My third grader is learning to write in cursive. But according to the Common Core State Standards for English -- the guidelines that cover what kids should learn before graduating high school -- cursive writing is no longer a requirement of the elementary school curriculum in 41 states.
Reasons given for the abandonment of teaching cursive include the time required to do so -- time that could be better spent on skills that kids will actually use. Plus, it's not covered by No Child Left Behind testing, which, like it or not, is a significant benchmark in determining what receives teachers' and students' attention.
I have mixed feelings about cursive writing. I'm a fan of handwritten thank-you notes and personal letters, but I acknowledge that these are just as meaningful when written in print. It's the act of taking pen to paper that I cherish, not the quality of the penmanship.
I also recall the fun of altering how I shaped my cursive letters, particularly those in my signature. I made my W's so fancy that a friend asked me to teach her how I did it, and likewise, I adopted another friend's style of J as my own. Today's teens are developing callouses on their thumbs, not trading handwriting style tips.
What's especially interesting to me is the idea that learning to recognize and reproduce letters impacts brain function. Language comprehension and speech are apparently tied to visual and manual learning of the alphabet -- and not just the Roman alphabet, but any assembly of linguistic components.
However, that's not to say that cursive writing is different from hand printing in terms of reading, learning, and communication. Most cursive writing I've observed from other adults is actually a mix of cursive and printing. How many of us still make a capital Q as a big, floppy 2 like we were taught in elementary school?
But as with most curriculum decisions, I expect that testing will drive focus. Check back with me in three years when my second child is in third grade; I'm not so sure that she'll be learning cursive.
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