I arrived home yesterday and greeted Paul. He was wearing a tight, pained expression as he laid out all of the fixings for burgers on the dinner table.

“How was work today?” I asked.

“Like taming a lion with a noodle,” he said.

Yesterday, marked Day Two in a regular classroom. The alternative school in which he was teaching before is being phased out. The alternative students will either be expelled or incorporated back into the middle school. Paul was slated to teach 7th grade science in the middle school at the new semester.

Paul did not look forward to this change, though he was grateful to be placed anywhere. Working with 12-20 alternative students with a co-teacher seemed far more friendly that working alone with 30 students in which those same alternative students would be among them. Each of the students at the alternative school had the ability to devastate the learning process in a classroom. At the alternative school, not much was expected — just move them forward. At the regular school, everything would be required.

As I mentioned, all of this change was supposed to happen at the end of the semester.

But the 8th grade science teacher resigned last week.

The class is notorious. Paul will be the sixth teacher in the past year.

Paul’s analogy is appropriate. Taming a lion with a noodle is what teachers are expected to do.

Somehow, students have come to understand that school is a holding pen, not a privilege. Schools’ dependence on federal money requires students in seats. Students can do almost anything over and over and over again before expulsion is even an option. Thus, a classroom becomes a cage from which they will try to escape — and devouring the teacher in the process looks mighty tempting.

There Paul stands, textbook in hand, noodle in the other.

He began to call parents of disruptive kids and found that they all come from two or three families.

“Hi there. This is Paul Harris. I know I just spoke to you about K______.” (Uncomfortable laugh, here). “Now, I’m calling you about L_________.” I can picture him looking down the list and adding, “Heck, since I got you here, we should probably talk about J________ and T________, too.”

Ahh, the state of affairs in an Oregon public school. But now, I’ll move onto the American Public School System. Last year, when I was teaching full time, I marveled at the fact that students couldn’t read my writing. I don’t mean to brag, but I have excellent handwriting. Even when I write fast, it’s very legible.

It dawned on me that they can’t read cursive.

Seriously.

And now, the American public school system is phasing cursive out — eradicating it from their standards. It is no longer the mark of an educated man or woman to write with a fluid hand.

We’re not talking about a crazy, hair-brained idea in California. We’re talking about 48 states. The crazy thing is no one seems bothered about it. Check out this report where the journalist gave a flimsy, courtesy effort at being balanced.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/07/07/cursive-finally-being-phased-out-of-u-s-schools/

Being educated no longer necessitates being fluent with the pen. A student no longer needs to be able to write. The student just needs to …

type better.

Perhaps the journalist is not being imbalanced and most people agree that handwriting is unnecessary.

Do you remember how John Hancock signed his name large and bold, so King George would be sure to read it? Referring to a bounty the British had put on the heads of revolutionaries, he remarked, “The British ministry can read that name without spectacles; let them double their reward.” And ever since, John Hancock is slang for any signature.

But many future American students will be unable to read that signature and all its previous contents.

They may never form their own signatures. They will be unable to make their own mark that is completely individual.

The friend who tipped me about this new step in public schools offered a few futuristic theories: maybe cursive will be the underground code for when the world is taken over — taken over because the only forms of communication are through the computers — which can be monitored and controlled. And most people don’t know they are being controlled because the only information they are getting is through the computers — which are being monitored and controlled. Even if they wanted to read something outside of what is offered over the web and net (notice the implications of those words), they are limited to the printing presses. The handwritten note is inaccessible — both to write and to read.
I don’t know if anyone will care about this change, but in the meantime, I’ll be sitting at the kitchen table, teaching my children to write cursive. You never know. It might come in handy in the future.
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