By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
In an age of keyboards and text messages, there are fears that the art of cursive handwriting may be dying, but there are local educators who hope to keep that skill alive.
While learning how to use a keyboard is important in this computer age, many teachers still feel that knowing how to sign your name is still important.
“Oh, absolutely. I fuss about this all the time,” said Mary Alice Kaufman, a member of the Mercer County Board of Education who is also a former teacher and principal. “I think we’re all doing children an injustice by not teaching cursive writing. We are still required to sign our names in many different situations all the time. Look at our income tax forms. Look at all the legal documents. We all have to sign our name.”
Teaching cursive writing is not required in Mercer County, but it is still taught in some classrooms. Some educators across the nation feel there isn’t enough time to teach cursive with all the other mandated courses that require attention, Kaufman added.
“In my opinion, we don’t have time not to teach it,” she said. “If we’re not teaching cursive, we’re not teaching the reading of cursive. When I was in school, we had a writing teacher who did nothing but teach writing in Braxton County.”
Gene Bailey, another member of the Mercer County Board of Education and a former teacher, said most tests now require typing.
“Probably the most valuable class I had in school was typing,” Bailey recalled. “And the second most valuable class I had in high school was bookkeeping.”
Cursive writing may have a purpose as an art form, but it does not have much use beyond that, he said.
“I personally don’t see much value in it with all the other things we have to teach anymore,” Bailey said.
In McDowell County, students begin to learn cursive writing in the second grade. Lessons continue into the third grade.
“Most of these children are printing instead of using cursive,” said Mike Callaway, president of the McDowell County Board of Education. “I feel it is a skill that should not be lost. I think that it is something that is becoming a lost art, and it should be taught.”
Across the state line in Tazewell County, Va., lessons in cursive are part of the Imagine It! program, said Kristina Welch, elementary supervisor for Tazewell County Schools.
“That’s part of our Tazewell County Reading Initiative,” she said. “It’s a program from the second grade.” The program continues into the third grade.
Last year, Welch was a middle school principal. She recalled that many students did not write in cursive. Some girls use it “so they will have handwriting that looks pretty,” she added.
Students don’t see cursive writing as much as they did in the past, and they do not write letters like they did years ago; but they should still be urged to use a cursive signature, Welch said, adding that they are warned that a printed signature is too easy to copy.
One problem teachers encounter is finding the time to teach cursive writing. The Standards of Learning, which outlines the classes students must take, leaves little time for writing lessons, Welch said.
“It used to be that you could sneak in 15 minutes a day,” she said of handwriting. “It’s no longer a subject on its own. You used to have a handwriting grade on your report card.”