COLUMBUS, OHIO – A national fight is brewing to keep cursive writing in U.S. classrooms.
When the new Common Core educational standards were crafted, penmanship classes were dropped. But at least seven of the 45 states that adopted the standards are fighting to restore cursive instruction.
The argument for cursive
Cursive advocates cite recent brain science indicating the fluid motion employed when writing script enhances hand-eye coordination and develops fine motor skills, promoting reading, writing and cognition skills.
They further argue that scholars of the future will lose the ability to interpret valuable cultural resources — historical documents, ancestors’ letters and journals, handwritten scholarship — if they can’t read cursive.
“We’re not thinking this through,” said Linden Bateman, a 72-year-old state representative from Idaho, who handwrites 125 ornate letters each year.
Why was cursive dropped?
State leaders who developed the Common Core — a set of preferred K-12 course offerings for public schools — omitted cursive for a host of reasons, including an increasing need for children in a digital-heavy age to master computer keyboarding and evidence that even most adults use some hybrid of cursive and print in everyday life.
Cursive restored where?
States that adopted Common Core aren’t precluded from deviating from the standards. That’s why California, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Utah have moved to keep the cursive requirement. Legislation passed in North Carolina and elsewhere couples cursive with memorization of multiplication tables as twin “back to basics” mandates.
An optimistic note
Kristen Purcell, associate director for research at Pew’s Internet & American Life Project, said researchers found it surprising that 94 percent of the 2,462 Advanced Placement and National Writing Project surveyed still said they “encourage their students to do at least some of their writing by hand.”
Teachers gave two reasons, she said: Most standardized tests are still in paper-and-pencil format, and teachers believed that writing by hand helped students to slow down their thinking, encouraging deeper and fuller thinking.