Writing and reading in cursive may be becoming a lost art, following in the footsteps of film cameras and orthodontic headgear (used only when necessary). This sudden push to antiquate cursive handwriting is due to the new Common Core Academics being adopted by the Public School System. These new standards no longer require students to learn cursive handwriting in order to graduate. While it is not a mandate that schools not teach it, most of them are dropping this valuable class time in favor of ostensibly more useful and modern topics, such as keyboarding.
The topic of cursive reading and writing recently came into the public eye during the murder trial of George Zimmerman (Florida v. Zimmerman). During the proceedings, Trayvon Martin’s 19-year-old friend, Rachel Jeantel, shocked the jury when she was forced to admit that she could not read a court document because it was written in cursive.
The fact is, most schools in America have already dropped cursive handwriting from their curriculum. If they haven’t dropped it, they’ve given it considerably less teaching time. Supporters of this new academic shift are not necessarily anti-cursive; they simply believe that it is a “non-essential” skill-set. Most of them claim that cursive handwriting is no longer needed in the workplace and that keyboarding is the more practical skill to learn in this technology driven society.
Despite the ubiquity of computer-oriented communication, there are many who believe that cursive is still relevant to the job field and still necessary for children to learn and practice. Those teachers who continue to teach cursive handwriting to their students have seen immediate benefits to this handicraft. Many believe that the success of their classroom is partially due to the time spent practicing penmanship because it fosters perseverance and patience. Other teachers feel that it is one of the few things children are still excited to learn, that it is relaxing and that it is an important rite of passage for children to learn how to write like grown-ups. Some who defend this technique lament the fact that we could potentially have an entire generation of people who are unable to read any documents from the 19th century. These include the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and Civil War diaries: important pieces of our history.
These staunch defenders of the art of cursive handwriting also have some facts to back up their claims. According to a recent brief by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), learning cursive actually makes you smarter. According to their NASBE policy brief, learning cursive positively affects cognitive and motor skills development, literacy development, brain development, memory and written expression. It has also proved to be especially valuable to students with learning disabilities.
An online poll by Harris Interactive indicated that 79 percent of adults feel that cursive should still be taught in schools. About half of those polled felt that practicing cursive reading and writing improves literacy. What do you think? Should cursive handwriting continue to be taught in schools? Or could it be just another lost art (like manners)?