Something More Than Cursive

There is something telling that the big argument or concern in the halls of Florida State education is whether or not to include cursive writing as a part of the Common Core curriculum. It’s odd, of course, that this national, let’s-all-have-a-common-school-curriculum doesn’t include cursive, sometimes called script. If knowledge seeks to link generations, build on solid bases, and so forth, it’s hard to ignore cursive. If people 30 and under can not read script, that’s a language barrier.

Be that as it may, my point is that cursive, while not irrelevant, is such a minor factor in the much, much larger issue of whether or not students are getting an adequate education. Let’s start with the basics: do the students really care about learning at all? I know it’s normal that kids don’t want to “go” to school, study, take tests. I didn’t like to do any of those things either.

The question today is whether students just don’t give a hoot at all. Hey. School is free. It’s just something we have to go through. All our parents want is for us to get a certificate that says we graduated. Maybe 75 per cent of us will make it through. But, don’t push us. Don’t give us too much homework. Don’t interfere with our extracurricular activities and what we consider “our time off.” The pressure is too much. Besides, it’s aggravating our parents. THEY don’t like all this pushing. It interferes with THEIR time. Besides, the teachers are supposed to make us learn. Teach us something.  That’s their responsibility. To pause here: it might be helpful to talk to students in countries where they don’t have an opportunity to learn for free if they have an opportunity at all.

Of course, it’s all the teachers’ fault. That’s where most of the focus has been. That, and not having the right facilities – buildings, equipment (the latest, of course), social support programs and all that. After that it’s the taxpayers’ fault for not paying enough money for higher teachers’ salaries, newer buildings, better sports facilities. On top of that, no one knows what to teach, much less how to teach. What’s wrong with THEM? Here we are. Educate us. How did anyone ever learn before having all these elaborate facilities.

Oh, I forgot about the parents. Do they care? Are schools just free baby sitting facilities? Are schools the substitute parents expected to shelter, feed (now two meals, soon to be three meals), discipline AND teach. Is there no responsibility for the parents except to pay the taxes?

Too harsh. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe the free bit is too free. What you don’t have to pay for is hard to appreciate. Somebody is paying, but maybe it’s not so obvious, just part of the landscape. So, maybe the blame game is like standing in a circle each pointing a finger inward. That’s probably fair. Everyone has to share the blame. There is enough to go around.

Start with setting the standards. Yes, standards. There’s a performance, as well as behavior, standard that is expected for all. That’s it. It’s set by the adults, not by the children or the children-like parents. These are standards that should reflect not only the contemporary times, but the links to the past and universal values and goals such as preparing students to take part in a participatory representative form of government. That may be priority number one. That in itself implies learning to read and write and calculate. Then there’s the issue of making certain there are performance standards for the students as well as the teachers and, of course, the administrators.

That’s called accountability and it implies measurements (in some cases tests) as well as post evaluations. Do schools measure progress from grade to grade, within grades, between classes and teachers of those classes, materials covered or not covered, evaluations from elementary to middle to junior high or senior high? Is there a follow up to determine what results the schools achieved: what is needed in the work place, in higher education? Is there a process for feedback?

Are the students aware all these processes are going on or that they should be going on? Shouldn’t they be a part of it? I’m always intrigued about how parents, teachers, students and the general public accept that activities such as band and drama and sports expect standards and enforce those standards, and have no problem rewarding or discarding those who don’t perform – and that goes for the performers and the teacher/coaches. Of course, you cannot cast aside non-performing students, but you can determine the why and deal with that problem. By the way, there can’t be solutions without identifying the problem (not an original thought, of course).

There seems to be a consensus that our system of mass education is not working for the masses. Yes, some self or parent motivated students have taken advantage of the free opportunities and exceeded exceptionally well. Perhaps that’s one of the aspects of the so-called inequality of wages and achievements. People who see the opportunities take them and don’t wait for the laggards. Others want to take opportunities but are blocked from doing so in an educational structure dominated by one model.

More is missing from the educational curriculum than cursive instruction. I think it is accountability and flexibility and alternatives. But, until a new way is determined and accepted, we’re going to get the same results.

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