By Melinda Carstensen
Some states are fighting to keep cursive handwriting in classrooms, but in most U.S. schools it’s on its way out.
Since 2010, 45 states and the District of Columbia have followed Common Core Standards, which give schools the option to teach cursive but don’t require it.
As writing moves to tablets and computers, and state standardized tests dictate teachers’ curricula, many educators no longer feel cursive is worthwhile.
“When you think of the world in the 1950s, everything was by hand. Paper and pencil,” Steve Graham, an education professor at Arizona State University, told the Washington Post. “Right now, it’s a hybrid world.”
Graham, who is an expert on handwriting instruction in the United States, said by 12th grade about half of classroom assignments are written on computers.
“The question is why teach two forms of writing when one will do the trick?” he told the Post.
In Tennessee, lawmakers are fighting to keep cursive handwriting in classrooms, but most U.S. public schools have abandoned that battle.
Tenn. Rep. Sheila Butt believes that removing longhand from instruction will be detrimental to the “heritage” of American classrooms.
After parents reported their kids couldn’t read their teachers’ cursive handwriting, Butt introduced legislation that would require that instruction in her state’s public schools.
Some states, such as the Patch areas of Georgia, Massachusetts and California, have taken steps toward making cursive mandatory. In Tennessee, however, it never had been a requirement under Common Core Standards, NPR reports.
Studies have shown that cursive handwriting helps children with their fine motor skills, and can even lead to better grades.
The Post cites a 2006 College Board report that revealed SAT essays written in cursive scored higher than those written in print.
Some educators say offering the option to write in cursive can help even the playing field in classrooms, as students with dyslexia often have difficulty writing in print.
“It’s because of the various areas of the brain interacting,” Marilyn Zecher, a former teacher and language specialist at the Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center, told PBS. Compared with print, cursive can help dyslexic students decode words, as it integrates hand-eye coordination and other brain and memory functions.
Keeping cursive around for consistency’s sake may be the most powerful argument of all.
When 19-year-old Rachel Jeantel testified during the murder trial of George Zimmerman, she couldn’t read a letter that a lawyer handed her. It was written in cursive.
Butt, the Tenn. Rep., argues the U.S. Bill of Rights and the Constitution were written in cursive, and American students should be taught the skills necessary to read them in their original form.“To say that we've educated our children in Tennessee and taken away this form of instruction — this link to our heritage — out of our classrooms is a grave disservice to the young people of this state.”