Categories
Education

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, KismetCuisine.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @oluburrell.

Categories
News

Missing a parent-teacher conference could mean jail time for Detroit residents

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy defended her plan to jail parents who repeatedly miss conferences with their children’s teachers during an appearance today on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Worthy said many people think she is looking to simply jail people for three days if they miss a parent-teacher conference, but she said her plan is not that strict. She is calling for the jail stay if a parent repeatedly misses conferences and isn’t in touch with teachers and school officials.

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Education

Choosing the Right School for Your Child Part 5: Talk to People in the School Community

Education and access to knowledge hold a sacred place for Black Americans. From the time when it was inaccessible to us, the risks that we took to acquire it, and the opportunities that have arisen for us from its acquisition, we have always valued learning and education.

Our demographic – the Black members of generations X and Y – have become the caretakers of that tradition. Now in our prime parenting years, we are faced with difficult choices as we consider the scholastic portion of our children’s education.

This series of articles chronicles five aspects to consider as you choose the right school for your child. There is no one strategy that will help you to find that “best fit”, but these basic guidelines will be beneficial to you on your search.

5. Talk to other parents/guardians about the prospective schools.

Some schools will provide you with contact information for other families who have children in the school. If you have children of color, the school may even direct you toward other families with children of color so that you may ask them about their experiences. You may have a visceral reaction to it but trust me; it really is a good sign that they are interested in getting your child into the school, as well as welcoming you as a family into theirs.

Categories
Education

Choosing the Right school for Your Child Part 4: Bring Your Child!

Education and access to knowledge hold a sacred place for Black Americans. From the time when it was inaccessible to us, the risks that we took to acquire it, and the opportunities that have arisen for us from its acquisition, we have always valued learning and education.

Our demographic – the Black members of generations X and Y – have become the caretakers of that tradition. Now in our prime parenting years, we are faced with difficult choices as we consider the scholastic portion of our children’s education.

This series of articles chronicles five aspects to consider as you choose the right school for your child. There is no one strategy that will help you to find that “best fit”, but these basic guidelines will be beneficial to you on your search.

4. Bring your children to the schools that you are considering.

This should be considered unnecessary advice, but I have seen many parents visit a school without their children. While they may sometimes be more interested in mascots, lunch menus, or locker sizes, it is important for you to see how the teachers, administrators, and other students respond to your children as visitors. It can be an excellent indicator for how they will interact with them as actual citizens of the school.

Categories
Education

Choosing the Right School for Your Child Part 3: Qualitative vs. Qualitative Data

Education and access to knowledge hold a sacred place for Black Americans. From the time when it was inaccessible to us, the risks that we took to acquire it, and the opportunities that have arisen for us from its acquisition, we have always valued learning and education.

Our demographic – the Black members of generations X and Y – have become the caretakers of that tradition. Now in our prime parenting years, we are faced with difficult choices as we consider the scholastic portion of our children’s education.

This series of articles chronicles five aspects to consider as you choose the right school for your child. There is no one strategy that will help you to find that “best fit”, but these basic guidelines will be beneficial to you on your search.

3. The qualitative data is infinitely more important than the quantitative data.

With the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), schools have understandably begun to present their standardized test scores as proof of their ability to educate children (see my rant about NCLB here). In independent schools, they may present College Board scores in lieu of state-mandated ones. In either case, remember the phrase “quality of education”: it is your reminder that how well a school educates its students is a qualitative matter, and not solely a quantitative one.

Categories
Education

Choosing the Right School for Your Child Part 2: Diversity and Overall School Health

Education and access to knowledge hold a sacred place for Black Americans. From the time when it was inaccessible to us, the risks that we took to acquire it, and the opportunities that have arisen for us from its acquisition, we have always valued learning and education.

Our demographic – the Black members of generations X and Y – have become the caretakers of that tradition. Now in our prime parenting years, we are faced with difficult choices as we consider the scholastic portion of our children’s education.

This series of articles chronicles five aspects to consider as you choose the right school for your child. There is no one strategy that will help you to find that “best fit”, but these basic guidelines will be beneficial to you on your search.

2. The overall health of a school can be measured by its commitment to diversity.

The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) considers “diversity” to consist of eight cultural identifiers: ability (mental and physical), age, ethnicity (includes country of origin and ancestry), gender, race, religion, sexuality, and socioeconomic status. Where a child falls within each of these eight categories – each one a continuum in itself – goes a long way toward determining who he or she is. The ideal school then, considers every student a “special case”, because the specific set of cultural identifiers they possess makes each child very unique.

Categories
Education

Choosing the Right School for Your Child Part 1: Matchmaking vs. Prize-winning

Education and access to knowledge hold a sacred place for Black Americans. From the time when it was inaccessible to us, the risks that we took to acquire it, and the opportunities that have arisen for us from its acquisition, we have always valued learning and education.

Our demographic – the Black members of generations X and Y – have become the caretakers of that tradition. Now in our prime parenting years, we are faced with difficult choices as we consider the scholastic portion of our children’s education.

This series of articles chronicles five aspects to consider as you choose the right school for your child. There is no one strategy that will help you to find that “best fit”, but these basic guidelines will be beneficial to you on your search.

1.Choosing the right school is a match to be made, not a prize to be won.

The above quote was a mantra repeated by the Director of College Counseling for a school in Minneapolis at which I taught, but it applies to any school choice.   There are so many different types of schools: public, independent (private), parochial, Montessori, exceptional student education (a general term which includes gifted & talented as well as learning-disabled students), arts-based, sports academies… the list can daunting.