I’ve had some pet peeves about the education system for a few years…and they’re not about standardized testing for once! With the craziness surrounding school safety and all, there are bigger fish to fry… but so long as adults are (hopefully) taking a harder look at the way schools work, I’d like a few little things to be brought up again (at least, most districts in southeast Texas have these peeves):
I couldn’t believe when I first heard that students weren’t learning cursive writing in schools anymore. People can weigh the pros and cons all they want of whether or not cursive is necessary when “everybody” has computer access and needs to type on computers more than anything.
Really. Most kids learned far younger than I how to type, and unless I’m mistaken, there are still Keyboarding classes in middle school and computer labs in elementary. Hell, they probably moved keyboarding to elementary, 20 minutes three times a week, like music class used to be.
You can google the back and forth about this issue, but when I tutor, my biggest issue is kids’ handwriting. It’s nice when kids can type their responses, but if they can’t spell, and they can’t write (and technology fails), then they’re in trouble. Cursive writing helps teach them better motor control and gives their writing a unique look.
More than that, I hear so many times how kids just are lazy and don’t care about school, how they hate it and stuff. Well, if it’s that stupid standardized testing taking up all their time, I can say I DON’T BLAME THEM FOR HATING SCHOOL!!! It takes away from projects and other learning opportunities that kids could enjoy better.
And it’s not just an elementary thing, but I hear it from high schoolers all the time (and the teachers).
But you know something? A year ago I bought some dry-erase practice handwriting cards from Barnes and Noble. One set was print writing, one was cursive (and for very decent prices). I started bringing them to tutorial group for the kids who were a bit early for their session and had to wait.
And the kids practically DEVOURED my cursive cards. They wanted to practice cursive. They WANTED to try learning to do cursive, and I’d sit with them for just a few minutes and help them with the motions. They could trace over the letters and try them on their own, flip them over to the back and try whole words. It was fun.
And for the kiddos with really bad print, I told them to use my print cards. They weren’t too happy about it, but as they were dry erase, it wasn’t that big a deal in the end (and I told them they had to learn how to walk before they could run a mile, writing wise).
So, let me amend that a bit–spend more time on handwriting practice first, then bring back cursive. But let the kids work on writing. I don’t care if they hate it: if I can’t read it, then I won’t grade it (how the hell most teachers can read the chicken scratch I see in tutoring each afternoon, I’ll never know).
And I also find it disturbing that 20 year olds don’t know cursive and PRINT their “signatures.” Do they know how ripe for identity theft they are? Sheesh! Thanks a lot, education system. Print is a helluva lot easier to forge.
So yeah, for their own safety (and so kids can write notes a lot faster as they get older, with improved dexterity and readability), teach cursive again, would ya?
Okay, I know some of you are probably scoffing and thinking what a silly-little Luddite I must be, and you haven’t used a checkbook register in years, let alone probably balanced your accounts because of online banking.
I’m in the same boat sometimes, but always go back a couple of months to balance because I make far too little to leave anything to chance.
Anyhoo, there’s something different about this: you actually know HOW to do it, because either a parent or a middle-school math class taught you how to write checks and make deductions and deposits. Somebody taught you how to do that.
I know checks seem to be dying as useful tender, though I still love mine (hey, I bought several boxes of Looney Tunes ones, dammit, and I’m not letting them go to waste!). I like how they help me remember to put the amount in my register and not leave things to chance. Also, I’ve had too many bad experience with automatic bill pay to trust it entirely. When I can pay bills with check (especially with my ever-varying paychecks), I will do so.
But young people don’t know how to balance their accounts. They just see how much they’ve got in there and are all “yay, I have money.” There’s a huge problem with that: banks know this. I’m sure most of you are aware of how badly overdraft fees can mess with you. And, sometimes the banks aren’t saying how much of your money is still pending versus gone…then figure automatic bill pay into the mix. Heaven forbid you forget that smartphone bill!
Every year my college campus used to (and probably still does) warn students about the dangers of debit cards and not being careful about their spending, and used the example of a cup of coffee. Time and again banks have held back on counting the $3 coffee you bought from showing on the account til the last minute, and then all of a sudden when the pending charges go through–bam, maybe you’re overdraft, and that $3 coffee might’ve cost you up to $30 in fees.
They’re a bank. They are there to make money. Sometimes at your expense.
Plus, some type of register of deposits and withdrawals would be a great backup in case of identity theft. A kind of record of your purchases to compare with your online account AT LEAST. That way, if some charge that’s not legit shows up, you can point to it a lot easier and contact the bank quicker in case you need to stop the card and/or transaction.
