Mounting a fight
Advocates for cursive writing have taken their fight to the political arena. In addition to Indiana, lawmakers in Idaho and North Carolina have authored legislation that would compel schools to devote time to penmanship.
“Our children can’t write a simple sentence,” said North Carolina State Sen. Pat Hurley, sponsor of a mandatory cursive writing measure. “They think printing their name is their signature.”
Last year, in adopting the common core standards, boards of education in Alabama, California and Georgia included a cursive writing requirement for their schools. Massachusetts repealed its cursive requirement but also adopted language that says fourth-graders should be able to “write legibly by hand, using either printing or cursive handwriting.”
In Utah, state officials agreed to study the issue; Kansas educators adopted a policy that encourages, but doesn’t require, schools to teach cursive.
“The debate is national,” said Steve Berlin, spokesman for the National Association of State Boards of Education.
Last September, the association issued a policy statement to provide state schools boards with unbiased research and analysis on the issue.
Titled “The Handwriting Debate,” it acknowledged the impact of digital technology on writing and reading: “(W)ith the proliferation of personal computers in the 1990s and smartphones and tablets in the 21st century, many educators and policymakers have been questioning the usefulness of spending ever-more-valuable class time teaching handwriting to students who have been born into — and will live and work in — a digital world.”
But the policy also acknowledged that “new research has been emerging that points to the educational value of handwriting in ways that go well beyond being able to read cursive or take notes without beneﬁt of a handheld device.”
That research suggests the practice and process of handwriting may improve students’ cognitive and motor skills development, enhance their literacy and help them retain what they’ve learned.