Old School

Let’s face it, if we were able to transport kids today back in time to spend a few days in the world we grew up in, they’d think they landed on another planet. So when I read an article recently about things children today may never experience in school I had mixed feelings about many of them. These are some of the things either expected to disappear or in some cases already have.

Cursive Writing

fountain pen and ink
You think getting marker out of your kid’s clothes is touch, be glad you didn’t have to ever contend with this indelible stain.

I think Cursive Writing has received the most uproar among things vanishing from today’s school curriculum. Most schools introduce cursive writing in second grade. It’s when I learned, it’s when my kids learned. Now it seems, many school districts are looking to strike it from their curriculum. The reason? Because in this new age, most writing is done on keyboards. Handwritten term papers have been replaced by computer printed documents. It’s true I type more words these days than I write by hand, but I don’t think cursive writing should be abolished. It doesn’t need to be taught as such a regimented practice as it was back in the day, but the future adults of the world should be able to sign their own names using better penmanship than a monkey. Though I’m sure our ancestors used this same argument when schools announced they were eliminating fountain pens and ink wells.


Recess monitors suck all the fun out of playing outside.
Playground monitors have always sucked all the fun out of playing outside.

True go outside and play recess has been gone for a long time. When my kids were young, they were rushed through their lunches and sent outside for a few short minutes. This enabled the staff to clean off the tables and get ready for the next lunch period. The amount of time it took for the kids to get bundled up and outside, and then get yelled at for running around hardly seemed worth the effort. I agree that kids have lots of pent-up energy that needs to be released,  but a few short minutes of recess doesn’t adequately accomplis it. And the same goes for mandatory daily physical education classes. I’m willing to bet, no child anywhere, has gotten into great physical shape by attending gym class. What gets kids in great physical shape is participating in fun physical activities. Gym class is not fun. It never has been, it never will be.  It’s just another class period filled with following rules, standing in line and waiting around to be humiliated by the truly gifted ones in class.

"I had so much fun square dancing in school today," said no one ever.
“I had so much fun square dancing in school today,” said no one ever.

Square Dancing

This one without a doubt needs to be put to rest. It was dreadful in 1972, it has to seem downright ridiculous to children today. As germaphobic as we’ve become, is it really a good idea to grab the hands of the grimy kid standing next to you and doe-see-doe and promenade? I think not. Kill it.

Corporal Punishment

paddleI was astonished to learn that paddling was still performed in almost 20 US states. I find this so hard to believe, especially when you hear so many stories from teachers and aides who are so paranoid about any form of physical contact with students, including hugs. How can striking a child with an object in school be still legal. (Wait, I think I just described the game of Dodge-ball.)

When I was in grade school the principal had paddles hanging in his office. There were even holes drilled into them to cut down on wind resistance. While not ever being subjected to punishment by paddle, as a 6th grade patrol guard, I yielded much power in who did. Myself and others guards would stand with the principal as each class line entered the building, and we would indicate which students misbehaved while crossing the streets. Now in hindsight, we may have been a tad bit judgmental, but at the time, we took our job of keeping younger students safe very seriously. At the time parents didn’t seem to have an issue with it, but I have to say, as a parent, I can’t believe any parent today is okay with this practice.

Ultimately though, much of what we learned in school is no longer necessary. Things like the Dewey Decimal System and how to find books in the library with the card catalog are no longer useful. Schools today need to do more than skim the basics, they need to help prepare students for tomorrow’s world. That means they need to be comfortable with the new technologies. They need solid understandings of the core subjects such as math and science, as well as strong written and verbal communication. While art and music departments are facing extinction because of budget cuts, these programs needs to continue. The creative thinking that these programs instill are well worth the cost to maintain. A well-rounded education is going to improve students’ critical thinking. Creativity helps with problem solving skills and resourcefulness in the workplace.

Just as our educations were based on what we needed for the future we were facing as adults, today’s educator’s must do the same and if that means admitting some of the things we were taught are no longer relevant in today’s world,  we need to get over it.

Now where is my abacus? I need to balance my check book.


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