The teaching of cursive is back in the news as action has heated up in several states recently. The House of Representatives in Tennessee overwhelmingly approved a bill last month that would require schools to teach cursive. Also in March, the House education committee in South Carolina approved such a measure, which now awaits action in the full chamber.
Meanwhile, a bill on teaching cursive sailed through the Indiana Senate earlier this year, too, only to die in the House.
As new technologies continue to infiltrate standards and curriculum in schools, many educators and political leaders are wondering where, if at all, cursive handwriting still fits into the equation. The Common Core State Standards, adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, are notably silent on the matter.
Responding to that silence, the state board of education in Florida voted in February to add standards on teaching cursive to 4th and 5th graders. Those changes were part of a broader package of additions the state made to its adoption of the Common Core State Standards.
A number of other states that adopted the common core have already taken steps to make clear that the teaching of cursive is still expected in their public schools, including California, Idaho, Massachusetts and North Carolina, according to an Associated Press story from last fall.
The bill approved by the House education committee in South Carolina calls for all students to be taught cursive by 5th grade, reports the Associated Press.
South Carolina standards haven’t required that students learn cursive since 2008, when the end-of-year standardized test in English/language arts for students in grades 3-8 eliminated open-ended written response questions, Melanie Barton, the director of the Education Oversight Committee, told the Associated Press.
Rep. Dwight Loftis, a Republican and the bill’s main sponsor, said he doesn’t want handwriting skills to be lost in the fray of digital communications, stressing cursive’s practical uses, including the notion that writing in cursive is faster than print, according to the Associated Press.
In Tennessee, Republican Sen. Frank Nicely, the lead sponsor of the Senate bill to require cursive instruction, said he wondered whether students could be considered educated if they are unable to read the Declaration of Independence or other U.S. historical documents in their original script, according to The Daily Herald.
The issue of teaching cursive has sparked debate in states across the country.
The importance of learning cursive and handwriting more broadly has been a topic of interest in the last few years. In 2012, Education Week reported on an education summit devoted to handwriting in the 21st century. At the summit, researchers seemed to be in agreement that instruction in handwriting is critical.
The teaching of cursive has prompted a recent spate of editorials and opinion articles in newspapers.
Some advocates for cursive instruction cite studies on brain science and fine motor skills as indicate its value, though there is little evidence that the benefits associated with handwriting are dependent on cursive handwriting specifically, as NPR noted in a recent story.
Photo: The U.S. Constitution. --National Archives
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.