Handwriting is being described as a lost art, due to the introduction of technology in Americas school systems. On July 7, 2011, MSNBCs, Peter Jennings reported that, Illinois schools would no longer teach cursive handwriting and that it is now optional to teach cursive in forty-three other states (Jennings). In my research for answers, I came across many articles, studies, videos and publications, as to why cursive handwriting is important for America’s future. I found that though many educators, scholars and media personalities, agreed that cursive handwriting should stay as part of the curriculum, most just accept and also agreed that technology will be the way of teaching and learning in the future of America’s schools. I also found that America has a shortage of certain professions that, today’s American school age children, will not be able to obtain without the developmental benefits that cursive handwriting has to offer, when they grow up (Wilm, 2). During my research I came across some articles that were in support of making cursive handwriting obsolete in America’s schools. I came across a summary that said, that the importance of cursive handwriting in America’s schools has been overshadowed by the availability of personal computers, and smart phones (Gentry and Graham 4); I then asked myself, “What kind of future will America’s school age children have with technology replacing cursive handwriting?”
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In an article by Marion Wilm, an occupational therapist in Charlotte, North Carolina, she states that handwriting is a skill that uses the smallest muscles in the hand that develop precision skills (2). These muscles are the ones that help surgeons achieve their jobs (Wilm, 2). Research shows that America already has a shortage of surgeons with these skills and needs attention (Pho, 1). Dr. Kevin Pho, MD., says, “The number of general surgeons needed to adequately serve the population is estimated to be at least 7 per 100,000 people (3). Currently there are about 18,000 active general surgeons in the US or 5.8 per 100,000 people (3). The ratio of general surgeons per 100,000 population has dropped by 26% in the last 25 years,” (3). According to Edward Tenner, a Princeton-based historian of culture and technology, who has researched the evolution of handwriting from the Middle Ages; argues that handwriting is just as valuable of a skill for the 21st century as in the past (Arntzenius, 2). Tenner argues that cursive handwriting exercises significant connections between the hand and the brain, and is a skill too important to abandon (Arntzenius, 4). When Tenner gave a presentation on the subject of “Handwriting after Gutenberg,” he found the majority of his audience was in support of keeping handwriting in the school curriculum (Tenner, 9). To his surprise, “the children and teenagers seemed to be as overwhelmingly pro-handwriting as their elders.” (Tenner, 9)
In the Wall Street Journal, Gwendolyn Bounds reported on the benefits of teaching handwriting and described researchers who have used magnetic resonance imaging to show that handwriting helps children learn letters and shapes and can even improve idea composition and expression (Bounds, 2). Children learning handwriting is good exercise benefiting their motor skills and also for the development of the brain, which enhances their ability to compose ideas, achieve goals throughout life (Bounds, 6). Frank Wilson, a neurologist and author, wrote that, “Although the repetitive drills that accompany handwriting lessons seem outdated, such physical instruction will help students to succeed (Montemayor, 5). These activities stimulate brain activity, lead to increased language fluency, and aid in the development of important knowledge” (Montemayor, 5). The important part is the capacities of the movement of the hands that develop thinking and language and also, interest and the development of feeling of confidence in dept in the world all together; making cursive handwriting a vital necessity for the growth of the caring and capable individual (Tenner, ). “There’s good evidence that, like other forms of manual exercise, learning some form of rapid writing ,cursive or italic or possibly both, is good for the developing brain,” says Tenner (Arntzenius, 14).
Recent research suggests that writing by hand helps one retain information, something to do with the fact that a letter drawn by hand requires several sequential finger movements (involving multiple regions of the brain) as opposed to a single keyboard tap. How often have you heard someone say (or said yourself): “If I’m going to remember that I’ll have to write it down.” Nevertheless, some respected academics such as linguist Dennis Baron argue against handwriting. In his book, “A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution,” he compares the reaction against computers in the classroom to the anxiety and outrage that often follows the introduction of new technology. The printing press, he says, was described as disrupting the “almost spiritual connection” between writer and page; the typewriter was considered “impersonal and noisy” as compared to the art of handwriting.
“A debate wages as 45 states adopt school curriculum guidelines for 2014 that exclude cursive handwriting, but do require keyboard proficiency by the time students exit elementary school,” (Coyle). If research is finding that cursive handwriting has many benefits, I do not understand why more educators and parents are not making efforts to reinstate this skill back into America’s school systems. A ninth grade teacher said that many Americans are not aware that today’s’ modern youth do not know how to read or write cursive (Arcomano). Could it be true that the majority of parents are clueless to the fact that their student(s) do not know how to read cursive? What will happens when children want to learn about their ancestors and the only documents they find are written in cursive? I found many forums and articles that argue that children will not be able to read the U.S. Constitution some day. But we must look at the bigger picture. American children are losing a skill that helps their brains, motor skills and emotions develop.
Technology which has been integrated into America’s school system is said to provide children with motivation, productivity, self- direction, communication, and problem solving skills (ComputerLand). . It has opportunities which include greater access to rich, multimedia content, the increasing use of online course taking to offer classes not otherwise available, the widespread availability of mobile computing devices that can access the Internet, the expanding role of social networking tools for learning and professional development, and the growing interest in the power of digital games for more personalized learning (Technology in Education). Technology has also become a way of learning with minimal instruction from a teacher; it has replaced many books and made information readily available through a push of a few buttons. Students from kindergarten thru the twelfth grade have desktop computer, laptops and most recently iPads available to them (Technology in Education). Students no longer have the need to know how to spell, due to spell check being available to practically every technical device having the program installed.
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Supporters of technology say that, “cursive was, and still is an art but not a necessity,” (Johnson). I agree technology is a very convenient way to complete certain tasks, but the truth of the matter is that there has not been enough research to prove the claims made (Johnson). What benefit does a child receive if they are not required to learn how to spell? My son struggles with spelling; he often asks me how to spell certain words. I get frustrated because when I attended school, spelling was a subject that my teachers emphasized on. Technology Recently, I saw a commercial that was promoting a new computer program, the person spoke into the head set device and the words appeared on the computer screen. If this program were to be introduced into America’s school systems, what and how would this be beneficial to children? How will they learn skills that the older generations acquired when they attended school?
In conclusion there seems to be more research on how cursive handwriting is beneficial in America’s schools, than technology. There are more educators and medical doctors who have conducted extensive research and found that cursive handwriting should not be omitted from children’s school curriculums. Cursive handwriting is praised for its attributes towards the development of children creatively, emotionally and mentally. While technology is being promoted as beneficial to children, there has not been extensive research or studies to back the claims made. Truth of the matter is that no one is really doing anything about it. As long as parents do not get informed and involved, cursive handwriting will no longer be taught in schools.
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