Schooling and Technology in The Second Machine Age
By Art Carden
I recently read Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee’s The Second Machine Age, and I will have more to say on it later. This story caught my attention in light of their emphasis on developing skills that are complements to technology: Tennessee, my former home, has decided to mandate the teaching of cursive in grades 2-4. The executive director of the Tennessee School Board calls it “an art that is losing its form because of the keyboard.”
I’m really not sure why this is a bad thing; a few weeks ago, I asked for examples of skills that will probably be obsolete before too long and got some great answers.
The reintroduction of mandatory cursive kind of baffles me: how did a coalition develop that turned this into the law of the land? At Reason, Robby Soave notes that it might be part of a backlash against Common Core, and I think this might be plausible, but is learning cursive really God-mom-and-apple-pie salient enough to appeal to the Conservative base?
I’m willing to believe that knowing cursive might make you a better reader, but is it really worth the cost? Or is it like learning a foreign language, according to Bryan? I don’t think I’m that impoverished culturally because I can’t read Tolstoy in Russian; will our children be culturally impoverished if they don’t write in cursive?