Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Is Cursive Writing Dead?

 Recently I read an article about a young woman who is making her living by helping people who were never taught cursive writing.  In particular, she helps them learn how to have a respectable signature!    

In 2010, Common Core removed the teaching of cursive writing from their standards for English language, arts and mathematics in grades 1 through 12.  While that decision was not mandatory, many states removed the teaching of cursive writing from their curriculums, causing some states to stop  teaching cursive.  It was not long, however, before teaching cursive began a comeback.  

Kansas is among those states: "The Kansas Department of Education believes that cursive handwriting as a student skill still holds an important place in the instructional practice of every school's curriculum and can be integrated in multiple content areas.  Research supports the role that handwriting instruction plays in the cognitive development of children and this activity is even more important in an increasingly digital environment.  The Board expects educators to insure that all students can write legibly in cursive and comprehend text written in this manner." 

What brought this reversal to my attention was the receipt of thank you notes from local 4th grade students who attended a program at Fort Hays State University that we helped support.  Most of those students were not comfortable writing cursive yet, but their neat printing was a pleasant surprise, as were the hand written thank you notes!  

One of the reasons given for continuing to teach cursive writing is that many of the treasured documents of our American history are written in cursive.  Researchers without training in reading and writing cursive would have lost the ability to read those documents without translation to print.  In addition, genealogy research, less likely to have been translated to text, would be difficult to read.

However, there are other benefits to teaching cursive writing, and by January of 2023, twenty-one states required cursive instruction.  Among the benefits of teaching cursive are:

1.  Cursive promotes a better understanding of words.  

2.  With cursive, the barrier between thought and action is minimal.

3.  Different neurological pathways open in the brain than what occurs with typing.

4.  Information is better retained when written in cursive.

5.  Cursive helps develop motor skills.

6.  Students using Cursive are more likely to retain proper spelling.

I was very disappointed when teaching cursive writing was dropped, but my objection had more to do with esthetics than anything else.  I observed that printed correspondence was unlikely to show much effort to make the correspondence attractive.  Thank you notes are always appreciated, but those thank you notes received during the time teaching cursive was neglected showed little attention to printing neatly or arranging the printing attractively on the page.  If the thank you notes received recently from the 4th graders are any example, writing neatly seems once again to be emphasized.  One of the students had already mastered an attractive cursive penmanship, but all of the students had made an effort to write neatly.  The thank you notes were a pleasant surprise, and we enjoyed sharing their appreciation for a day at FHSU, meeting illustrators and learning about how books are created!  

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Protesting Events: Effective or Annoying

Following the 1st game of the 2nd set of the semifinals between Coco Gauff & Karslina Muchova the match was interrupted by protestors for 49 minutes.  Some of you may have been watching.  Did you find it Effective or Annoying, or did you even know what the protest was about? 

Suffragettes Protesting for the Vote.

Sometimes protestors appear at events that they oppose, but other times the protests have little or nothing to do with the event or location of the protest.   Where do these protestors get the right to publicly protest?  The answer is that they are protected by the 1st Amendment; however, the right is not without limits.  It is strongest in locations considered "traditional public forums,' such as streets, sidewalks, and parks.  It may also be exercised by permission of the owner of the property where the protest takes place, and the owner can set rules.  Even on public property, there may be particular rules permits.  The right to protest is a valuable right. 

Clearly the US Open was not public property, but in today's world, the management had anticipated the possibility of protestors and had set aside a particular location.  However, the protestors who interrupted the tennis match were inside the arena when they interrupted the match, shouting about Climate Change and wearing shirts that read "End Fossil Fuels."  An environmental activist group "took credit," with their slogan "no tennis on a dead planet."  Their spokesperson said their purpose was to urge the government to stop approving fossil fuel projects. 

Three of the protestors were easily removed, but the fourth protestor chose to glue his bare feet to the floor of the seating area, requiring medical personal to safely remove him.  During that time, those who had paid to attend the match and those watching on television were interrupted, as were the tennis players.  It may or may not have altered the outcome of the match, a significant financial impact for those two women.  Did the protest accomplish anything productive?  Most people did not even know what the protest was about.  I certainly didn't.  Is it likely that those in the government making decisions about fossil fuels were influenced?

Some might say that the fact that I am posting this blog is proof of success, although that is not my intention.  It is true that they aroused my curiosity, but my research did not discover their purpose.  Instead, I found an article online by someone who missed their intended objective, writing instead about the ecological impact of tennis balls!  According to that article, 330 million tennis balls are produced yearly, with 125 million tennis balls discarded into the trash each year.  The three words on the protesters t-shirts, "End Fossil Fuels," seemed insignificant to their purpose.

According to doctors, "Tennis is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that improves muscular strength, endurance, balance, coordination and agility."  It has become a popular sport, in a nation where we need to encourage exercise.  We dispose of far more indestructible and unnecessary trash than the tennis ball, which actually has a beneficial purpose to our health.  My blog may reach more people than the four protestors at the US Open Tennis did, and although I share the protestors' concern about fossil fuels, I conclude that their protest was more annoying than effective.  What do you think? 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The Story of a Dog...and a few other 4-leged friends

 I knew I was in trouble when my husband came into the Duckwall's where I worked during college and asked me how to pay for something with my employee discount...especially when I noticed the little pink cat collar in his hand.  Prince was our first rescued pet, and fortunately, he quickly outgrew the pink collar.  Somehow, we were talked into leaving him at the farm the following summer, and although we regretted leaving him, he became my father's best buddy, at just the time my dad needed a pet.
I had grown up with pets at the farm, both cats and dogs, but never house pets.  Eventually my husband and I began thinking about getting a dog.  I think we rationalized that a dog could be left outside in the yard and would be easier to take care of than a house cat with a litter box.  Lady, our second rescue, became a house dog almost immediately.  She had been dumped in the middle of nowhere in winter in a cardboard box, with her mother and two other pups, with no food and no shelter.  Fortunately, the man who checked the pump site where they were left arrived soon enough to rescue them.  She was smart, beautiful, gentle, and ready to try whatever we suggested, including riding with us on our motorcycle.
Lady got us through college, the Air Force, living in NYC, Law School, and getting us settled into our careers.  I'm not sure we could have managed without her.

