The Curse of Cursive: Law Makers Put Handwriting on Life Support

Children with teacher at school.
Although Common Core may be trying to hammer nails in the coffin of cursive handwriting, some areas are fighting to keep it in schools.

The Arkansas House and Senate recently approved a new bill that will require the state’s public schools to teach cursive handwriting as a part of its English language arts curriculum by the end of grade three.

Senators in New Hampshire also recently passed a similar bill, requiring public schools to continue teaching cursive in an effort to make sure that it’s not dropped as schools adapt to new standards.

Alabama Rep. Dickie Drake just introduced a new bill requiring all students in Alabama to be taught cursive by third grade, which comes a year after schools started phasing cursive out.

According to Pam Jones, the curriculum coordinator for the Harrison School District in Alabama, “We felt like [cursive writing] was an important life skill.”

The reason these states have put legislature in motion to preserve the life skill is because of Common Core standards. They claim that because it doesn’t require cursive — instead emphasizing computer use and keyboard skills — public schools are more likely to de-emphasize it, or even drop it altogether from their curriculum.

They’re not wrong, either. At least 41 states already stopped requiring public schools to teach cursive, and many have previously narrowed their curricula in response to No Child Left Behind laws. Cursive was even getting less and less instructional time back in the 1990s, USA Today reports.

Many feel that cursive should be left alone, that it should go the way of the dinosaurs, that Darwinism should simply do its thing.

“Cursive should be allowed to die. In fact, it’s already dying, despite having been taught for decades,” Morgan Polikoff, assistant professor of education at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, told the New York Times. “Very small proportions of adults use cursive for their day-to-day writing.”

Proponents, though, argue that they’re not simple, nostalgic Luddites. Cursive still holds value, they counter. After all, people still need to be able to sign things.

Research also suggests that writing in cursive and printing activate different parts of the brain. Learning cursive helps children develop their fine motor schools, while writing longhand helps students retain more info and generate more ideas.

“Typically curriculum decisions — like teaching cursive — come from the administrative level, such as a State Board of Education,” said Jenny S. Lillge, Attorney at Law for Legislative Intent Service, Inc. “At this point, it appears that only North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee have laws on the books mandating instruction in cursive writing. Because of the backlash towards this phasing out of cursive instruction, we will likely see additional states pass similar laws.”

Studies have also shown that students who learn cursive rather than just printing score better on reading and writing tests.

While there are ancillary benefits of learning cursive, opponents do have a point. Why waste precious time in the classroom learning something they’re more than likely never going to need?

Though cursive may not be dead, law makers have put it on life support. Only time will tell if rumors of its demise are greatly exaggerated.

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