By Catey Hill
For decades, school districts around the country have been dropping cursive reading and writing from the curriculum — a trend that’s been exacerbated recently by the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (guidelines for what students should have learned by college) by 43 states and the District of Columbia. These standards do not even mention cursive, so schools following these standards don’t have to teach it.
The thinking is that cursive is no longer needed in this digital age, but the removal of cursive from many classrooms has met with backlash, with legislators in some states introducing bills to bring it back. They may have a point: Some studies show that learning cursive can improve children’s fine motor skills and help them retain information. Plus, if you can’t read cursive, you can’t read the original forms of many historical documents.
The Dewey Decimal System
The Dewey Decimal System, a numerical system used to categorize library books into 10 broad categories including psychology and philosophy and then into subcategories like ethics, may have been one of the first things you learned from your school’s librarian. And you probably used the system — first introduced in the late 1800s — every time you had to do research for a paper or wanted to check out a book for fun.
But your kids may never learn the system for a number of reasons. For one, some schools and libraries are moving away from it, in favor of new methods that they think will make the libraries more engaging to children. These include bookstore-like signage with topic areas clearly noted, with the thinking that looking up a book via a number like 372.113 might make reading seem extra boring, while perusing a space with signs and displays might not. Second, thanks to the Internet, many students won’t visit their school’s library, so they won’t have to learn it.
Some schools are deciding against teaching typing — not because they think kids don’t need it, but because they think kids already know it. Indeed, many kids play on laptops, tablets and smartphones long before they even learn how to spell, and as they learn how to spell, they use those devices to type out new words and to play spelling games.
But this lack of typing courses could pose problems for kids down the road because rather than learn finger placement and shortcuts for typing, they will have their own, possibly inefficient, ways of typing. In today’s fast-paced workplace — particularly as most office employees have their own computers — that could prove problematic.
Through the 1960s, home economics (now known as family and consumers sciences) — in which students learn things like preparing meals and balancing a checkbook — was a vital part of the school curriculum, at least for girls, but for decades now, schools have been eliminating (or reducing the hours that students take) it. These are things to be taught at home, (or at least that should be taught at home), the reasoning goes, not in school.
But there are some who say it’s time to bring back home economics. They want a return of courses on nutrition and cooking healthy meals for families in the wake of our childhood obesity epidemic (roughly one-third of American children are overweight or obese), and others want basic family finance courses to help combat financial illiteracy.
Part of your P.E. class probably included dodging balls hurled at you by other kids in a game commonly called dodgeball, bombardment or even killer ball. But your kids may not meet that same fate, as some schools are banning dodgeball from their physical education curriculum because they believe the activity is too aggressive and possibly injurious to students.
This move has angered some. The New York Post Editorial Board wrote that “getting a dodgeball sting is almost a rite of passage” and that “these over-the-top prohibitions suck the fun out of life.”
Pluto as an official planet
Does “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” ring any bells for you? For millions of students, this was the mnemonic we learned to remember the order of the planets (then: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto).
But many scientists now say we got it wrong, at least when it came to the “P.” In 2006, Pluto —which was discovered in 1930 and rapidly thereafter added to textbooks as an official planet —was demoted (in a somewhat controversial move) from being an official planet to what is called a “dwarf planet” by the International Astronomical Union in 2006 when some scientists declared that it didn’t meet all the criteria for official planet-dom. The reason? Pluto has not “cleared the neighborhood” around its orbit by achieving gravitational dominance, but not all astronomers are happy with that decision.