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18 Nov Posted by in Academics | Comments Off on Curses

This is not a big ticket item, but an interesting sign of change. Last fall, when we got the usual nonsense about the characteristics of this year’s freshmen (that they have always have had Internet, etc.), one point made was their universal lack of training in cursive writing. I took that one with a grain of salt, because some students in my freshman class do still write in cursive. But in checking this year I agree it’s now a minority.

And one of my own adult children, who teaches primary school at an institution with a fairly conservative curriculum overall, reports that indeed even they don’t train in cursive and are not responsive to suggestions that they should.

So the world is changing. I relied heavily, in college, on my ability to write really long essay exams, really fast, in essentially illegible cursive, encouraging teachers to believe that if I could write at such length, even if they were not exactly sure what I said, that I deserved an A. The strategy worked really well. But now it is a lost art. Because students are now printing essay exams, it is actually true that this fall, I have trouble reading only one person’s writing (but he doesn’t write in volume, and so far he is not getting an A).

So the change seems real. It does raise some mildly interesting questions about situations where students still might need to be able to write fast (as in note taking where mechanical devices are not available — as, still, in a number of medical settings). And it raises questions, for those of us who still believe in essay exams, about whether we should be moving faster toward laptop use (but then there are all the problems of web-based cheating).

Mostly, then, this is simply an interesting change, a sign of the times. But it may have a few educational implications worth noting.