Illinois lawmakers are considering a signature issue: Should the state require schools to teach students how to write in cursive?
Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that would have required schools to teach handwriting, but the Illinois House recently voted to override the decision, reports the Chicago Tribune.
The push for incorporating handwriting into the curriculum took on urgency in 2010 with the release of the Common Core State Standards, which cover keyboarding skills but not handwriting. Some states like Massachusetts and California have developed handwriting standards in response. Louisiana’s requirements may go the farthest of any state: Students get instruction in cursive every year from the 3rd through 12th grades. In this Education Week article, Liana Heitin Loewus takes a closer look at why the Common Core writers didn’t include cursive writing in the standards.
State lawmakers in Illinois and across the country have taken up the issue of requiring schools to teach cursive as a matter of civic importance. They cite the probability that students who don’t learn cursive won’t be able to read historical documents like the U.S. Constitution. What’s more, cursive advocates argue, students who don’t get the lessons won’t be able to sign their own names to documents that are important in their civic and personal lives like a driver’s license or on a petition to run for office or to support a cause they care about.
But there’s more to learning cursive than the boost in civic benefits. When students loop words together into a flowing script, neuroscientists say they are actually developing critical cognitive and motor functions. Additionally, reader comprehension may suffer when handwriting is not taught, Steve Graham, a professor of special education and literacy at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn., told Education Week at a handwriting conference in Washington in 2012. Currently, he’s a professor in the division of educational leadership and innovation in the college of education at Arizona State University.
There’s also research that suggests people remember more and have a better understanding of material when taking notes by hand, rather than by typing them.
Republican lawmakers in Illinois who are against the measure argue that a handwriting requirement in schools just adds to the long list of responsibilities placed on schools. Worse, there’s no plan for how to pay for the additional state requirement.
Now, the decision on whether or not Illinois schools should be required to instruct students on how to write longhand is in the state Senate’s hands. If the Democratic-majority Congress enacts House Bill 2977, the cursive requirement would take effect in the 2018-2019 school year. School districts could decide on their own at what grade students get cursive instruction, but the lessons must be completed by 5th grade.
How do you think lawmakers should vote? Share your thougths in the comments section.
Image: Students practice both printing and cursive handwriting skills at the Mountaineer Montessori School in Charleston, W.Va. --Bob Bird/AP-File
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.