Identity thieves are good at making small purchases to see if you notice before sucking the rest out, and they do pretty good at figuring out where you tend to purchase things, so they can disguise the initial trial purchase as something you’d probably just “forgotten about.”
And don’t get me started on the CHIP card thing (I already covered that, anyway).
For people with an ever-varying pay schedule (like me), balancing your accounts is a great idea, because if you know things are going to be tight, you can take expenses that are automatic bill pay and go ahead and mark them “paid” in the register, even a week in advance…and pretend the money’s already gone.
Of course, this helps if you don’t check your account online several times a day, because you may forget about it. When it gets that tight, I pretend I can’t access my account online and focus on my paper version, lest I be tempted to spend with the excuse of “well, I’m getting paid in two days.” Then suddenly they don’t need me to work that night after all and voila–I’m overdraft like an idiot.
But that’s me. Either way, I get a little shocked at the rather flippant attitude of some parents regarding kiddos that can’t budget or get into their accounts online. The same parents that will probably have to bail Junior out because he screwed up his accounting.
Maybe things have finally turned around a bit, especially after all the awful things that have been happening in schools, with an increase in fights and school shootings. But when I was an office go-fer for a couple of semesters (around 2000), I worked the counseling office. And probably 95% of the call-downs were for schedule changes. Granted, it’s not like we would know what exactly they were for if it wasn’t a schedule change, but those were rare slips to pass along. Most of the rest of the time it was early release because parents arrived or something.
I can understand academic counseling, but when you think counselor, you think that maybe it was a place where some kid who’d been bullied or was having bad problems at home could come and get things taken care of in some way.
I thought if it was “schedule change,” maybe an extra registrar or two could take over that once the school year had started and the routine established a month in.
Either that or they need another counselor or two in the offices, ones meant more for non-academic needs (or barely-academic, because a kid in school has one job: be a student and learn all they can, and so much can act on that).
I haven’t heard much from other teachers if this trend had swung around, so this is more speculation, but since there are so many issues with anger and violence in schools, there may need to be some more shrinky-counselors available to students.
I imagine this is more a pie-in-the-sky idea, especially since schools can barely pay for basic materials, and some can barely pay for janitors. Still, I have to wonder if someone is screaming for help or in anger and violence, there has to be something that can be done in school before it escalates. At least a few schools I’ve gone to substitute teach at have had security officers talking to kids with anger issues. I had two about to go at it and one of them stepped out and walked off. I found out he was going directly to the security office to calm down, so that they wouldn’t get suspended for getting in a fight.
I suppose they told him to show up if things were getting bad. Over a few weeks, I hadn’t heard anything, so I’m guessing that things calmed down or were resolved by other means.
I need to do more research on school counselors, admittedly, to see how much their role has changed. I didn’t see much of that change when I was in school (in the Columbine era) and in the decade afterward as a substitute.
I hope so. So many students, so many issues, and so much pressure.
3 thoughts on “Three things that need to return to American schools: cursive writing, checkbook balancing, & counseling.”
I came from the era where penmanship classes (cursive writing) was require through 8th grade. I had beautiful handwriting. Now my husband can’t read my grocery list! I don’t use a pen or pencil anymore–it’s all typing! And balance a checkbook? Every utility and mortgage broker wants auto withdrawal. My 30 yr old daughter has all bills come out of her bank acct that way. What happened???
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I only had a steady paycheck for about a year, and was still balancing my checkbook because I had to penny-pinch out the wazoo (paid once a month and it barely covered my expenses).
What scares me is a few people I’ve met don’t even know how much money they have til it’s income tax time–and even then, they just know how much they made, not how much is in their account.. i was talking to someone about that a few days ago and was shocked–wow, must be so nice to make so much you don’t worry, while I’m looking in my wallet every day trying to calculate how many coffee purchases I can make in a month (regular coffee, that is) without busting my ever-varying budget.
I’m fighting tooth and nail against automatic bill pay wherever I can, because sometimes I need a day or two to get the money and make sure I won’t be overdraft. And it used to be bad because I’d have auto pay bills due on the 15th and I’d get paid on the 15th. They’d take their money out around 2am, but I wouldn’t get paid til 8am. I would technically be overdraft for several hours and my phone would blow up with overdraft text warnings. Supposedly banks are working against penalizing for that, but I wonder how many fees they could’ve tried to leech from my hide if I continued using said services.
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ADDENDUM: Well, looks like some teacher and principal had a good idea to help out kids, and it’s spread, at least in high school. This looks like something I’d want to know more about. Thank you NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/03/31/596054250/how-more-meetings-might-be-the-secret-to-fixing-high-school?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=news