March 9, 2017
Cursive Writing Is Coming Back In Style In US Schools
By Karen Matthews
New York (AP) - Cursive writing is looping back into style in schools across the country after a generation of students who know only keyboarding, texting and printing out their words longhand.
Alabama and Louisiana passed laws in 2016 mandating cursive proficiency in public schools, the latest of 14 states that require cursive. And last fall, the 1.1 million-student New York City schools, the nation’s largest public school system, encouraged the teaching of cursive to students, generally in the third grade.
``It’s definitely not necessary but I think it’s, like, cool to have it,’’ said Emily Ma, a 17-year-old senior at New York City’s academically rigorous Stuyvesant High School who was never taught cursive in school and had to learn it on her own.
Penmanship proponents say writing words in an unbroken line of swooshing l’s and three-humped m’s is just a faster, easier way of taking notes. Others say students should be able to understand documents written in cursive, such as, say, a letter from Grandma. And still more say it’s just a good life skill to have, especially when it comes to signing your name.
That was where New York state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis drew the line on the cursive generation gap, when she encountered an 18-year-old at a voter registration event who printed out his name in block letters.
``I said to him, `No, you have to sign here,’’’ Malliotakis said. ``And he said, `That is my signature. I never learned script.’’’
Malliotakis, a Republican from the New York City borough of Staten Island, took her concerns to city education officials and found a receptive audience.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina distributed a handbook on teaching cursive writing in September and is encouraging principals to use it. It cites research suggesting that fluent cursive helps students master writing tasks such as spelling and sentence construction because they don’t have to think as much about forming letters.
Malliotakis also noted that students who can’t read cursive will never be able to read historical documents. ``If an American student cannot read the Declaration of Independence, that is sad.’’
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when cursive writing began to fall out of favor. But cursive instruction was in decline long before 2010, when most states adopted the Common Core curriculum standards, which say nothing about handwriting.
Some script skeptics question the advantage of cursive writing over printing and wonder whether teaching it takes away from other valuable instruction.
Anne Trubek, author of ``The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting,’’ said schools should not require cursive mastery any more than they should require all children to play a musical instrument.
``I think students would all benefit from learning the piano,’’ she said, ``but I don’t think schools should require all students take piano lessons.’’
At P.S. 166 in Queens, Principal Jessica Geller said there was never a formal decision over the years to banish the teaching of cursive. ``We just got busy with the addition of technology, and we started focusing on computers,’’ she said.
Third-graders at the school beamed as they prepared for a cursive lesson this past week. The 8-year-olds got their markers out, straightened their posture and flexed their wrists. Then it was ``swoosh, curl, swoosh, curl,’’ as teacher Christine Weltner guided the students in writing linked-together c’s and a’s.
Norzim Lama said he prefers cursive writing to printing ``’cause it looks fancy.’’ Camille Santos said cursive is ``actually like doodling a little bit.’’
Added Araceli Lazaro: ``It’s a really fascinating way to write, and I really think that everybody should learn about writing in script.’’
Tear Down Of Old House Reveals 200 Year Old Log Cabin
By Mark Webber
The (Columbus) Republic
Garden Center, IN (AP) - A treasure recently discovered in Garden City dates back almost 200 years, having gone virtually unnoticed for several generations. It’s not gold or even silver, but a growing interest in rustic wooden building materials has made this find an interesting and somewhat valuable one.
Obscured by trees and wild vegetation, and with no plumbing or electricity, a small house with traditional wood siding at 1025 Jonesville Road had long been abandoned when Todd Riordan bought the two-acre property in 2010.
The structure is so insignificant that Bartholomew County property records describe the address only as a vacant lot.
A treasure is revealed
Riordan, who is senior pastor at Faith Lutheran Church on State Road 46 West, said he was concerned for years that someone would attempt to use the building for illicit purposes, he said.
The minister and businessman said his intent in purchasing the property had always been to clear the overgrown foliage to store boats and recreational vehicles for his Happy Happy Self-Storage company, located further south on Jonesville Road near the Bethel Village subdivision.
