Is Keeping Cursive Writing Worth the Fight?

It was Edward Bulwer-Lytton who once coined the iconic phrase, “Beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword.” A bold but true statement, its heft has been evident in everyone who dared to pick up a pen.  Over the years since his 1839 proclamation, the advent of new technology has taken both the reach and power of language to higher heights. As the changes and uses of technology have exploded over the last 30 years, both individuals and entities have taken notice of the change and have succeeded in incorporating new ways of communicating that these advances have spawned.

Not to be left behind, public education in America has sought to harness these innovations and subsequently “phase out” more traditional forms of educating. But at what cost? Nearly 40 states and the District of Columbia have started adapting Common Core Standards; an effort synchronize what children learn across the spectrum and to ensure that all the stakeholders in a child’s education are aware of what the child will be learning in the classroom. While the theory of this approach is commendable, the actual practice seeks to squeeze out some mainstays that are veritable “rights of passage” in school. One of these mainstays is cursive writing. I know what you’re thinking. “Who uses cursive anymore? Everything is online- print and typewritten communication are the dominant forms of writing now.” While I appreciate the rationale by which people employ to make such statements, the implications of failing to teach and require cursive writing are far-reaching.

Oftentimes we take for granted the fact that we can view historic documents such as the Declaration of Independence and read the almost perfect penmanship with ease. The question you should be asking is, “what if I were not able to read it?” It’s too easy to dismiss the concept of cursive by simply saying “we don’t use it enough in real life.” I believe, however, that everyone who makes that claim has the luxury of having mastered it already. Every one of us can point to at least have a dozen concepts that we were taught in our formative years that have no tremendous impact on what we do now. There are aspects of math that I both have never and will never use. There are historical facts and documents that I have been exposed to that have no pressing significance in my life; there are formulas in Science that add no day-to-day value or enhance my existence. What about Shakespeare? How much has your cursory knowledge of his plays and sonnets gotten you?

But what “standard of measurement” do we use to determine what stays and what goes? I submit that the teaching and learning of cursive is not an exercise in futility, it is the practice of a valuable skill; one which still deserves our attention. Cursive writing provides many useful technical functions: it helps students in fine-tuning their micro motor skills, it teaches “part-to-whole” connections between letters and completed words, and, it can even improve spelling (which, coincidentally, is ANOTHER skill that is nowhere to be found under the adaptation of Common Core Standards).

The future will no doubt be full of wonderfully inventive ideas that will continue to help us streamline nearly every part of our lives. In addition to providing our children and their children with so many things that we did not have, we need to be sure that they also have things that we DID have as well. Imagine a world where you ask someone for their “John Hancock” and you are greeted with puzzled looks and confusion. If we continue on this course, we may not have to imagine for long. – Olu Burrell

Olu Burrell is a Howard University Alum who works as High School English Instructor in Washington, DC. He is involved with the DC Area Writing Project and is a performance poet, writer, and social activist. He is currently developing a food blog with his wonderful wife, Farran, You can follow him on Twitter at @oluburrell.


First Black man to walk in space wants others to follow in his footsteps

AS A teenager, Dr Bernard Harris used to spend many afternoons watching space programmes on television. Inspired by scenes showing people boldly going where no one has gone before, Harris vowed he would one day join them.

Years later, Harris followed his dream – making history when he became the first African-American man to set foot in space.

“I always had a desire to travel to space,” said 54-year-old Harris, from Houston, Texas. “I started off working for NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] in 1986 as a flight surgeon and researcher prior to becoming an astronaut.”


NAACP release new report: ‘Misplaced Priorities: Over Incarcerate, Under Educate’

On April 7th, the NAACP released a new report, Misplaced Priorities, that examines America’s escalating levels of prison spending and its impact on state budgets and our nation’s children.

Misplaced Priorities tracks the steady shift of state funds away from education and toward the criminal justice system. Researchers have found that over-incarceration most often impacts vulnerable and minority populations, and that it destabilizes communities.


Ohio mother sent to prison for sending her children to school

“An Ohio mother of two was sentenced to 10 days in jail and placed on three years probation after sending her kids to a school district in which they did not live. Kelley Williams-Bolar was sentenced by Judge Patricia Cosgrove on Tuesday and will begin serving her sentence immediately. The jury deliberated for seven hours and the courtroom was packed as the sentence was handed down. She was convicted on two counts of tampering with court records after registering her two girls as living with Williams Bolar’s father when they actually lived with her.


Schools in GA, NC, and SC open on MLK Day to make up snow closings

Civil rights groups in Georgia and North Carolina are upset by plans in a handful of snow-stricken school districts to make up lost school days on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

In North Carolina, leaders of the state chapter of the NAACP are upset that the Charlotte-Mecklenberg County School system is holding class on the holiday.


Republican school board in N.C. seeks to abolish integration

The sprawling Wake County School District has long been a rarity. Some of its best, most diverse schools are in the poorest sections of this capital city. And its suburban schools, rather than being exclusive enclaves, include children whose parents cannot afford a house in the neighborhood.

But over the past year, a new majority-Republican school board backed by national tea party conservatives has set the district on a strikingly different course. Pledging to “say no to the social engineers!” it has abolished the policy behind one of the nation’s most celebrated integration efforts.


College educated African Americans migrate South

The nation’s African-American population continued its southward migration over the past decade, shifting a large part of the black middle class from northern states to faster-growing economies of the South.

Among 25 big U.S. metro areas with the largest growth in African-American population between 2000 and 2009, 16 were in the South—including Atlanta and Dallas—according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Among the big losers were cities in the North and West, including Detroit, Los Angeles and Cleveland.


Stay in your relationship longer

The amount of education a person has plays a big role when it comes to deciding whether to make a long-term commitment to that special someone or to have a child outside of marriage, a new report says.

The 2010 edition of “The State of Our Unions” — a report on attitudes toward marriage — indicates highly educated Americans are “embracing a pro-marriage mindset” even as middle Americans lose faith in the institution. That shift resembles trends normally seen in the poor, where marriage is “fragile and weak,” according to the report, issued Monday