During our marriage we have had 2 dogs and 5 cats, and only one of those pets was a pedigreed dog.  We bought Abbey because she reminded us of Lady, but our careers meant that she was often left alone.  One night, while she was outside, she began barking at a black and white kitten hiding in the bushes.  We rescued him, intending to find him a home, but the home we found was our own.  We named the cat Remington, and after a few days getting acquainted, he and Abbey became pals.

Abbey & Remington

 Black Kitty and Jacob were stray kittens adopted when the mother cat abandoned them.  A neighbor threatened calling the city animal catcher because the pair of kittens were spending too much time at  his bird feeder.  I tried to find them homes, but no one wanted the half-wild kittens.  We were about to move, so the only solution was to take them with us.  They moved from Georgia to North Carolina to  Texas, and finally to Kansas.  They spent days outdoors but nights in the garage, and they seemed perfectly satisfied with that accommodation.  The last of the four finally became an indoor cat, and when she died, we were retired and decided not to get another pet.  We had never liked boarding our pets when we travelled, so we agreed not to have another pet for a while and to enjoy traveling.

Until, one icy cold December after midnight, we were returning from a weekend in Kansas City, and  only a few miles from home we saw a little grey and white kitten sitting by the side of the road.  We stopped, only to discover that he was a full-grown tom cat and he was clearly sick, but we decided to  get him healthy and find him a home.  As you may have guessed, we did.  Ours!

I shared these stories to remind people how wonderful rescued pets can be.  How fortunate Pratt is to have Manager, Alexis Moss and all the others that make the Pratt Humane Society possible.  Even if you don't need a pet right now, you might consider calling your local Humane Society (in Pratt, 620-672-6777) to see how you might help.  For those of you who live out of state, I am sure there are Animal societies near you who would love your help, and who have wonderful animals hoping for someone to love them.

An interesting idea found on Face Book

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Banned Book Favorites

 Some classic favorites have delighted children for generations.  In a world where children have so many opportunities to see violence on television and in the news, it seems to me a wonderful fact that many clever books are still beloved by kids.

Those of you who follow my blog know that I have never outgrown my love for collecting children's books, and one of my favorite bookstores devoted to children's books is celebrating 43 years of introducing children to wonderful books.  Books of Wonder was always on our list back in the day when we made frequent trips to NYC, and even now I enjoy their website online, which includes older collectible books, as well as art.

Recently, while I was online looking at children's books, I stumbled upon a website of banned children's books.  I knew that there are current books that some parents oppose, but the discovery that some of my favorite children's classics have been banned was disturbing.

We are not living in the Victorian era.  What children today see on television can be pretty personal, and even worse is the exposure to violence.  Given that exposure, what sort of books are being banned?  For example, what was the Detroit Public Library thinking when they decided that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had "no value for children of today."  And, why was J.K. Rowling's books, that got children excited about reading, banned in many places for "promoting godless witchcraft."  Perhaps we adults have allowed our imaginations to grow idle, but kids know fantasy when they read it, and it is fun.

Even Alice in Wonderland was disapproved.  Apparently, the smoking of a hookah by the caterpillar upset some adults, even though Alice didn't like the caterpillar, nor his blowing smoke in her face.  Yet, some adults feared that the caterpillar would promote drug use.  Others saw the threat of sexuality in the caterpillar's shape.  What?!  Maybe scholars analyzing the text can find interpretations from their adult perspective, but generations of kids have seen no such things.

Another reason for disapproval of some children's books is the idea of animals talking.  Apparently, in many countries, books that show animals talking are objectionable.  A quote taken from China declares:  "Animals should not use human language, and it is disastrous to put animals and human beings on the same level."  Personally, I agree that dogs and cats are very smart, but hard as they may try, they can't quite manage speech.  Those of us who have pets know that they are very good at training us, and they can be trained to understand commands (although cats generally pretend otherwise), but it seems doubtful to me that allowing children to read books in which the animals can talk will make them think animals are on the same level as people.  If they do believe that, it is far more likely that it is because of the devotion their pets have shown them.  A prohibition against books in which animals speak would empty a great many shelves of wonderful books in both homes and libraries.

Maurice Sendak had a special gift of remembering what it was like to think like a child.  He never lost that childhood perspective of remembering how imagination is fun, and the scary stuff is just pretend, especially if your mother's lap is just a few steps away.  Yet, the popular Where the Wild Things Are was widely banned.  

Imagination is essential to childhood. How could children figure out who they are or what they want to be when they grow up if they could not be a fairy princess or cowboy one year and a doctor or a movie star or a scientist or an Olympian or a dog trainer or a tennis pro or an astronaut the next.  Fantasy is only a dress rehearsal to figure out who you really are.   Books are where kids can learn things without having to find them out in ways less desirable.  Books are ways to ask parents and others you trust about things you need to know and find confusing or troubling.  Today's world is more complicated than the world I grew up in, and books are still a safer place to learn about those complicated things than facing them for the first time in complete innocence.  I certainly don't have answers, but banning books that teachers and librarians have read and approved isn't something likely to protect kids.