midwestern states in passing a bill that greatly reduces the number of required standardized tests. In Texas, these numbers shrink from 15 to 5 required tests.

In many states around the country, the issue is just becoming a hot topic. Whether or not standardized tests will continue as the primary measure of progress has yet to be seen, but it has become clear that the current method is viewed as unacceptable to many. We may soon have to consider new ways of measuring our students’ and our schools’ success.

Did You Know?
It is widely known that an increase in standardized testing was a direct result of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), holding schools responsible for making sure children are learning—but what about the other regulations and resources that were set into motion by NCLB? With the passage of NCLB under the George W. Bush administration, parents were provided with school district report cards that commented on which districts were the most successful and why, as a way to encourage school improvement. Supplemental educational services (SES) were introduced to provide free tutoring to those students whose schools noted they were in need of improvement for a minimum of two years. Bringing a focus to literacy, the program committed one billion dollars per year to help children learn to read. Further still, NCLB was intended to help teachers become better instructors, offering them funding to further their learning.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Buddy System: Not Just For School Field Trips

by Jessie Miller, Intern Summer 2013

Bedtime stories aren’t just a relaxing way to fall asleep—reading to children actually helps them with literary comprehension in the future. Now, if you bring that same interactive reading style into the classroom, the results are equally impressive. Peer tutoring, or paired reading, has shown to be a very helpful teaching activity in both elementary and upper-level classrooms.

During peer tutoring, the teacher matches students into pairs and lets them read independently, using each other as a tool to improve their own reading comprehension and ability. Paired Reading is a mutually beneficial process—whether students read at the same or different levels. For students on the same level, they are able to help each other and review what they have learned from the teacher. If one student reads at a higher level (a sixth grader and a second grader, for example) the more advanced student becomes the tutor. The younger student receives one-on-one help, while the older student reinforces what they already know—building confidence and tutoring experience.

Gillian Hepburn
, a teacher at a small elementary school in Scotland, designed her own peer tutoring experiment, including pairing students within the same age group and with an older student. Hepburn got the idea for the study from a similar study at Durham University, also performed in Scotland, that took place in 129 schools across the country and proved that even one 20-minute tutoring session per week can benefit students as young as seven years old. Overall, the trial proved very successful in the classroom and many teachers, including Hepburn, continued the practice because the students enjoyed reading together. Additionally, students were able to more fully comprehend what they read by discussing it with their partners. Not only does peer tutoring enforce reading comprehension, it also teaches children how to work and study together.

Paired reading is very accessible and easy for teachers to set up. Once paired, students choose a book or passage to read from, sometimes switching back and forth or repeating after each other. While reading, the tutoring “buddy” follows along and helps with pronunciation or other feedback. Teachers also encourage students to talk about what they read in order to make sure both partners understand the material. The teacher can then follow up in a discussion with the entire class, especially when students are first adjusting to peer tutoring.

If you want to get more hi-tech, there are many digital options to assist readers, including Scholastic’s new ebook reading platform called Storia. Teachers can sign up for an account and then receive up to 40 virtual bookshelves, which they can assign to students. Once assigned, students’ progress is tracked while they annotate, take reading comprehension quizzes and further interact with the text. Storia works for a wide range of students and can be customized for different reading levels, even within one classroom. Students can also work together from separate or shared devices the same way they would with paired reading.

However, digital options like Storia and its accompanying books are much more expensive than classic paired readings, which require few resources. Teachers would have to purchase new books within the app, not to mention the fact that most classrooms lack the technology—computers and tablets—that apps need in order to function. School systems are already strapped financially, and adding on extra costs seems perilous, especially while there are so many other pressing issues that need to be funded.

Improving literacy across the country is proving to be a major issue, and encouraging students to read starting at a young age is one of the best ways to combat illiteracy. There are many factors that contribute to a student’s reading level, from parental involvement to income level, but the responsibility comes down to the school system to make sure that students are learning the necessary skills as they go—especially avoiding getting behind in high school. According to a 2008 study by the National Commission on Adult Literacy, one in three young adults drops out of high school, which then inhibits their ability to get a job and can affect the reading aptitude of any future children.

The statistics are alarming.
Countless studies have shown that an overwhelming percentage of students across grade levels are performing below the basic level for their grade. More than ever, schools and teachers need to recognize those students who are falling behind and help stop the spiral of illiteracy. Paired reading and interactive exercises are just a few examples of tools teachers can use to create a love of reading.

Did You Know?Approximately 14 percent of the US population is illiterate, as studies from the US Department of Education (ED) and the National Institute for Literacy show. Not only that, there are strong correlations between literacy and crime. For example, 85 percent of juveniles who face trial within the juvenile court system are “functionally illiterate,” which means that they lack the necessary skills required to manage daily living or employment tasks that involve more than basic reading skills. Further still, two-thirds of students who reach fourth grade and still have not reached proficient reading levels will end up on welfare or in jail—more than 70 percent of inmates in the US cannot read beyond a fourth grade level. (DYK by Emeli Warren)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hiding from Harry Potter: The Pseudonym’s Calling

by Kate Carroll, Editorial Assistant

If you’re not a mystery lover or a shelf browser who gives new authors a try, would you purchase a debut mystery novel from an author named Robert Galbraith? Would you even pick it up to browse? What if it turned out that this new author, supposedly a former member of the Royal Military Police, was actually the beloved J. K. Rowling?

