Do We Still Need To Learn Cursive?

By Jessica Robinson

Cursive handwriting may soon go the way of the card catalog and the film projector.  

The Declaration of Independence inscribed by the fine hand of clerk Timothy Matlack. Schools are moving to new curriculum standards that put more emphasis on typing skills. But not everyone is ready for the cursive alphabet become a relic.

The Idaho legislature is considering a statewide cursive mandate.

As far as state representative Linden Bateman is concerned, losing cursive would amount to the dumbing down of society. That's why the Republican from Idaho Falls has introduced a bill to require cursive in elementary schools.

Linden Bateman: “If we do not teach cursive handwriting, the day will come when people won't be able to read cursive handwriting. That means: Old diaries, old journals, old letters … the Declaration of Independence in it's original.”

Rich Christen at the University of PortlandIdaho is one of 45 states, including Oregon and Washington, that have adopted a new set of national math and language standards called the Common Core. They establish expectations for each grade level. Keyboarding starts in 3rd grade. Cursive handwriting is not included.

That slight has heated up an already simmering debate about the value of cursive, says Rich Christen. He's an educational historian at the University of Portland. Christen says, old documents aside, there aren't a lot of practical reasons any more for teaching cursive.

Rich Christen: “But I think the aesthetic argument can still be made. I think that it's an important way for students to be involved in an aesthetic activity every day. And that would be a way for cursive handwriting.”

Researchers say handwriting in general helps kids develop literacy and fine motor skills. One neuroscientist in Indiana found college students remember information better when they write it in cursive.

The lawmaker pushing the requirement in Idaho says he's already received support from around the country. Most of it … by email.



Rich Christen at the University of Portland has studied the history of teaching cursive handwriting.

HCR003:

http://legislature.idaho.gov/legislation/2013/HCR003.pdf#xml=http://http://legislature.search.idaho.gov/isysquery/3534e2fb-a888-4f0e-8f28-282ad629b3b0/1/hilite/

Common Core state-by-state map
http://www.corestandards.org/in-the-states

Photos: 
The most famous version of the Declaration of Independence was inscribed by the fine hand of clerk Timothy Matlack. Source: National Archives.
Rich Christen at the University of Portland has studied the history of teaching cursive handwriting. He keeps a fountain pen at his desk. Photo by Colin Fogarty.

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