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Cursive handwriting cut from school, but teachers fighting back

With 45 states adopting Common Core standards, which drops cursive handwriting instruction, some teachers are fighting for their right to write.
Posted By Gabrielle Levy   |   Nov. 15, 2013 at 8:03 AM   |   Comments

Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Cursive handwriting, that classroom staple for so many generations of students, may be on the way out now that Common Core standards adopted by 45 states have dropped it from the curriculum in favor of typing.

But teachers in at least seven of those states aren't ready to let penmanship go without a fight.

“This shouldn’t be happening here and now. We’re still using it in everyday things,” said North Carolina legislator Pat Hurley, who is sponsoring a "back to basics" law in the state's legislature.

"Democrats, Republicans, they all agreed," she said, after learning the writing lessons were going away after leading a fourth-grade class on a tour of the statehouse. “Their teacher had them each write a thank-you letter on lined paper. The teacher’s thank-you note was in cursive; the children’s notes were all printed. That’s when I first realized I didn’t think they were being taught.”

North Carolina joins Massachusetts, Idaho, Ohio, Maryland, California, Indiana, Kansas and Utah in proposing various measures to combat the disappearance of what some educators consider a vital skill. Many worried future generations would no longer be able to read the nation's founding documents, all written in flowing, curly scripts.

But others are all too happy to free up the time in the school day -- elementary school teachers said they would spend about 30 minutes a day instructing penmanship -- for other, more immediate skills.

“What we decided at that point was spending the half-hour a day on cursive handwriting with the emphasis of going paperless was not the best use of our time,” said Mary Cooke, literacy coordinator at Illinois' District 50.

This has become especially true as more students become more reliant on their electronic devices, from cell phones to desktop computers.

“In the United States, relatively few people use cursive,” said Morgan Polikoff, an assistant professor of education policy at the University of Southern California, adding there was "no compelling reason" beyond nostalgia for students to learn the skill.

But Laura Dinehart of Florida International University's college of education, handwriting skills in children are a strong indicator of their success in school later, citing research that showed children who had strong handwriting at age 4 were more likely to excel at math and reading once they reached grade school.

“A lot of people feel an emotional connection to cursive,” Dinehart said. “There is thinking that as your pen flows on paper, so does your thinking.”

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