But after the small building’s roof caved in about a year ago, Riordan decided the old house had to go. He agreed to allow the Mill Race Theatre Co. to remove the deteriorated siding to use in sets for last summer’s production of ``Oliver!’’
It was only then, six years after Riordan purchased the property, that his discovery was made.
Once the old siding was removed, Riordan found that it had been masking a 20- by 26-foot log cabin for more than a hundred years.
After the minister received a $3,000 quote to tear down the cabin and remove the debris, Riordan said he was approached in January by Dennis Parman, owner of Peaceful Valley Construction northwest of Nashville. An inspection showed the hand-hewn logs with traditional saddle-notch style, as well as the former shape of the collapsed roof, likely dates back to the late 1830s to late 1840s, Parman said.
An expert brought in to assess the house confirmed its logs were made of chestnut, known for its resiliency against insect and water damage, Parman said.
The siding was likely placed on the cabin in the late 1880s to give it a more modern look, Riordan said.
But both he and Parman agreed the siding also was instrumental in preserving the integrity of the logs, he said.
``The wood is in remarkably good shape,’’ Parman said. ``This is going to make someone a beautiful home.’’
Such residences are extremely popular today, according to the National Association of Home Builders. While some people enjoy the historical value, others view these structures as a form of folk art, according to the association.
These cabins are especially popular in the rustic Nashville area, where the Brown County Log Cabins Tour attracts more than 2,000 visitors annually.
When reassembled with modern methods and techniques, historic log cabins also retain warmth better than drywall and are more energy efficient, according to the association.
Another view of the cabin
Log homes are even touted as the ``original Green House,’’ as trees are a renewable resource in construction and less energy to manufacture, the association stated.
After Parman offered to clear the site in exchange for keeping the original logs - which originally was going to cost him Riordan $3,000, he accepted. While others might have sought additional financial gain in exchange for the logs, Riordan expressed no regrets about the no-money-involved agreement.
``I’m just really glad this historic home will be given a new life,’’ Riordan said.
The dissembling of the cabin recently got underway after each of the logs was labeled, and should be completed by early April, Parman said.
Although his deal has not yet been finalized, Parman tentatively plans to reassemble the cabin for a client who recently purchased acreage along Albert Johnson Road, about six miles north of Gnaw Bone in Brown County.
Parman, who said he has more than 20 years’ experience transforming antique barns and log cabins into new homes, expressed confidence that he can find matching logs for those that are not salvageable in Garden City.
If the deal goes through, construction of the new log home will likely begin in July, he said.
Scientists Creating Way To Break Down Drugs In Waste Water
Minneapolis (AP) - University of Minnesota researchers are developing a way to better foresee how drugs break down in wastewater.
Scientists from the Wackett Lab are using a predictive method to determine the correct enzymes that break down pharmaceuticals in water, The Minnesota Daily reported. The method calculates the likelihood that a drug can eventually break down.
For the study, researchers chose carbamazepine, a particularly difficult drug to break down that’s widely-used treatment for epilepsy and ADHD.
In the past, wastewater has been treated for naturally occurring chemicals, which are digested by microbes through a process called bioremediation. Many microbes with various enzymes are used to break down the drug into safer components.
There aren’t any proven ways to get contaminants, such as fire retardants and pharmaceuticals out of the water system before they get into lakes and rivers.
``Some studies do claim that contaminants of emerging concern can affect the aquatic life and humans,’’ said Mary Connor, a spokeswoman for Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
These complex chemicals are being used more often.
``And current processes are unsuccessful in breaking them down,’’ said Lawrence Wackett, a researcher and biochemistry professor.
Researcher Kelly Aukema said that although there has been some research regarding enzymes by pharmaceutical companies, there hasn’t been much about the kind of enzymes needed for wastewater treatment.
``The impact will not be immediate, but it is our hope that this information can be used for the design of better waste water treatment for the removal of chemicals of emerging concern - both here in (Minnesota) and around the world,’’ Aukema said.