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EXTRA CREDIT Should students still be cursive? learning Story by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin Photos by Scott Buschman Cursive connects us to our past and our future By Eldra Avery WE CREATE OUR OWN CULTURE. If we deem a skill irrelevant, than we eliminate that skill. If we believe that a skill is worthy, then we will work to reinforce that skill. Legible penmanship is a worthy skill, not only as a communication tool, but as a portion of our individual identity. As opposed to keyboarding, handwriting is a reflection of our humanity and connects us to our past and to our future. If students can't write cursive, they can't read cursive. And if they can't read cursive, how can they read historical documents, like the Declaration of Independence? We dream of a future with technology and less labor as our savior, but truthfully, if technology prevents us from honing skills that are intrinsically human, I wonder if that can be called "progress." I failed a handwriting assignment in eighth grade, and my teacher told me that I was way too smart to have that type of penmanship. So I improved my handwriting and now have beautiful handwriting. I teach AP English, and at times I have forced all of my students 44 California Educator June/July 2012 to do assignments in cursive. Since students will be taking timed writing exams throughout their educational career, it is imperative that they practice writing at a speed that will enable them to finish their task. When you have three letters connected in a word, it flows, and when you lift the pen only at the end of a word, it is faster than printing, which lifts the pen at the completion of each letter. Legible penmanship is not a skill that can be purchased; therefore, it is one more way to create equity in the classroom. Through practice comes improvement, and with improvement comes self-esteem and pride in a task successfully accomplished. In a society that equates status with wealth, it is refreshing to see status awarded for practice and accomplishment. Penmanship develops fine motor skills, and most students find that when they practice, they can radically improve their handwriting. With Internet plagiarism a concern, many teachers have increased in-class writing assignments, and these essays must be legible. Copying text is a process that promotes "internalizing language." Because students are continually distracted by technology, they spend fewer hours reading, which translates to inadequate "internalizing of language." Copying by hand can help many students. My students complete a poetry explication paper each year. Many of them tell me that they couldn't begin to understand their poem until they copied it by hand. Penmanship is an art form, and in truth, if you want to get someone's attention, handwrite your note. An e-mail can get deleted in a millisecond; not so with a handwritten communication. Communication through handwriting will always be a necessity. To imagine that the entire world will communicate via keyboard access is a rather narrow view. Eldra Avery is an English teacher at San Luis Obispo High School and a San Luis Coastal Teachers Association member. YES

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