Letter to the Editor 11-15-13

Dear Editor,
 Why should our kids (and we) be able to read and write cursive?
I don’t know about you, but I love cursive writing. I loved it so much in 3rd grade when Mrs. Simmons would have us write stories about the pilgrims and Plymouth Rock in cursive. It was so beautiful and flowing and empowering to be able to write this way. We then illustrated our writings with pictures and also made hand-dipped candles. What a great lesson and what a great teacher!  This love for beautiful writing led me to teach calligraphy as an art teacher many years later.
 One of the coolest things now is to be able to do family research and be able to read the old, handwritten letters. It can be difficult to decipher the older words and styles of cursive, but they are a treasure.
 If I had not been given the foundation by my great teacher, I would have missed out of looking in our old German family Bible from my great-great grandmother. I am able to read the words that were penned so long ago.
 According to Iris Hatfield, a handwriting coach, here are some of the amazing things that cursive teaches:
 1. Improved neural connections in the brain. Cursive handwriting stimulates the brain in ways that typing cannot. It improves the dynamic interplay of the left and right cerebral hemispheres, helps build neural pathways and increases mental effectiveness. According to Virginia Berninger, a researcher and professor of educational lpsychology at the University of Washington, “Pictures of brain activity have illustrated that sequential finger movements used in handwriting activated massive regions of the brain involved in thinking, language, and working memory.  Handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential finger strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding only involves touching a key.”
 2. Increased ability to read cursive. Learning to write in cursive improves a student’s ability to read cursive. Many high school students cannot read cursive. They are cursively illiterate in their own language.
 So, what is my purpose in bringing this up? The new education standards that are in our schools here in Concordia and across the nation (called Common Core) have dropped the teaching of cursive handwriting.
 Yes, these standards tell us that only typing is needed in this modern age. It is true that even now, I am typing this on my computer. But, if I had not learned cursive as a child, I would not be able to read what was written in the past. I would not be able to read the “foreign language” of cursive. I would have lost my connection to history.
 Please ask yourself, “Why do the new standards do away with this?” Find out, research this Common Core. Be curious.
                                                                                                     Kathy Schmitz
                                                                                                    Art Instructor
                                                                                                    Manhattan High & CCCC

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