The first item on the Beloit Mindset List 2014

For the incoming college class of 2014, the first item on the list of its annual mindset list is “Few in the class know how to write in cursive.”  This caught my eye because I’d had a conversation last year about this potential disconnect in the classroom with one of our English Department faculty.  She’d told me that one of her students wasn’t  making specific improvements to his writing assignments that she’d noted on his papers and when she talked to him she’d found out he couldn’t read cursive writing.

This had never occurred to her, nor had it occurred to me.  I mentioned it to other faculty and they hadn’t really thought about it either.  Most of us are U.S. educated and of an age where we were taught and regularly used cursive for at least a couple of decades. One faculty explained that most of what he does in terms of student feedback is done electronically and he is not writing remarks with a pen or pencil. In some discussions with K-12 teachers in AZ, and some librarians on email listservs, I found out that yes, many U.S. schools are not teaching cursive. 

Today, I forwarded the Beloit Mindset link to a Director on campus in charge of faculty teaching development and asked if this was a potential disconnect in the classroom. Besides her role in faculty development, she is also a longtime ESL instructor.  She responded that she knew that she couldn’t write in cursive in the ESL classroom because our students educated in Mexico are not taught cursive, but it had not occurred to her that the broader faculty might not know this. She now planned to bring it up at New Faculty Orientation later today. Cool, so I’m not coming out of left field.

I think this is a potential disconnect in the classroom that may not have occurred to many of us librarians who stand in a classroom doing library instruction and write on the white boards. Or for that matter, some of us are doing instruction to distance sites on interactive television or through web conferencing systems, and using whiteboards. Note to self: Stop the cursive writing. Somehow, I know it will take me awhile.

Have any of you out there encountered this?

Tina Sibley is the Distance Education Librarian at Arizona Western College