The latest education wrinkle: skip handwriting – use a computer!

My daughter is in a Waldorf program and I’m really pleased with her warmth, sense of artistic ability, sense of motion and body, and empathy for others (particularly animals). I went through a public school myself, but it was before the appearance of the ubiquitious personal computer. And how are things nowadays? Well, the following is from a Waldorf education mailing list:

“My daughter who is now in grade 6 started her education in the public
school. Even though she does not have a learning disability she was
encouraged in 2nd grade to use the computer for writing assignments instead
of handwritten. For various reasons I put her in a WE inspired school in
grade 3. She had a difficult time learning to draw and write in a
beautiful manner. Her teachers and I encouraged her to keep working and it
has paid off. She now has beautiful handwriting and pictures in her main
lessons that the grandparents want to show off.”

Is this widespread? Are children as young as 8 being pushed towards computers rather than learning how to write with pen and paper? I find this rather disturbing, actually. It’s no different from people who can’t add two numbers without the crutch of a calculator: computers are supposed to be adjuncts, not replacements. Yet isn’t this part of the dumbing down of our populace?

I don’t necessarily believe that we should all focus on on the three R’s (that’s reading, writing and arithmetic, confusingly enough. Must be one of those crazy phonetics things!) to the exclusion of technology and modern advancements – after all, when could kids hold hands and get all dreamy-eyed if not during some boring documentary in social studies? 🙂

But there’s surely a great difference between a child in 10th or 11th grade and one in 1st or 2nd? I certainly believe that there is, and I am not going to be at all concerned if my children are not computer whiz kids by the time they’re 10. There’s plenty of time down the road, once they have a sense of the place of computers in our daily life and the overriding importance of people, clear thought, and being strong, caring and independent.

Which reminds me…

The other day I was torturing myself on the stairmaster (oops! StairMasterTM) and for some reason, one of the TVs in the gym was tuned to the Warner Brothers network. I half-watched some inane cartoon show about exaggeratedly buff American archetype worker men (cop, fireman, soldier, y’know…) beating up swarthy foreign bad guys when the most remarkable advert came on. Remember, now, this show is aimed at the latchkey kids, probably 8-12 or so… the ad was for a live-action TV show (special? movie?) that featured a handsome blond boy dressed as a cowboy and a beautiful young Asian woman. In one scene of the advertisement during this cartoon show, we saw, from behind, the man in a bathtub and then the woman walking towards him, slipping off her robe and clearly being naked.

During a show for 8-12 year old children? Unbelievable. It reaffirms why I never want my kids to be exposed to this sort of trash. If network executives had any bloody discretion and said “uh, we can’t run this ad during the afternoon kid programming. Sorry” it might be different, but it only takes watching one batch of afternoon ads to know that the network couldn’t care less about age appropriateness (or, worse, that they think sexual imagery is okay for an 8yo).

It’s not that I want to shield my children from sex and violence (though it sounds like a pretty good idea, now that I think about it) it’s that I want them to learn about those sides of life as appropriate. A kid who is in late middle school or early high school, well, they’re going to already be exposed to the increasingly crass and sexualized environment of today, but surely we don’t have to sexualize kids before they’ve even hit their teens? (and I promise I won’t say anything about Abercrombie & Fitch selling thong panties for 9-13 year old girls a while back…)

What do you think?

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