In what has been called “the best act of literary deception since Stephen King was outed as Richard Bachman back in the 1980s,” the recent discovery that the creator of Harry Potter had published The Cuckoo’s Calling under a different name back in April has shocked fans, publishers and booksellers alike.

For a debut novel in a specific genre, sales of The Cuckoo’s Calling were respectable at approximately 1500 copies. After the news of the author’s identity broke, however, getting ahold of a first edition copy proved near impossible within a very short window of time. With physical copies so high in demand, many fans were turning to the ebook version, a necessity that allowed sales of the Amazon Kindle version to increase 158,000 percent in less than a 48-hour period. The hardcover sales also made the title an almost instantaneous bestseller for lists reported by both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Preorders for the reprint of the novel are widespread, although the new copies will contain an addendum about J. K. Rowling’s pseudonym, making the original printing rare and worth far more than the newer editions. The book was originally intended as a series, and Rowling appears to want to continue with the plan, regardless of being seemingly displeased with the unveiling of Galbraith’s identity by a member of the law firm she was using at the time.

However, in attempt to turn a disappointing situation into a celebration, Rowling decided to donate 100 percent of the settlement—or a “substantial donation,” as she’s calling it—from her lawsuit against the firm responsible for blowing her cover, as well as the net royalties from the book sales, to charity. In tribute to Galbraith’s faux military background, Rowling has selected The Soldier’s Charity to receive this major contribution. Over the next three years the charity will receive every penny of the royalties intended for the author, beginning with sales dating from July 14th, the day Galbraith’s true identity was revealed.

When the sales numbers pre- and post-reveal are compared, the wonders of the publishing industry are revealed. Rowling’s decision (as well as the decisions of King and countless others) to use a pseudonym displays just how much hype a name can create, a phenomenon that must affect the author’s idea of self-identity: Is Rowling a writer or a celebrity? The pseudonym certainly gave her a reminder of the difficulties of entering into the publishing world, and a glimpse at the realities of a new author’s struggle to succeed in the market despite good reviews.

In other circumstances, would The Cuckoo’s Calling ever have realistically earned a sequel . . . a series? We will never know. One thing for certain is that Rowling is blessed with a built-in audience, confirmed merely by the preorders for the novel’s reprint and presumably in the sales that will follow. How she morphed from a no-name author trying to sell a book about a young wizard to an international bestseller is one of the unanswerable questions of publishing. It’s that magic touch that all first-time authors hope they possess: the ability to capture an audience large enough to prevent them from remaining a needle in a haystack. A magic thousands may have never known existed between the covers bearing the unheard-of name Robert Galbraith.

Did You Know?

The use of male pseudonyms by female authors is nothing new—in fact, the Bront
ë sisters were some of the first to test the theory that writing under a male name sparks more interest in a wider audience. The three sisters penned poetry under male names, hoping to avoid bias toward “authoresses” . . . and publishers are still advising authors to choose names that ring more neutral in the gender department. J. K. Rowling, birthed Joanne Rowling, was suggested to choose two initials to use in place of “Joanne” as to be more appealing to young male readers. Other times, the advice is given to authors who want to jump between genres, such as when Nora Roberts, already famous for female-oriented romance novels, wanted to write detective fiction. Her publisher was reluctant to introduce her well-known name into another genre and suggested a pseudonym to help her break into the suspense novel genre dominated by male authors. More than 150 years after the Brontë sisters took on the names of “Ellis,” “Acton,” and “Currer,” Joanne Rowling saw it necessary to take it beyond the neutral “J. K.” initials and move to an unquestionably male name, all in hopes to free herself from the limitations of a celebrity author name and to join a genre dominated by men. (DYK by Emeli Warren)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Technology Paves the Way for US Publication of International Books

by Grant Bradley, Intern Summer 2013

This May the University of Rochester’s translation database Three Percent announced that 413 translated works of fiction and poetry were released in the United States in 2012, an increase from 370 titles the year before. While these small numbers may seem like a drop in the pond compared to the behemoth of American publishing, they point to a growing market for translated, international trade books.

This burgeoning sector of the industry owes much of its success to the proliferation of ebooks and ereading technologies in recent years. Chad Post of Open Letter, the University of Rochester’s international literary publishing house, notes that downloadable ebooks lower costs and increase access. “With the advent of ebooks and instantaneous worldwide distribution, it only makes sense that international publishers would redirect their financial resources from trying to court reluctant US/UK publishers and instead get the books translated themselves and sell them directly throughout the world,” Post said. “It may be cheaper, and it monetizes a lot of books that otherwise are just sitting there.”

