Education . . . It Ain’t What It Used to Be

September 7, 2015

Dumb . . . Dumber . . . Dumbest!!  These are the adjectives that best describe what the educational system in America has become.

Dumb is when teachers started teaching to tests instead of teaching to educate.  When they no longer cared about exposing children to the wondrous world of learning; they only cared about getting funding from the government based on the school’s performance of the standardized tests.  Of course, nowadays the teachers aren’t too well educated so it’s almost a moot point.  How can you teach something you haven’t learned or don’t know very well?

Dumber is when we, in our infinite wisdom, decided that no child should be left behind regardless of the fact that he couldn’t read, couldn’t grasp mathematics, couldn’t identify his state on a map, and couldn’t bother handing in his homework assignments or attending classes.  “Dumber” is that it’s more important for the student to feel good about himself than studying and learning.

Dumbest is where we are now.  I’m still reeling over this latest example of dumbness.  How can we, once the leader in education, have sunk so low that even the ranking of “Dumbest” is being too magnanimous.  I don’t shock easily but this news item had me almost catatonic.

Almost every state in this country has opted to drop teaching cursive writing from the curriculum.  They claim that it is more important for a child to learn how to type because everything is now geared toward the computer and texting.  They say that teaching cursive writing is time-consuming and not as useful as the keyboard skills that students will need for junior high school and high school.

I won’t even go into the obvious factor that you learn more effectively when you write something in longhand than when you type it on a keyboard.  Your memory kicks in more quickly when there is a correlation between your brain and your written word; you recognize it more easily, you commit it to memory more easily and you can access the information more easily.  Ask any student from the old days when learning was the backbone of his social skills, when his whole world revolved around study partners, taking notes, and preparing for college.

Forget the tie-in to neuroscience that backs up this theory.  The scientific community wants us to see the importance of writing things in longhand as opposed to keying it in on a typewriter.  My reasons are much more basic.

In modern society, we tend to be fascinated by the meaning of our dreams.  Ask anyone who has ever tried to remember his dream how he managed it and more often than not, you’ll find that most people keep a pad and pencil by their bedside so that they can record it while they still remember it.  Without knowing how to write, are these children, in later years, supposed to sleep with their laptop to record their dreams?

Many years ago, I had a dream where I saw a beautiful poem of many stanzas and in my sleep, I tried to remember the words.  When I woke up, the only thing I remembered were the last two lines.  I wrote them down and put them away for future reference.  I did nothing with what I had written down but the words played over and over in my mind for several years.  And then one day, I turned on the radio and there was John Denver singing this captivating song and the last two lines of that song were the same two lines that I had written down and tucked away in my box of assorted notes.  Needless to say, that song became an overnight hit.

I’m still trying to imagine future generations of doctors who want to prescribe medications for their patients.  Will they do this by thought transference to the pharmacist or texting it on their cell phone?  At least they won’t have to worry about their legendary illegible handwriting.

And then there are the times that we all have when we need traveling directions and we’re standing on a street corner asking how we get somewhere.  I generally reach for my notepad and pen and write everything down.  Even if I had my laptop with me, what if the battery gave out and I couldn’t plug in my adapter to a power source?  Or if you were at a social event and wanted to give someone your telephone number and itinerary and you didn’t know how to write and your pocket wasn’t big enough to hold your iphone or tiny computer?

But I think the biggest deterrent to not learning cursive writing is that someday, perhaps in the not too distant future, our electricity will fail us and there won’t be any time for scientists to find an alternate source of electricity for us to use our computers.  It might start out with several hours of blackouts and then extend for weeks and months of blackouts.  

Right now, most of the states have opted for not teaching children cursive writing because it takes up too much time.  It’s no wonder that our children are being deprived of a good education and that we have slipped down so far in the global ranking system. If we want to compete in a global market, our students need to have the same level of education that the rest of the civilized world has.

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