Few report cards these days include a line to mark achievement in an age-old skill that our parents and grandparents toiled over in school. Even when I was a kid, a good grade in penmanship or handwriting was enough to elicit pride and boastfulness in both parent and student, not to mention the teacher who forced us to practice perfect little curves and carefully crossed ‘T’ s.
Now with computer keyboarding and text messaging taking on greater importance than legible cursive, many a curmudgeon have decried the state of children’s handwriting.
There’s even a new book that chronicles the history of this phenomenon. Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting, is reviewed by Michael Dirda in this Washington Post Book World piece from last month.
Thousands of schoolchildren around the country, however, put their best pencil forward recently when they were asked to write, in their own hand, a letter to President Obama. On Wednesday, more than 34,000 of the letters were delivered to Washington filled with advice for how Mr. Obama should wield his influence to improve the nation’s schools. The project was sponsored by the publisher of the “Handwriting Without Tears” curriculum.
Here are some of their requests:
“I would like you to let teachers have more money to buy school supplies. My teacher had to use her money to buy supplies. It makes me unhappy.”
“I think you should make schools better by keeping kids safer, having more field trips and having more than one teacher in a classroom.”
“Next year nearly 500 to 700 schools will be closing because of budget cuts.
I think that when we end the war in Iraq you should try to fund schools.”
“As a student, I would like you to cut back on all the tests we take and let the teachers teach more.”
In this exercise, penmanship counts. But I think the students’ sentiments might be what gets them the extra credit.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.