Swedish publisher
Stockholm Text is taking advantage of these new digital opportunities. Claes Ericson, a founding partner of the small publishing firm, discovered that last year was the perfect time to launch this kind of company. “Swedish publishing is a small business, and to be honest it is growing smaller by the year,” said Ericson. “That’s why we felt that the moment was right now—after the Stieg Larsson trend, [the] Swedish crime [genre] is growing internationally.”

Because of the international success of thrillers like Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stockholm Text’s most popular titles have been crime novels—
“[I]nterest for mysteries is even stronger among ebook readers, and . . . mystery is one of the few genres where there is a great appetite for foreign literature,” said Ericson—but the publishing house’s list spans multiple genres. Kajsa Ingemarsson’s women’s fiction novel Yesterday’s News, for instance, has sold over 20,000 copies.

So far, Stockholm Text’s business savvy has been paying off. In 2012, the company sold over 70,000 ebooks and raked in more than $1 million. Three of their titles have made Amazon’s and Barnes & Noble’s ebook best seller list:
The Gingerbread House by Carin Gerhardsen, The Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt and Killer’s Island by Anna Jansson. Based on these positive figures, Stockholm Text is expanding its business, and in 2013 will release its first print books in the United States through a deal with Perseus Books Group.

Foreign language publishers are not the only people getting in on the international trade action. Australian-based Text Publishing is looking to mine age-old Oceanic classics for American readers as part of its Text Classics line. “Many of these books are lost gems,” said publisher Michael Heyward. “They might be set in Australia or New Zealand, but the stories they tell, the fears and desires they dramatize, are universal.”

An important part of Text Classic’s strategy has been to capitalize on its titles’ potential as salable ebooks, Heyward emphasized. “Availability is a key issue for us,” he said. “While it was hugely important that we make these books available in collectible and affordable print form, we also want to give readers a choice about how they can read the Text Classics, and so digital is an essential publishing format for us.” By the end of 2013, Text Publishing will release 70 Text Classics in print and 68 in digital.

The debate over the place of print and digital in a flagging twenty-first-century publishing industry will continue to rage on, but the insight and initiative of these international publishers show that there is still money to be made and market demands to satisfy.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Cursive: No Longer the "Write" Way

by Hayley Gundlach, Intern Summer 2013

Though it was years ago, I still vividly remember my third-grade cursive lessons. They were taught once per day, for an hour or so, and involved wide books full of examples and empty lines for tedious repetitions. After third grade, the decision was up to us: print or cursive, as long as it was legible. While I chose to keep a cursive hybrid, many of us abandoned cursive writing forever—a sign that, even then, the flowing script was on its way out.

Before 2010, when the Common Core State Standards (the Standards) had not yet been introduced, cursive was on a slow ride to extinction.  Now, with the Standards having been adopted in 46 states, cursive is dying—fast. The Standards for elementary schools omit, though they do not prohibit, a cursive standard, replacing it with computer keyboard proficiency. The inclusion of cursive lessons is now left up entirely to school boards and principals, and most are choosing to leave them out due to already tight curricula and limited resources.

The argument for keeping cursive in schools is limited. The strongest argument is to keep cursive for the sake of signatures, which are still used today for endorsing official documents. Most signatures are cursive based, and eliminating script means signatures will become printing based, putting people at risk for fraud and identity theft, since cursive signatures are harder to forge. Some of those who fight for cursive also vouch for the traditional and historical value of cursive and argue that the script is a part of our culture.

Those who are against keeping cursive in the curriculum have a more compelling argument. Since we’ve moved into the Digital Age, cursive writing isn’t necessary. Almost everything—even things that require signatures—can be done electronically. Plus, when pen-on-paper is necessary, unlike decades ago, most people choose to print rather than use cursive. Think about it—how often do you use the formal, looping script? Not only is cursive no longer necessary or frequently used, there is limited classroom time to teach it. Since there have been no conclusive studies that prove cursive is wholly beneficial to students’ education, most teachers have commented that they would rather spend the time focusing on other, more useful topics.

It might be time to tuck away any of those cursive letters, essays or other papers, for soon enough they’ll be seen as historical artifacts: relics of penmanship’s past.

Further Reading

Jimmy Bryant, “Room for Debate: Is Cursive Dead? A Cultural Tradition Worth Preserving,” Room for Debate in The Opinion Pages of The New York Times, April 30, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/04/30/should-schools-require-children-to-learn-cursive/cursive-handwriting-is-a-cultural-tradition-worth-preserving.

Morgan Polikoff, “Room for Debate: Is Cursive Dead? Let It Die. It’s Already Dying,” Room for Debate in The Opinion Pages of The New York Times, April 30, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/04/30/should-schools-require-children-to-learn-cursive/let-cursive-handwriting-die.

Rob Furnman, “The Great Handwriting Debate,” The Blog in The Huffington Post, May 8, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rob-furman/the-great-handwriting-deb_b_3237152.html.