Schools have been moving away from teaching cursive for some time, but now they seem to be moving away from more of the traditional curriculum in an effort to modernize, which is a mistake. I like the decision to move away from rote learning because that’s not how many people learn, and it’s certainly not very inspirational. Doing, instead of sitting and listening, helps to teach and reinforce lessons, but some basic elements, like multiplication and spelling, will likely get lost under the new Common Core program.
Quick, memorized answers to basic math questions help lay the foundation for doing greater mathematical work. “Is it still necessary for kids to learn their times table when they can pick up their iPhone and ask Siri what is 20 times 2?” Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, was quoted as saying. Calculators existed long before Siri, but not one teacher in my elementary school let us consult them when we were learning basic math. The little slide rulers with the multiplication table was the closest thing we had to a cheat sheet, and even those had to be put away during tests, because the point was to make these facts, these numbers, stick in our brains. (The best quote is later in the article when it’s pointed out that kids with fat fingers may get incorrect answers because they pressed the wrong number on a pad, but will not know the answer is wrong due to lack of basic math knowledge. Add this to the obesity epidemic panic.)
Also slated to go the way of memorized multiplication is spelling. Anyone who has received a text or is Facebook friends with someone a generation younger should be concerned about this. To is not 2, before is not b4, and totes are bags, not an affirmation. It’s perfectly fine to abbreviate in a hurried text, but these things are starting to make their way into everyday writing and speech. Are we all becoming robotic? Spell check features have existed for years, but that doesn’t mean people use them, nor does that help when people are writing with a pen on paper when an underline doesn’t magically appear under a misspelled word. There is no greater announcement of a poor education than a misplaced apostrophe. Join us for margarita’s. Love, the Smith’s.
Let’s make school less about boring lectures that put students to sleep, but the problem is the delivery, not the lesson. Change the approach, make learning more hands-on and relevant (for instance, please, please teach kids about plagiarism, which is even easier now that it was when the Encyclopedia Britannica was the only report source). If we really want to improve elementary education, remove federal testing requirements.